School District Did Not Have Statutory Right to Reduce Employees' Work Hours Without Complying with CBA

Category: Education Matters
Date: Jan 27, 2014 06:58 PM

In 2009, the Anaheim Union High School District (District) planned to reduce several of its classified positions due to lack of funding.  The District is a merit system school district.  The District approached the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Local 3112 (Union), which represented these positions, and asked to negotiate cost savings options.  Ultimately, the District decided to eliminate summer school and to layoff food service and transit workers.  At the same time, the District offered to reemploy these workers in the same jobs with shorter work years.  The affected workers accepted the new work year, but crossed out the word "voluntary" on the consent forms.

The Union filed grievances alleging that the District had unilaterally reduced work hours in violation of the collective bargaining agreement (CBA).  The District denied the grievances and the matter went to arbitration.  The arbitrator found that the District was authorized to lay off employees because of a lack of funds, but that the District violated the CBA when it reduced the employees' work year without the voluntary consent of the employees and the Union.  The District appealed to the trial court, which affirmed the arbitrator's decision.  The California Court of Appeal affirmed.

The District argued that it had the right, pursuant the Education Code, to reduce a classified employee's work year instead of laying off the employee, even though doing so would violate the CBA.  The District pointed to Government Code section 3540, part of the Educational Employment Relations Act (EERA), which states that the EERA does not supersede provisions of the Education Code.  Courts have interpreted this section to mean that certain mandatory and nonnegotiable sections of the Education Code preempt the EERA and collective bargaining agreements.  Accordingly, the District argued that the arbitrator exceeded his authority when he held that the District violated the CBA provisions by reducing the employees' work year without their consent.

The District pointed to two specific Education Code provisions that are mandatory and nonnegotiable.  First, section 45308 provides for classified employees to be laid off for lack of work or lack of funds.  Second, section 45117 eliminates any notice requirement before a layoff for lack of funds.  The Court acknowledged that these two sections created the right for the District to lay off classified employees for lack of funds, even if such an action violated the CBA.  However, both of these sections only contemplate an actual layoff, rather than reduction in an employee's work year.

The District next argued that Education Code section 45101, subdivision (g), expands the definition of layoff for lack of funds to include any reduction in hours, including reduction of the work year.  While the Court acknowledged this language, it explained that this provision does not apply to the District.  Specifically, based on the plain language of the statute, the Court held that the section does not apply to merit system school districts.  Therefore, the Court concluded that the District did not have a statutory right to reduce a classified employee's work year without complying with the CBA.  Accordingly, the Court affirmed the decision in favor of the Union.

Note:

This case applies primarily to merit system school districts.  Here, the Court held that a provision of the Education Code that expands the definition of "layoff" to include reducing work hours does not apply to merit system school districts and, therefore, does not permit them to violate a collective bargaining agreement while following the Education Code provision.  However, this case also serves as a reminder to all districts that negotiating a reduction in hours, including when it is in lieu of a layoff, is within the scope of bargaining.

Anaheim Union High School Dist. v. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Local 3112, AFL-CIO (2013) 222 Cal.App.4th 887 [2013 WL 6909431].

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