Supreme Court: Layoffs Are Management Right

The California Supreme Court has just issued its decision in International Association of Fire Fighters, Local 188, AFL-CIO v. Public Employment Relations Board (City of Richmond) (Case No. S172377) (“Richmond”).

Here’s the holding:

Here, we address two issues: (1) If, after receiving an unfair labor practice charge, PERB decides not to issue a complaint, is that decision ever subject to judicial review? (2) Is a city’s decision to lay off firefighters for fiscal reasons a matter that is subject to collective bargaining?

On the first question, we agree with the Court of Appeal that although PERB’s refusal to issue a complaint is generally not subject to judicial review, this general rule has narrow exceptions. One of these exception applies when, as the union alleges here, PERB’s refusal is based on a clearly erroneous statutory construction.

On the second question, we conclude, as did the Court of Appeal, that when a city, faced with a budget deficit, decides that some firefighters must be laid off as a cost-saving measure, the city is not required to meet and confer with the firefighters’ authorized employee representative before making that initial decision. In this situation, the city’s duty to bargain with the employee representative extends only to the implementation and effects of the layoff decision, including the number and identity of the employees to be laid off, and the timing of the layoffs.

As I predicted, the Court answered “yes” to the first question and “no” to the second.  I’ll have more on this decision after I’ve had a chance to thoroughly read it.

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