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Court Holds There Was No Duty to Meet and Confer Regarding City’s Anti-Racial Profiling Program Affecting Police Officers

California Supreme Court Decision in Claremont Police Officers Association v. City of Claremont (06 C.D.O.S. 7440, Slip op. Aug. 15, 2006). Earlier this week, the California Supreme Court filed its decision in the Claremont case, a case in which Meyers Nave filed an amicus curiae brief on behalf of the League of California Cities. The case concerned the scope of an agency’s meet and confer obligations under the MMBA.

The issue in Claremont concerned whether the city had an obligation to meet and confer regarding its decision to require its police officers to collect additional data regarding vehicle stops and detentions, including the person’s race. The program was aimed at determining if the officers were engaging in racial profiling.

The court of appeal previously held that the city violated its obligation to meet and confer. The Supreme Court reversed the court of appeal, holding that the city was not required to meet and confer with the police union before implementing the new requirements.

Basis for Holding

The Court held that implementing the program did not have a significant and adverse effect on the officers’ working conditions. Rather, the program required the officers only to provide “slightly more information” than what was otherwise required. Thus, the Court determined that this new program only had a “de minimis” impact, and there was no duty to meet and confer.

Test for Determining Meet and Confer Obligations

The Court summarized a “three-part inquiry” for gauging whether there is an obligation to meet and confer.

First, the question is whether the management action has a “significant and adverse effect on the wages, hours, or working conditions of the bargaining-unit employees.” If not, there is no duty to meet and confer.

Second, the question is whether the significant and adverse effect arises from the implementation of a fundamental management or policy decision. If not, then the meet and confer requirement applies. If so, then a third question is asked.

Third, if the answer to questions one and two are “yes,” then the question is whether the “employer’s need for unencumbered decisionmaking in managing its operations is out-weighed by the benefit to employer-employee relations of bargaining about the action in question.” In considering this question, one factor to consider is “whether the transactional cost of the bargaining process outweighs its value.”

The Court declined to issue a broader ruling that would have eliminated the duty to meet and confer altogether when agencies implement a fundamental management decision. Further, the Court emphasized the “narrowness” of its holding, insofar as the record did not show a significant impact, and the Court did not decide whether there would be a duty to bargain “should other issues regarding officer discipline, privacy rights, and other potential effects arise” after the program is implemented.