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June 14, 2012

A union’s duty of fair representation

A union’s duty of fair representation
County of Tompkins and Tompkins County Sheriff and Tompkins County Deputy Sheriff’s Association, Inc., 44 PERB ¶3024, U-28437, U-28483

The Board affirmed the dismissal of a charge by the Tompkins County Deputy Sheriff’s Association, Inc. (Association), which alleged that the joint employer violated §209-a.1(d) of the Public Employees’ Fair Employment Act (Act) by submitting to interest arbitration a proposal to exclude all unit employees not on the payroll at the time of contract ratification and/or the date of an interest arbitration award from receiving retroactive payments of wages and benefits. 

Although a demand for retroactivity of wages and benefits is generally a mandatory subject of negotiations under the Act and arbitrable under §204.9(g) of the Act, the Association asserted that the joint employer’s proposal was prohibited based upon the rationale in the Appellate Division, Third Department’s decision in Baker v Board of Education, Hoosick Falls Central School District, 3 AD3d 678, 37 PERB ¶7502 (3d Dept 2004).

In that decision, the appellate court concluded that the particular facts alleged in a plenary action were sufficient to state a claim of a breach of the duty of fair representation based upon the employee organization’s alleged failure to provide any representation to the plaintiffs, who had been excluded from receiving retroactive salary increases under a negotiated agreement.

The Board noted that in reaching its decision, the Appellate Division was obligated to grant all reasonable inferences to the factual allegations of bad faith and arbitrariness made in the complaint. Accordingly, the Board found that the Hoosick Falls decision does not stand for the substantive proposition that parties are prohibited from proposing the exclusion of one group of employee from a negotiated retroactive salary increase or other benefits.

In its decision, the Board also resolved exceptions and cross-exceptions to the ALJ’s conclusions with respect to the arbitrability of various Association proposals under §209.4(g) of the Act. The Board concluded that the Association’s mandatory on-call and General Municipal Law §207-c proposals were nonarbitrable under §209.4(g) of the Act because they were unitary demands that included inseparable nonarbitrable components under §209.4(g) of the Act.

The Board emphasized that the application of the unitary demand principle to disputes under §209.4(g) of the Act is necessitated by the Legislature’s public policy choice of dividing the subject matter of proposals for deputy sheriffs into two classes with distinct impasse procedures.

The Association’s health insurance buy-out, rate of pay and overtime proposals were found to be arbitrable because they are directly related to compensation. However, the Board found that the Association’s proposals concerning union leave, road patrol schedules, and clothing were nonarbitrable under §209.4(g) of the Act.

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