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410.02000 – Defenses

The Board applies a balancing test where an employer raises a legitimate business necessity for conduct which deters or discourages employees from authorizing union representation, choosing to become or remain a union member, or commencing or continuing to pay union dues or fees. Where a charging party shows employer conduct tended to influence employee decisions on one of these topics, the burden shifts to the employer. The degree of likely influence dictates the employer’s burden. If the likely influence is “inherently destructive” of employee free choice, then the employer must show that the deterring or discouraging conduct was caused by circumstances beyond its control and that no alternative course of action was available. For conduct that is not inherently destructive, the employer may attempt to justify its actions based on operational necessity and PERB will balance the employer’s asserted interests against the likelihood of influencing employee free choice. Within the category of conduct or communications that are not inherently destructive of section 3550’s protections, the stronger the likelihood to influence employee free choice, the greater is the employer’s burden to show its purpose was important and that it narrowly tailored its conduct or communication to attain that purpose while limiting influence on employee free choice to the extent possible. If the likelihood of influence outweighs the asserted business necessity, PERB will find a violation. (pp. 35-36.)