Decision 2797E – Carpinteria Unified School District

LA-CE-6522-E

Decision Date: November 16, 2021

Decision Type: PERB Decision

Description:  The Carpinteria Unified School District filed exceptions to a PERB ALJ’s determination that it retaliated against Carpinteria Association of United School Employees, Local 2216 (CAUSE or Union) President Jay Hotchner because of his protected activities, and thereby denied CAUSE its right to represent its members, in violation of Educational Employment Relations Act (EERA) section 3543.5, subdivisions (a) and (b). Central to the dispute were two Notices of Unprofessional Conduct the District issued to Hotchner. The first Notice included three incidents the District described as unprofessional conduct: Hotchner’s classroom knock-knock joke, his conduct at and surrounding layoff “bumping” meetings, and his interaction with the District’s HR director related to an employee’s personnel file review. The second Notice was for voicemail messages Hotchner left on a parent’s phone.

The Board affirmed the ALJ’s finding that a majority of the conduct underlying the Notices was related to labor and employment disputes, and not so “opprobrious, flagrant, insulting, defamatory, insubordinate, or fraught with malice” as to substantially disrupt or materially interfere with employer operations, and thus lose protection. (Rancho Santiago Community College District (1986) PERB Decision No. 602, p. 13 (Rancho Santiago).) The Board affirmed that these protected activities were the but-for cause of the Notices, and not outweighed by the District’s affirmative defense that it would have issued both the Notices absent Hotchner’s protected activity based on his alleged misconduct. The Board also upheld the ALJ’s subpoena rulings and his remedial order.

Disposition:  The Board affirmed the proposed decision, finding that the District retaliated against Hotchner and denied CAUSE its right to represent its members.

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