An Important Change In Minnesota Public Employer Labor Law
In 2014, the Minnesota Legislature amended the Public Employment Labor Relations Act (PELRA) to establish the Public Employment Relations Board (“PERB”) to investigate, hear and resolve unfair labor practice (“ULP”) charges and complaints. Previously PELRA ULPs were heard by the district courts, chiefly under injunctive relief motions.
In addition to creating PERB, PELRA was amended to include the following with respect to concerted activity:
Concerted Activity. Public employees have the right to engage in concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection. Minn. Stat. § 179A.06, subd. 7.
The establishment of PERB and the concerted activities provision helps to bring Minnesota public employer labor law in line with federal labor law procedures and protections for private sector employees. For discussion of concerted activity in federal labor law and its impact in the private sector, click here.
Significantly, the amendments also include employees of charitable hospitals and charitable hospitals as public employees and public employers for the purposes of filing and processing unfair labor practice charges. Minn. Stat. § 179A.03, subd. 14 (a)(8); Minn. Stat. § 179A.03, subd. 15(c); Minn. Stat. § 179A.135.
The basic functions of Minnesota PERB are:
- Receiving and investigating unfair labor practice charges in the public sector;
- Where appropriate, issuing complaint on unfair labor practice charges;
- Appointing a hearing officer to hear complaints issued;
- Holding hearings on complaints issued;
- Where appropriate, ordering relief for violations found;
- Where necessary, petitioning the district court for enforcement of the PERB’s orders;
- Where appropriate, seeking temporary judicial relief upon issuance of a complaint alleging an unfair labor practice;
- Hearing appeals of BMS decisions relating to unfair election practices.
Takeaway: Minnesota PERB will change the process and pace for resolution of ULP charges for all employees of public employers covered by PELRA. Currently, while a PERB Board is appointed, the rulemaking process is still in early days, so the activation of PERB may still not be for several months. Ultimately, the amendment will likely help unify public employee and private sector employee labor law processes and protections.