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Pocket Guide to Just Cause: Discipline and Discharge Arbitration

By Bonnie Bogue and Katherine Thomson
1st edition, 2010

$20 each

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Cause or just cause for discipline or discharge is a requirement in most collective bargaining contracts and public sector personnel or civil service rules. But how is cause defined? How do hearing officers and arbitrators assess whether discipline or discharge should be upheld? How should representatives for employers, unions, or employees prepare and present a disciplinary case?

The answers are in this Guide, which provides:

  • A description of the "tests" that arbitrators apply to decide whether an employer had just cause for discipline or discharge;
  • An explanation of how statutory law and collective bargaining agreements may limit the arbitrator's traditional discretion;
  • Advice to practitioners on how to evaluate a case, decide whether to settle a case, and if not, prepare for a hearing;
  • Information on common remedies with an explanation of how statutory rights affect remedial awards;
  • A description of the various statutory schemes for disciplinary hearings that govern the different sectors of public employment in California.

The guide is generally applicable to both arbitrations and civil service disciplinary hearings. Designed for use by labor relations representatives, union representatives, and lawyers, it provides a breadth and depth of coverage not available elsewhere at such an affordable price.


I. Introduction1
    A. "Just Cause" — The Origin of the Principle1
        1. "Just Cause" — The Definition1
            Appellate review standard.2
            De novo review standard.2
        2. Employment At Will vs. Negotiated Just Cause3
    B. Merit Systems vs. Negotiated Just Cause4
        Local government.6
        Schools and colleges.7
    C. Non-Negotiated Disciplinary Appeal Procedures7
        1. State Civil Service Employees8
        2. California State University Employees9
        3. University of California Employees11
            Staff employees.11
            Academic employees.12
        4. Community College Employees13
            Academic employees.13
            Classified employees.14
        5. K-12 Public School District Employees16
            Permanent certificated employees.17
            Probationary certificated employees.18
        6. Local Government Employees18
        7. Trial Court Employees20
II. Just Cause — The Tests21
    A. Elements of Just Cause21
    B. Factors Arbitrators Use to Determine Proof of Misconduct22
        1. Reasonableness of the Rule or Standard of Conduct23
        2. Notice to the Employee of the Rule23
        3. Notice of the Disciplinary Consequences24
        4. Notice of the Charges24
        5. Timely Action on the Charges25
        6. Adequate and Fair Investigation25
        7. Opportunity to Respond to the Charges26
        8. Proof of the Charged Misconduct26
        9. Equal Treatment for Similar Misconduct27
        10. Double Jeopardy28
    C. Factors Arbitrators Use to Determine Just Cause for the Level of Discipline28
        1. Progressive Discipline29
        2. Seriousness of the Misconduct29
        3. Similar Penalty for Similar Misconduct30
        4. Length of Service30
        5. Prior Disciplinary Record31
        6. The Employer's Degree of Fault31
        7. Other Mitigating or Aggravating Circumstances32
        8. Post-Discharge Misconduct32
    D. Negotiated Limits on Arbitral Discretion33
        1. Limits on Arbitrator-Ordered Remedies33
        2. No-Fault Attendance Policies33
        3. Limits on Evaluating Employee Performance34
        4. Last Chance Agreements34
    E . External Law — Effect on the Arbitrator's Discretion35
        1. Authority to Apply External Law36
        2. External Law Limits on Arbitrator's Discretion37
III. Before Arbitration40
    A. Predisciplinary Due Process40
    B. Filing the Grievance43
    C. Processing the Grievance44
    D. How to Avoid Taking the Grievance to Arbitration45
        1. Settling the Case45
        2. Mediating the Grievance46
        3. Last-Chance Agreements47
    E . Deciding Whether to Arbitrate48
        1. The Union's Decision to Arbitrate48
            Evaluating strengths and weaknesses.48
            Effect on the bargaining unit.49
            Duty of fair representation.49
        2. The Employer's Decision to Arbitrate50
            Evaluating strengths and weaknesses.51
    F. Costs of Arbitration51
    G . Preparing for Arbitration52
        1. Developing a Theory of the Case52
        2. Witnesses and Documentary Evidence53
        3. Surprise and After-Acquired Evidence54
IV. The Hearing56
    A. Hearing Procedures56
        1. Advocates57
        2. The Record57
        3. Statement of the Issue57
        4. Opening Statements57
        5. Stipulation58
        6. Witnesses58
        7. Documentary Evidence 58
    B. The Employer's Case59
    C. The Employee's Defense59
    D. Evidence60
        1. Relevanc61
        2. Foundation61
        3. Hearsay61
        4. Opinions and Speculation62
        5. Leading Questions63
        6. Offers of Settlement63
        7. Privileged Communications63
        8. Privacy and Medical and Personnel Files64
    E. Closing Arguments65
    F. Award or Decision65
V. Remedies in Discipline and Discharge Cases66
    A. Types of Remedies Arbitrators Award67
        1. Rescind Discipline and Reinstate With Full Back Pay67
        2. Rescind Discipline and Reinstate With Partial Back Pay68
        3. Rescind Discipline and Reinstate With No Back Pay69
        4. Award Back Pay Without Reinstatement69
        5. Reinstate With Conditions or Last-Chance Agreement70
        6. Reinstate With Disciplinary Transfer or Demotion70
    B. Award of Interest, Costs, and Damages71
        1. Interest on Back Pay71
        2. Damages72
        3. Attorney's Fees and Costs72
    C. The Effect of External Law on Remedies73
        1. Procedural Due Process Rights73
        2. Unlawful Harassment74
        3. Reasonable Accommodation — Disability75
        4. Reasonable Accommodation — Religion75
        5. Family and Medical Leave Act76
        6. Drug and Alcohol Issues77
    D. Arbitrator's Post-Award Jurisdiction over Remedy77
VI. Evidentiary and Remedy Issues for Certain Conduct79
    A. Drug and Alcohol Offenses79
    B. Workplace Violence82
    C. Sexual Harassment83
    D. Absenteeism84
    E. Discrimination or Reprisal for Union Activity86
    F. Insubordination87
    G. Off-Duty Misconduct88
    H. Dishonesty, Theft, and Falsification88
    I. Refusal to Cooperate in Investigation or Arbitration89
        1. Union Representation90
        2. Self-Incrimination Defense90
VII. Table of Cases92
VIII. Bibliography96
IX. Index99