Decision 2658M – Inland Empire Utilities Agency
Decision Date: July 24, 2019
Decision Type: PERB Decision
Description: Inland Empire Professional Employees Association (Association) and the Inland Empire Utilities (Agency) were parties to a MOU that set forth a grievance procedure. The MOU broadly defined permissible grievances, allowing an employee to grieve an alleged violation of an Agency policy or a provision of the MOU (the only specified exception was disciplinary policies). The Association attempted to grieve an alleged violation of an Agency anti-discrimination policy. The Agency refused to process the grievance. The Agency asserted that the anti-discrimination policy included its own resolution process, and that resolution process was the sole means of addressing violations. The Association filed a UPC alleging that the Agency had unilaterally narrowed the scope of the parties’ grievance procedures.
Once the charge was assigned to an ALJ, the Agency filed a motion to dismiss the charge arguing that the Association failed to prove a change in policy. The ALJ did not conduct a full evidentiary hearing. Instead, the ALJ granted the Agency’s motion to dismiss. The ALJ agreed with the Agency’s view that the MOU’s grievance procedure did not apply to the Agency’s anti-discrimination policy because the anti-discrimination policy set forth its own resolution process. Accordingly, the ALJ found that the Association had failed to establish a change in policy.
Disposition: The Board reversed the ALJ’s proposed decision and remanded for further proceedings. The Board held that the plain language of the MOU permitted grievances alleging violations of any non-disciplinary Agency policy, including the Agency’s anti-discrimination policy. The Board noted that if the plain language of the MOU is clear, contextual evidence such as bargaining history and the language of extrinsic policies are given little to no weight. Further, although the Agency’s anti-discrimination policy included its own resolution procedure, the resolution procedure was not the exclusive means for alleging violations of the policy.
602.03000 – Contract Repudiation or Breach
Narrowing the scope of an MOU’s grievance procedures is an unlawful unilateral change.
1402.03000 – By Contract/Zipper Clauses/Management Rights Clauses
To be effective, an alleged waiver of statutory bargaining rights must be specific, clear, and unmistakable.
1404.03000 – General Principles of Contract Interpretation
If the plain meaning of a MOU is clear, little to no weight should be given to contextual evidence, including bargaining history or the language of extrinsic policies.