PERB Clarifies Public Agencies’ Obligation to Consult With Employee Organizations Prior to Adopting or Amending Rules or Regulations for the Administration of Employer-Employee Relations

The Public Employment Relations Board (“PERB”) addressed a new issue in International Association of Firefighters, Local 1319 v. City of Palo Alto (PERB Decision No. 2388-M, August 6, 2014),when it determined that California Government Code section 3507 of the Meyers-Milias-Brown Act requires a public agency to consult with each affected employee organization prior to adopting a new rule or regulation for the administration of employer-employee relations.  PERB concluded that the “consultation” required by section 3507 is similar to the meet and confer process required by section 3505.  Nonetheless, it rejected the agency’s suggestion that permissive subjects of bargaining under section 3505 should likewise be deemed permissive subjects for consultation under section 3507.

PERB noted that in section 3507, the Legislature stated with particularity the matters about which an employer is obligated to consult with the employee organization prior to implementation.  PERB found those matters to be “distinct, both conceptually and by their very terms,” from mandatory and permissive subjects for bargaining pursuant to section 3505.  Accordingly, PERB concluded a public agency’s decision to modify interest arbitration procedures in its rules and regulations is a required subject of consultation under section 3507, even though a public agency is not required to meet and confer over a similar proposal to include an interest arbitration provision in a memorandum of understanding governing wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of employment.

Pursuant to Government Code section 3507, a public agency must provide reasonable written notice to any employee organizations affected by proposed rules or regulations.  It must also afford each organization a reasonable opportunity to meet and discuss the rule or regulation prior to adoption.  Both the employer and the employee organization are obligated to meet and confer regarding consultation subjects promptly upon the request of either party, to continue meeting and conferring for a reasonable amount of time to freely exchange information, opinions and proposals, and to endeavor to reach an agreement.