July 18, 2019

Colorado Supreme Court: City & County of Denver Has Authority to Unilaterally Draft Disciplinary Rules

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in City & County of Denver v. Denver Firefighters Local No. 858 on Monday, March 3, 2014.

Firefighters—Departmental Rules of Conduct—Firefighter Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively—Denver City Charter.

In this case, which involved an issue of first impression, the Supreme Court held that the City and County of Denver has authority to unilaterally draft and implement disciplinary rules. This authority is not limited by the Denver firefighters’ right to engage in collective bargaining. Accordingly, the Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals because the court of appeals erroneously concluded that discipline is a term and condition of employment that is subject to collective bargaining. The case was remanded to the trial court.

Summary and full case available here.

SB 13-025: Allowing Firefighters to Participate in Collective Bargaining

On Wednesday, January 9, 2013, Sen. Lois Tochtrop introduced SB 13-025 – Concerning Collective Bargaining by Firefighters. This summary is published here courtesy of the Colorado Bar Association’s e-Legislative Report.

The bill grants firefighters the right to:

  • Organize, form, join, or assist an employee organization or refrain from doing so;
  • Negotiate collectively or express a grievance through representatives of their choice;
  • Engage in other lawful concerted activity for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection; and
  • Be represented by their exclusive representative without discrimination.

An employee organization recognized or elected for collective bargaining becomes the exclusive representative of all firefighters for collective bargaining. The bill prohibits a fire department from bargaining on matters covered by the act with any other employee or group. The bill grants the exclusive representative the right to be present and express its views at the adjustment of a complaint made by a member of the bargaining unit without the intervention of the exclusive representative. An exclusive representative may have dues and other moneys deducted from the pay of firefighters who authorize the deduction.

A fire department and an exclusive representative have to bargain collectively in good faith. Any agreements negotiated between an exclusive representative and a fire department, along with any terms approved by the voters of the political subdivision of the fire department, constitute the collective bargaining agreement between the parties. The bill requires the term of a collective bargaining agreement to be for between one and three years unless the parties agree to negotiate and reach a voluntary agreement on all terms of a new contract. The parties have to begin collective bargaining within a specified time after the notice. An impasse is deemed to exist if the parties fail to reach a collective bargaining agreement within a specified time after the beginning of collective bargaining. A collective bargaining agreement may require all members of the bargaining unit, as a condition of employment, to pay the exclusive representative’s fees and expenses in negotiating and enforcing the agreement.

If an impasse exists, the bill requires the parties to allow an arbitration organization to appoint an advisory fact finder to hold a hearing on the unresolved issues and make recommendations on which party’s final offer on each issue should be accepted. The bill specifies the factors that the advisory fact finder must consider. The parties have a specified time to consider the advisory fact-finder’s recommendations and conduct further negotiations. If either party rejects the recommendations, the final offers of the parties on the unresolved issues will be submitted to the voters of the political subdivision of the public employer at a special election.

The bill prohibits firefighters from striking.

Existing bargaining units, exclusive representatives, and bargaining relationships as of the effective date of the bill remain in effect unless modified by agreement or election in accordance with the bill.

Firefighters may conduct secret-ballot elections to certify or decertify an employee organization as the exclusive representative of a bargaining unit.

The bill grants a firefighter or an employee organization the right to sue to enforce the provisions of the bill.

On Jan. 23, the Business, Labor, & Technology Committee amended and approved the bill and moved it to the Senate for consideration on 2nd Reading.

Since this summary, the bill was laid over on Second Reading in the Senate until February 4, 2013.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Former Employee Failed to Exhaust Administrative Remedies Required by Collective Bargaining Agreement

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its decision in Brown v. Jefferson County School District No. R-1 on June 21, 2012.

Breach of Contract—Wrongful Termination—Doctrine of Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies—Collective Bargaining Agreement.

Plaintiff Steve Brown appealed the trial court’s order dismissing his breach of contract claim against defendant Jefferson County School District No. R-1 (District). The order was affirmed.

The District terminated Brown’s employment. As a member of the Classified School Employee’s Association (CSEA), Brown was subject to the Collective Bargaining Agreement (Agreement) between the CSEA and the District, which provided a four-step grievance process. The hearing officer in step 3 of the grievance process found that Brown was wrongfully terminated, and stated that the District and the CSEA needed to reach an agreement regarding Brown’s reinstatement. The District rejected the hearing officer’s recommendations, and Brown filed a complaint against the District without completing step 4 of the grievance process. The complaint was dismissed by the trial court.

Brown contended that the court erred in dismissing his complaint, and the Court of Appeals disagreed. The doctrine of exhaustion of administrative remedies applies to the Agreement, and Brown failed to exhaust his administrative remedies by not completing step 4 of the grievance process before filing his complaint. Therefore, the trial court did not have subject matter jurisdiction over Brown’s claim. The order was affirmed.

Summary and full case available here.

HB 11-1320: Prohibiting Collective Bargaining by Government Entities

On May 3, 2011, Rep. Janak Joshi, R-Colorado Springs, and Sen. Bill Cadman, R-Colorado Springs, introduced HB 11-1320 – Concerning a prohibition against collective bargaining by government entities. This summary is published here courtesy of the Colorado Bar Association’s e-Legislative Report.

The bill prohibits the state from recognizing any labor union or other employee association as a bargaining agent of any public officers or employees and from collectively bargaining or entering into any collective bargaining contract with any union or association or its agents with respect to any matter relating to them or their employment or service. The bill was introduced on Tuesday and assigned to the State, Veterans, & Military Affairs Committee; that committee approved the bill and sent it to the full House for consideration on 2nd Reading.

Summaries of other featured bills can be found here.