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New Legislation Vies for the Automatic Inclusion of Temporary Employees in Permanent Employee Bargaining Units
The California Legislature is currently reviewing AB 1484 (Zbur), a bill that would add Section 3507.7 to the Meyers-Milias-Brown Act (MMBA). Proponents of the bill hope that it will address an increase in public agency use of temporary employees, aiming to bring equity to temporary employees who perform similar work as permanent employees but without some of the benefits afforded to permanent employees. However, as discussed below, City, County, and Special District employers subject to the MMBA may incur certain fiscal and administrative impacts if the bill passes legislative muster.
Temporary Employee Defined
AB 1484 defines a temporary employee as “a temporary employee, casual employee, seasonal employee, periodic employee, extra-help employee, relief employee, limited-term employee, per diem employee, and any other employee who has not been hired for a permanent position.” It specifies that the law will apply to temporary employees who are “hired to perform the same or similar type of work that is performed by permanent employees.”
Potential Requirements under AB 1484
The bill would impose certain duties on public employers with respect to temporary employees as defined above. These requirements include, but are not limited to, the following:
- At a recognized employee organization’s request, certain temporary employees would be automatically included in the same bargaining unit as permanent employees.
- Also upon request, parties would need to negotiate terms and conditions of employment within a single Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) covering both permanent and temporary employees.
- Upon a temporary employee’s hire, the public employer would be required to provide each temporary employee with a job description, wage rates, eligibility for benefits, anticipated length of employment, and procedures to apply for open, permanent positions. Employers would need to produce this information to the exclusive representative within five (5) business days of hire.
- Also within five (5) business days of hire, employers would need to provide the exclusive representative with the temporary employee’s anticipated end date and certain employee information pursuant to Government Code section 3558.
- Finally, if not waived in the MOU, temporary employees would become entitled to certain grievance procedure rights after 30 calendar days of employment, specifically to challenge disciplinary actions without cause.
Any violation of Section 3507.7 would be actionable as an unfair practice charge before the California Public Employment Relations Board (PERB).
Potential Impact on Public Employers
Proponents of AB 1484 indicate that the bill does not intend to restrict a public employer’s ability to employ temporary employees or to give temporary employees permanent status; instead, the focus is on allowing temporary employees to bargain alongside permanent employees.
However, employers should be aware of potential fiscal and administrative impacts. For example, employers may incur costs and expenditure of administrative time and effort related to adding temporary employees to a bargaining unit or MOU, implementing wages and benefits negotiated by temporary employees, and administering the grievance process.
These and other associated costs may interfere with temporary employee retention and hiring. In fact, the League of California Cities, in opposition to the bill, foresees a potential increase in hiring costs for temporary employees to the public’s detriment. They project a potential impact on “extra help” employees often retained for seasonal or “surge” needs, such as nurses, health care workers, election workers, and parks and recreation staff.
Finally, by mandating the inclusion of temporary employees in established bargaining units, the bill will necessarily impact the public employer’s options for delivering essential services by expanding the number of employees covered by a strike while limiting the employer’s options for utilizing alternative personnel. Thus, the bill raises questions about the role of temporary employees as providers of necessary public services when strikes occur, what impact, if any, the bill may have during the negotiation of “line pass” agreements, and the identification of employees who will stand ready to cross the picket lines to assist in the event of an emergency. These potential adverse consequences should be carefully evaluated and presented by the bill’s opponents.
LCW will continue to monitor and report on the status of this legislation.