The California Department of Education and Various Statewide Organizations Issue Aspirational Framework for Local Agreements

04.02.2020

On April 1, 2020, the California Department of Education, joined by twelve statewide organizations (CTA, CFT, CSEA, SEIU, CLF, AFSCME, ACSA, CSBA, CCSESA, CASBO, and SSDA) issued a document entitled: “Framework for Labor-Management Collaboration: Serving Local Communities During the COVID-19 Emergency” (“The Framework.”)

The Framework identifies “basic principles” which are intended to be used in reaching “local agreements.”

Much of the Framework will be noncontroversial, and many LEAs may opt to adhere to its recommendations, even where not required by law.

It is important to note, however, that the Framework is aspirational, not binding.  LEAs remain bound by law, regulation, and, in the present emergency circumstances, by the Governor’s various Executive Orders.  To the extent the Framework presents suggestions not found within those legal requirements, LEAs are not legally bound to accept them.

One of the key laws applicable to K-14 unions and employers alike is the Educational Employment Relations Act (EERA), which provides for local negotiation regarding terms and conditions of employment.  The EERA remains in full force, and LEAs remain free to negotiate in accordance with the requirements of the EERA.  The Framework does not require that LEAs agree to its suggestions in negotiations with employee organizations, nor does it invalidate or supersede any agreements that LEAs may have already reached with employee organizations.

Some aspects of the Framework, moreover, present recommendations that, if adopted by LEAs, would go beyond requirements of existing law.  These include the following:

Community College Employees

The Framework states that Governor Newsom’s Executive Order N-26-20 contains certain principles applicable to “pay and benefits for K-14 school employees.”  That Executive Order, however, applies, by its terms, only to K-12 entities.  The same is true of SB 117.  The Framework does not in our view establish any new legal obligations on the part of community college districts.

Leave

The Framework states that leave entitlements are “subject to Executive Orders, current law, regulations and guidance.” 

All LEAs are bound to adhere to applicable leave laws, including providing up to 12 weeks of leave for childcare, subject to the requirements of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA).  Many LEAs have also worked to ease the burden on employees by rotating essential employees, and by authorizing various forms of leave, paid or unpaid.

The Framework suggests that LEAs, in providing leave for various reasons related to the coronavirus emergency, should not deduct from employees’ accrued leave banks.  These suggestions are in our view aspirational, not binding.  In some cases, employees will be entitled to additional paid leave pursuant to the FFCRA without deduction from existing accrued leave.  In other cases, however, an employee’s continuing absence for reasons related to the coronavirus emergency lawfully may be accounted for by deducting from accrued leave.  Which rule applies will depend on circumstances including but not limited to the specific reason for, and duration of, the leave.

We suggest that, before agreeing to the Framework’s suggestions with regard to paid leave in addition to what is required by law, LEAs evaluate their resources, and the potential impacts of the Framework’s suggestions on the LEA’s ability to maintain essential functions.

In short, LEAs may consider the recommendations in the Framework while working to achieve local agreement, but agreement to the recommendations is not mandated by law, nor is the Framework a replacement for local negotiation.

Also notable, there are at least a few common topics of discussion between labor and management which were not covered by the framework: substitute pay (although temporary employees were mentioned); premium pay for essential workers; and, the effect of an assignment to home on the probationary period.  In our view, this emphasizes the critical importance of thoroughly reviewing your existing rules, including collective bargaining agreements, policies, emergency resolutions, and established past practices.

This AALRR publication is intended for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon in reaching a conclusion in a particular area of law. Applicability of the legal principles discussed may differ substantially in individual situations. Receipt of this or any other AALRR publication does not create an attorney-client relationship. The Firm is not responsible for inadvertent errors that may occur in the publishing process. 

©2020 Atkinson, Andelson, Loya, Ruud & Romo

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