Duty Of Fair Representation Not Owed To Retirees

Multnomah County Deputy Sheriffs’ Association represents deputy sheriffs and sergeants working for the Multnomah County, Oregon Sheriff’s Department. Bargaining between the Association and the County for wages for the period between July 1, 2005 and June 30, 2007 were protracted, with the bargaining not concluding until August 9, 2007.

In the bargaining, the Association attempted to obtain retroactive wage increases for all employees, as well as those who had retired subsequent to July 1, 2005. The County, which objected to any retroactivity, eventually reached a settlement with the Association that provided retroactivity only to two deputies who had retired as a result of disabilities that were not work-related. Five individuals who retired for non-disability reasons then sued the Association and the County, alleging that the Association breached its duty of fair representation to the retirees.
Oregon’s Employment Relations Board dismissed the unfair labor practice charge. The Board found that the duty of fair representation only applies to individuals who are currently in a labor organization’s bargaining unit, and that “former employees, of course, are not bargaining unit members.” The Board continued that “the Association did not violate the law by not seeking or failing to gain benefits for the former employees. The fact that the County may have agreed to provide some benefits to some former employees does not impose a legal duty on the Association to negotiate successfully with the County on behalf of other employees.”

Even if the duty of fair representation applied, the Board found, there was no evidence that the Association violated the duty. The Board reasoned that “the Association’s decision to execute an agreement that awarded retroactive pay only to employees who retired because of disabilities was reasonable; the parties chose to provide benefits to those employees who were involuntarily forced to retire. The retirees have alleged no facts that would demonstrate the Association acted dishonestly or with a hostile motive, or failed, without any reasonable basis, to obtain an agreement that benefitted the retirees.”

Hadley v. Multnomah County Deputy Sheriffs’ Association, Case No. FR-1-08 (Or. ERB 2008).

This article appears in the August 2008 issue