California Legislature Speeds Up Backpay for Agricultural Workers, Extends Mandatory Mediation

On September 23, 2018, Governor Brown signed into law AB 2751, making important modifications to the California Agricultural Labor Relations Act (ALRA).

First, the bill requires the Agricultural Labor Relations Board (ALRB) to process to final order all decisions awarding make-whole relief, backpay or other monetary remedies to agricultural employees— within one year.

This provision seeks to address a number of cases in which employers were able to delay paying back wages, sometimes for decades, even when their liability was clear.  The new provision means that, once the ALRB has found an employer liable to an employee, the employer can no longer drag out the process of paying the employee for years following the award on the basis that an appeal or compliance proceeding is pending.

Second, the bill provides a new avenue for labor organizations to request mandatory mediation to set the terms of a collective bargaining agreement (CBA).  Existing law allows a union or an employer governed by the ALRA to request mediation to set CBA terms under certain circumstances.  The result of the mediation can be reviewed by the ALRB.

Under the new law, if the ALRB’s review continues beyond the expiration of the mediator’s proposed CBA, either party can request mandatory mediation, before the original mediator, to re-set the expired terms.  This provision ensures that a CBA proposed by a mediator does not become irrelevant if it remains pending before the ALRB for a long period of time.

While AB 2751 will likely not have a dramatic effect, it will hopefully speed up the ALRB’s processes and help make its orders remain relevant despite the passage of time.

For more information, contact your labor law counsel.

By Tom Gottheil | October 25, 2018

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