New Hampshire Court Rules That Weingarten Rights Are Part Of Just Cause Standard

Marc Desilets was employed by the Manchester, New Hampshire Police Department as a full-time police officer from 1998 until 2003. At the conclusion of an Internal Affairs investigation, the City fired Desilets for dishonesty. Desilets both initiated a grievance under the “just cause” provision of the collective bargaining agreement covering him and filed an unfair labor practice complaint with the New Hampshire Public Employee Labor Relations Board. In the grievance, Desilets alleged that his termination was not for just cause and that he was denied “the right to representation” during the Internal Affairs investigation. In the ULP, Desilets contended that the interview violated his right to representation under National Labor Relations Board v. Weingarten, Inc., 420 U.S. 251 (1975).

The ULP was processed faster than the grievance. The City sought to dismiss the ULP, arguing that since Desilets had filed a grievance under the collective bargaining agreement alleging that his right to representation was violated, the Labor Board had no jurisdication over the matter. Eventually, the New Hampshire Supreme Court agreed with the City.

The Court found that the underlying allegations regarding Desilets’ Weingarten rights arose in the context of the investigation of a disciplinary action under the collective bargaining agreement. The contract states that in general “no disciplinary action shall be taken against an employee except for just cause. Therefore, Desilets’ just cause grievance proceeding necessarily encompasses issues pertaining to the propriety of the underlying investigation. Therefore, we conclude that the collective bargaining agreement provides for final and binding arbitration of alleged violation of Desilets’ Weingarten rights in the context of his just cause grievance.”

The Court observed that the primary purpose of the arbitration process is an expeditious and economical system of dispute resolution. In the Court’s eyes, “allowing Desilets to contravene the underlying purpose of arbitration by raising a substantive issue before the Labor Board after agreeing to submit it to final and binding arbitration would not be in accord with the legislative purpose of the collective bargaining law.

City of Manchester, 2006 WL 459250 (N.H. 2006).

This article appears in the April 2006 issue