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409.01000 – Business Necessity

* * * VACATED IN PART by Fresno County Superior Court (2019) PERB Decision No. 2517a-C, where the Board issued a modified decision after the Court of Appeal partially vacated a portion of the original decision. Specifically, the Court of Appeal: (1) found that the court-employer’s need to appear neutral to the public was a special circumstance sufficient to support a ban on wearing insignia in the courthouse; (2) set aside PERB’s decision regarding display of union images and writings; (3) upheld PERB’s unalleged violations doctrine; and (4) upheld PERB’s decision finding a violation in the court’s prohibition against distributing union literature in work areas visible to the public. * * *

Instead of using the term “working time” to define the temporal scope of its restriction on solicitation and thereby restating PERB and private-sector decisional law, the Court’s personnel rule instead introduced the separate and undefined term “working hours,” which PERB precedents have treated as suspect, because of its potential to restrict protected activity during all “working hours” when employees are at work, including duty-free time. Given the ambiguity, the Board found the Court’s rule banning solicitation during “working hours” ambiguous and overly broad. While “Working time is for work,” and an employer may therefore prohibit solicitation during “working time,” an employer rule that prohibits solicitation or distribution during “working hours,” but makes no mention of duty-free times during “working hours,” such as meal or rest periods, when employees may solicit one another or distribute literature, may reasonably be interpreted as authoring no such activities during those duty-free periods of the day.