Public employees in Florida often have additional rights that private sector employees do not possess. This usually includes the ability to (1) pursue any applicable grievance or appeal steps provided by the public employer or under a collective bargaining agreement, and (2) pursue an unfair labor practice allegation. The latter is done through filing what is known as a Charge with a State agency known as the Public Employee Relations Commission (“PERC”).
What is PERC?
PERC was established by the Florida Legislature to serve as an independent, neutral agency, consisting of a Chairperson and two Commissioners, each appointed for 4 year terms by the Governor and confirmed by the Florida Senate. PERC’s governing authority is found at Chapters 110, 112, 120, 295 and 447 of the Florida Statutes, and its rules are published in the Florida Administrative Code. Its website is http://perc.myflorida.com/ from which its forms, rules, newsletters, and other pertinent information can be found. Essentially, PERC was created to assist in resolving disputes between public employees and public employers.
What are the procedures of filing an “Unfair Labor Practice” charge with PERC?
A charge for conduct designated as an “unfair labor practice,” (ULP) as defined under section 447.501, Florida Statutes, may be filed with PERC by an employer, employee, or an employee organization (i.e. generally a union). The statute of limitations varies based on the type of action pursued. For example, for a ULP under Chapter 447, must be filed within 6 months of the alleged conduct giving rise to the ULP. However, PERC has no authority in the areas of workers’ compensation, unemployment compensation, child labor, migrant labor, or farm labor.
When a Charge if filed with PERC on its form, PERC’s General Counsel will review the Charge, taking the facts as true (unless controverted by documentary evidence), to determine whether the facts are sufficient to establish a violation of law. If not, the General Counsel will issue a summary dismissal identifying the deficiencies, and permitting the party to either file an amended Charge or appeal to the Commission within 20 days. If, however, the Charge is deemed facially sufficient, PERC notifies the parties, and the party charged may then obtain copies of any sworn affidavits and any documentary evidence to support the Charge. The charged party must then respond to the Charge, in detail, within 20 days of being notified of the sufficiency.
Once deemed sufficient, the Charge is also assigned to a state hearing officer who will schedule a hearing, in conjunction with input from the parties. At the hearing, the hearing officer will receive evidence and will thereafter issue a recommended order, with both parties permitted to file “exceptions” (essentially objections) to the recommended order within 15 days of its issuance. The recommended order must be completed and submitted to PERC for a final decision within 45 days of the hearing. Proposed orders and briefs may be filed with the hearing officer before he or she issues the recommended order.
Need help with a ULP?
If you have an issue that may be brought before PERC, you should not have to navigate the PERC hearing system on your own. Because the results of a PERC hearing can have such a great impact on your livelihood and family, you should hire a firm you can trust and that has experience with such hearings. At Wilson McCoy, P.A. we have represented many employees during all stages of PERC hearings and will apply this knowledge in helping you with your hearing. If you would like to know more about your rights in your particular circumstance as a public sector employee, or need representation in your upcoming hearing, please contact us today at 407-803-5400 for an analysis of your unique situation and to schedule a consultation.