Senate Bill 1173, authored by Senator Maria Durazo (D, Los Angeles) will likely saddle most public employers with costly fines and attorneys’ fees if enacted. Under current law, most public employers are required to disclose to public employee unions employee contact information including the names and home addresses of newly hired employees, as well as their job titles, departments, work locations, telephone numbers, and personal email addresses, within 30 days of hire or by the first pay period of the month following hire. Existing law also requires public employers to provide this information for all employees in a bargaining unit at least every 120 days.

Sponsored by the powerful California Labor Federation and California School Employees Association,  SB 1173 would require the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) to levy a penalty of up to $50,000 against public employers to enforce a union’s right to employee contact information and also requires PERB to award the prevailing union its attorney’s fees and costs.

The measure was recently amended to allow for a 10-business day notice and cure provision for violations where the employer provides an inaccurate or incomplete list of employees. However, this provision is only allowed to be used three times in a 12-month period.

An opposition coalition including the League of California Cities and the California State Association of Counties argues in opposition that:

“Creating new financial damages to be paid to the Public Employment Relations Board by public agencies that fail to comply with a mostly bureaucratic task will only increase compliance and litigation costs in public agency budgets and divert those funds away from public benefit. It simply does not make sense why one public agency should have to pay another public agency under these circumstances. We would oppose this type of re-direction of important public funds in good times, and we certainly object during the current pandemic, economic insecurity, and public agency budget instability. In addition, allowing unions to recover attorney’s fees for bringing such claims will only encourage unions to threaten to bring lawsuits rather than encourage them to work cooperatively with public agencies. Unfortunately, in this scenario, attorneys make money to the detriment of the general public.”

SB 1173 made it out of Senate Appropriations last week and is now on the Senate floor where it is expected to be taken up for a vote on Thursday (06/25). Despite the fact that Senator Hill (D, San Mateo) voted no on the measure both in Senate Labor and in Senate Appropriations, it is expected to easily pass with minimum requirement of 21 Aye votes to advance to the Assembly. Once the measure moves to the Assembly, it will be heard once lawmakers return for their legislative summer recess on or after July 13.

Local agencies should operate under the assumption that (barring a veto from Governor Newsom), this measure will likely cruise through the Assembly during the final 6 weeks of the legislative session and become law—effective January 1 2021.

For more information on this measure or any pending legislative proposal please contact Dane Hutchings.

Jon Holtzman

Dane Hutchings