The Michigan Employment Relations Commission (“MERC”) released four relevant decisions in August. In three cases, the MERC adopted the Administrative Law Judge’s (“ALJ”) decision and dismissed the charging party’s claims in full. In one case, the MERC adopted the ALJ’s decision finding the Employer engaged in violations of the PERA. Summaries of these decisions are as follows:
Wayne State University,33 MPER ¶ 16 (2019)
Charging party, a groundskeeper, was terminated by Wayne State University in February 2016. He grieved the University’s decision, and the grievance proceeded to arbitration. Prior to arbitration, the University and Union settled the grievance and, among other stipulations, agreed that the groundskeeper would return to work on Monday, May 7, 2018, more than two years after his initial termination. Although the groundskeeper worked one day, he called in sick for the next two weeks. While he was twice directed to appear for a mandatory physical examination, the groundskeeper failed to attend the examination on both occasions When the groundskeeper failed to appear a second time, the University again terminated his employment. The groundskeeper subsequently filed an unfair labor practice charge claiming the University violated Section 10(1)(c) of the PERA by terminating him in retaliation for his previous grievance. The ALJ determined that the University did not discriminate against the groundskeeper, as the decision to subject the groundskeeper to a medical examination was rooted in his two‑year absence from work, rather than his subsequent taking of sick days. The ALJ noted that the groundskeeper’s return to work and the termination date were closely related in time, but that temporal proximity alone was not sufficient to establish a Section 10(1)(c) violation. The ALJ dismissed the case, which can be accessed here.
Ypsilanti Charter Township, 33 MPER ¶ 14 (2019)
The charging party, an employee of the Township Assessor, filed an unfair labor practice charge against her former employer and former union representatives after she was terminated for insubordination and violations of the Employer’s workplace violence policy, and after an arbitration award relative to that termination allowed her to resign in lieu of termination. The Employee learned that, during the arbitration proceedings, her union representative forwarded to the Employer confidential documents she had given to her union representative. The Employee alleged that the Employer violated her rights by accepting confidential information from a union representative. The ALJ determined that the Employer did not unlawfully interfere with her rights by looking at and copying a document that it was given by her union representative, as the Employer had not solicited the information. Consequently, the ALJ concluded that the Employee failed to state a claim under the PERA and dismissed the case, which can be accessed here.
Eastern Michigan University, 33 MPER ¶ 15 (2019)
The charging party filed an unfair labor practice charge alleging that the University violated Section 10(1)(a) of PERA by engaging in a pattern and practice of interfering, restraining, and coercing members of the bargaining unit to dissuade them from exercising their rights under the PERA. Specifically, a University administrator allegedly called an employee into a disciplinary meeting because the employee had stated her intention to file a grievance during an altercation with another administrator. Additionally, members of the University administration allegedly threatened and coerced faculty at a grievance hearing. Several days later, the union filed another charge, alleging that a member was denied the presence of a representative at a meeting from which he reasonably feared discipline would result; the union asserted that the University threatened to discipline the employee if he did not sign a release of liability form. The ALJ determined that the University did not violate Section 10(1)(a) of the PERA.
The ALJ determined that an employee was required to attend a disciplinary meeting at which she was questioned about her threat to file a grievance, but the threat was not the focus of the meeting. Because the employee had a physical altercation with an administrator, the ALJ determined that the University had a legitimate and substantial business justification for conducting an interview. The ALJ also determined that comments made during a grievance hearing did not rise to the level of a violation of Section 10(1)(a) of PERA. While the hearing was contentious, no discipline resulted, and the grievance was resolved amicably. Finally, the ALJ determined that an employee who was refused a union representative during a meeting did not establish a PERA violation, as he did not demonstrate that the meeting was investigative in nature; nor did the settlement agreement offered to the employee, which included a release of liability, constitute a violation of the PERA. The ALJ dismissed the case, which can be accessed here.
University of Michigan Health System, 33 MPER ¶ 17 (2019)
The charging party was a union that represented participants in the Employer’s medical residency program. The collective bargaining agreement between the parties permitted union officials to conduct a presentation at the orientation for new residents. However, the Employer denied the union’s request to increase the presentation time, and the union filed an ultimately unsuccessful grievance. The Employer also gave the union notice that it would be moving to an online orientation system and that the union’s director would lose email and intranet access through the Employer’s system. Finally, the Employer intended to modify the holiday break period for some members and remove positions that were part of the bargaining unit. The ALJ determined the Employer’s decision regarding orientation was based on anti‑union animus. Additionally, the Employer violated the PERA by terminating the established practice of permitting the union’s director to have intranet and email access through the Employer’s system. However, the ALJ found no violation of the PERA based on the Employer’s decision to remove an employee from the bargaining unit while she participated in a program sponsored by an outside entity. Moreover, the ALJ found no PERA violation based on the alteration to the holiday break schedule, as the change stemmed from the Employer’s revised application of the collective bargaining agreement between the parties. Therefore, the Employer was ordered to cease and desist from engaging in the above PERA violations, restore the union and its members with their related rights, and post a notice on its premises. The case may be accessed here.