Decision 2689M – * * * JUDICIAL APPEAL PENDING * * * Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital District

SF-CE-1620-M

Decision Date: January 13, 2020

Decision Type: PERB Decision

Description:  Employer Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital District (Hospital) excepted to a proposed decision that it unreasonably enforced its local rule on unit determination when it found inappropriate the unit of laboratory scientists proposed by the International Federation of Professional & Technical Engineers, Local 20 (Engineers and Scientists of California) (ESC) and refused to recognize and bargain with the union.  The proposed decision was the third to find that the Hospital unreasonably applied its local rule regarding ESC, but the first to which any party excepted.

Disposition:  The Board affirmed the ALJ’s finding that the Hospital violated the MMBA by unreasonably enforcing its local rule on unit determination, and ordered the Hospital to recognize and bargain with the Union.  The Board determined that the Hospital’s conduct of repeatedly unlawfully denying recognition to the Union meant it was not entitled to customary deference.  The Board found that in this context, a reasonable interpretation of the Hospital’s local rule on unit determinations could not fail to acknowledge that the rule must be applied consistent with and in consideration of the rights guaranteed by the MMBA.  Further, the Board found that the evidence weighed in favor of the unit’s appropriateness, and the Hospital’s determination did not withstand scrutiny.  The Hospital therefore unreasonably withheld recognition and unlawfully applied its local rules, in violation of the MMBA.

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Decision Headnotes

750.00000 – EMPLOYER ADOPTION/ENFORCEMENT OF UNREASONABLE RULE
750.01000 – In General

The MMBA does not give an employer the right to determine which employees get the benefit of the statute or which must remain unrepresented, and it does not empower it to determine the number and identity of the employee organizations that represent its employees. (See MMBA, § 3502.) By considering each of the four unit determination factors of its local rule in a vacuum, and willfully disregarding the organizational rights of employees and ESC, the Hospital unlawfully focused on its desired outcome at the expense of rights conferred by the MMBA, and unreasonably applied its local rule.

The circumstances surrounding the Hospital’s application of the rule, including its intentions, are relevant where it is apparent that the Hospital’s repeated unlawful conduct and results-oriented approach deprived employees and the employee organization of their rights under the MMBA to choose a representative and be represented in their dealings with the employer. (MMBA, § 3500.)

1203.00000 – REMEDIES FOR UNFAIR PRACTICES; BARGAINING ORDERS; REMEDIES AGAINST EMPLOYERS
1203.01000 – In General

The Board considered the Hospital’s repeated failure to apply its own rule reasonably and exhaustive history of litigating similar issues in finding the Board was well within its broad remedial authority to order the employer to recognize and commence bargaining with ESC.

1309.00000 – REPRESENTATION ISSUES; UNIT DETERMINATION/CRITERIA (SEE ALSO WHO IS AN EMPLOYEE?, SECTION 200)
1309.04000 – Efficiency of Operation

In cases where unit proliferation is at issue, the employer may rely on the adverse impact on its operational efficiency in its unit determination analysis. (Pleasanton Joint School District/Amador Valley Joint Union High School District (1981) PERB Decision No. 169, p. 4.) However, if dismissing the petition effectively denies employees the right to representation, the employer's rejection based on the inappropriateness of the unit is generally warranted only where there is “convincing evidence in support of the . . . claim that efficiency of its operations would be impaired.” (Ibid.) The Board found that the Hospital’s evidence was purely speculative and insufficient to demonstrate concrete operational harm.

1309.00000 – REPRESENTATION ISSUES; UNIT DETERMINATION/CRITERIA (SEE ALSO WHO IS AN EMPLOYEE?, SECTION 200)
1309.07000 – Unit Size

The small size of the proposed unit is not a disqualifying factor alone.