California law has previously prohibited public employers from deterring or discouraging employees or applicants from becoming or remaining members of an employee organization. In 2018, the Legislature enacted a statute codifying provisions to this effect, which are known as the Prohibition on Public Employers Deterring or Discouraging Union Membership (“PEDD”). The PEDD applies to all public employers and – with some exceptions – is under the jurisdiction of the Public Employment Relations Board.
SB 931 authorizes an employee organization to bring a claim before PERB alleging that a public employer violated the PEDD. If PERB finds that the employer did violate the PEDD, the employer may be subject to a civil penalty of up to $1,000 per affected employee, up to $100,000 in total. The amount of the penalty, set by PERB, takes into account the severity of the violation, any prior history of violations by the employer, as well as the employer’s annual budget.
Also, the employer must pay attorney’s fees and costs for a prevailing employee organization unless the claim was frivolous, unreasonable, or groundless, or the employee organization continued to litigate after the claim became so. And if PERB initiates compliance proceedings in superior court, or the employer seeks judicial review, and PERB prevails before the court, the employer must pay PERB’s attorney’s fees and costs as well.