Reversing State Labor Board, New York Court Finds No Right To Union Representation In Criminal Interviews

The Rochester Police Locust Club is the labor organization for the City of Rochester, New York’s police officers. The Club filed two improper employer practice charges against the City arising from two unrelated criminal investigations that were instituted after officers discharged their weapons in the course of their duties. The Club alleged that the City improperly prohibited the officers from consulting with their Club representatives prior to being interviewed by the City during the criminal investigations and prevented the Club representatives from being present during the interviews.

The Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) ruled that under the Weingarten doctrine, the officers could reasonably believe that discipline could result from the criminal interviews. As such, PERB found, the Club had the right to represent the officers during the interviews.

In a brief opinion, a New York court overruled PERB’s decision in four short sentences: “We conclude that, in this instance, PERB abused its discretion in expanding a public employee’s rights to include the right to have a Club representative present during a criminal investigation. New York State has a strong public policy that prohibits the Club interference with criminal investigations. Under that public policy, a collective bargaining agreement may not limit or restrict procedures that are used in a criminal investigation. PERB’s determination that a Club representative must be present during a criminal interview violated that public policy.”

City of Rochester v. PERB, 2005 WL 273335 (A.D. 2005).

This article appears in the May 2005 issue