EMPLOYER INTERFERENCE, RESTRAINT, COERCION, EMPLOYER CONDUCT AFFECTING ORGANIZING, UNION ACCESS; SOLICITATION, AND OTHER UNION RIGHTS – In General; Prima Facie Case.
Single Topic for Decision 2775M
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401.01000 – In General; Prima Facie Case.
A prima facie case of interference is established when a charging party shows the employer engaged in conduct that tends to or does result in at least slight harm to rights guaranteed by the MMBA. (Petaluma City Elementary School District/Joint Union High School District (2016) PERB Decision No. 2485, p. 42 (Petaluma); see also Carlsbad Unified School District (1979) PERB Decision No. 89, pp. 10-11.) No showing of unlawful motive, purpose, or intent is required. (Petaluma, supra, PERB Decision No. 2485, p. 42.) Once a prima facie case is established, the burden shifts to the employer. (County of San Joaquin (2021) PERB Decision No. 2761-M, p. 23 (judicial review pending); Contra Costa County Fire Protection District (2019) PERB Decision No. 2632-M, pp. 18-19.) If the harm is “inherently destructive” of protected rights, the employer must show that the interference results from circumstances beyond its control and that no alternative course of action was available. (County of San Joaquin, supra, PERB Decision No. 2761-M, p. 23; Contra Costa County Fire Protection District, supra, PERB Decision No. 2632-M, p. 22.) For conduct that is harmful but not inherently destructive, the respondent may attempt to justify its actions based on operational necessity. (Ibid.) Within the category of actions or rules that are harmful but not inherently destructive, the asserted business need is balanced against the tendency to harm protected rights; if the tendency to harm outweighs the necessity, we find a violation. (Ibid.) When balancing, the stronger the tendency to harm, the greater the respondent’s burden becomes to show its business need was important and that its actions or rules were narrowly tailored to attain that purpose while limiting harm to protected rights as much as possible. (Ibid.) (p. 24-25.)