The Petaluma Federation of Teachers (“PFT”) filed an unfair practice charge against the Petaluma City Elementary School District/Joint Union High School District (“District”) for failing to timely provide requested information necessary and relevant for contract negotiations, among other things. PFT originally requested the information on July 2, 2014. The District did not respond to the request until August 13, 2014, approximately six weeks after the request was originally made. ((2016) PERB Decision No. 2485.)
In partially overturning a prior dismissal of the charge, the PERB Board reinforced a public agencies obligation to provide a timely response to a request for information from an employee group. “Once relevant information has been requested,” the Board explained, “the employer must either supply the information or timely and adequately explain its reasons for not complying with the request. (Chula Vista City School District (1990) PERB Decision No. 834.) Failing to provide such information is equivalent to a failure to bargain in good faith. (Los Angeles Superior Court (2010) PERB Decision No. 2112.) In this case, the District did not provide an initial response for six weeks, and did not provide an explanation regarding why certain information was missing until September 3, 2014.
The case serves as a reminder of how important communication can be in any negotiation or dispute. Had the District been up front in describing its process in collecting the information and the information availability, the Board may have ruled differently. It is always good practice to immediately respond to a request for information from an employee group that the request is being processed and provide a proposed date for disclosure. Had the District in this case provided such information, they may not have found themselves with labor strife and an adverse ruling from PERB.