Decision 2349M – Santa Clara Valley Water District
Decision Date: December 19, 2013
Decision Type: PERB Decision
Description: The charge alleged that the Santa Clara Valley Water Authority violated the MMBA and PERB Regulations by denying the charging party’s request for reclassification in retaliation for his involvement in protected activity.
Disposition: The Board affirmed the proposed decision of an ALJ dismissing the complaint and underlying unfair practice charge, because the charging party failed to prove that employer’s decisionmaker had knowledge of his protected activity at the time of the adverse action taken. The Board also held that per section 3502.1 of the MMBA the mere fact of holding an “elected, appointed or recognized” leadership position in a union is proof that an employee engaged in protected activity.
Perc Vol: 38
Perc Index: 96
300.05000 – Grievances
Use of the collectively-bargained grievance procedures is protected activity.
300.13000 – Holding Union Office
MMBA section 3502.1 guarantees substantive, enforceable rights to employees who serve as officers of the bargaining representative. While sections 3502 and 3506 operate in tandem to guarantee employee rights and make them enforceable through unfair practice proceedings, section 3502.1 contains both the prohibition against unlawful employer conduct and the source of the rights protected, i.e., the exercise of lawful action as a representative of an employee bargaining unit. Section 3502.1 was enacted to reinforce employees’ rights to serve as officials of the bargaining representative and to advocate positions against management practices without fear of reprisal.
504.05000 – Union Activity of Discriminatee
An employer’s decision to deny an employee’s request for reclassification was not based on the employee’s union activity where the decision maker had denied 18 of the last 20 requests for classification as part of a general policy of redistributing employee duties to achieve costs-savings rather than grant reclassifications.
505.12000 – Lack of Knowledge of Protected Activity
The charging party failed to prove that the employer’s decision maker knew of the charging party’s union activity at the time of the decision to deny charging party’s request for reclassification, where the decision maker was relatively new to her position, had not dealt with the charging party in his capacity as a union official, and did not rely on potentially biased information from subordinate managers in reaching her decision to deny the charging party’s reclassification. (subordinate bias liability theory).
1107.04000 – Unalleged Violations
Board declined to consider whether requiring employee to continue performing higher-level duties, even after the employer’s denial of his grievance and request for reclassification was based on his higher-level duties being reassigned to other employees, was a separate adverse action, because the charging party failed to except to the ALJ’s decisions to deny a motion to amend the complaint and to exclude all evidence pertaining to the continued assignment of higher level duties.
1407.01000 – General Principles
PERB follows judicial authority and general rules of statutory construction, looking first to the plain meaning of the statutory language, affording the words their ordinary and usual meaning and giving meaning to every word of the statute, if possible, to avoid a construction that makes any word surplusage or ascribes to the Legislature the commission of a meaningless act. Only where the plain meaning of the statute is unclear will the Board turn to other sources to discern legislative intent, such as the legislative history or the wider historical circumstances of the statute’s enactment.
300.04000 – Individual/Concerted/Activities/Self-Representation
Seeking the assistance of the exclusive representative to resolve workplace disputes informally is protected activity.