After a long legal battle on behalf of NEPBA Local 295, attorneys at Nolan Perroni Harrington have won an important labor decision from New Hampshire’s Supreme Court. Last week, the Court upheld a decision by the Public Employee Labor Relations Board finding that the Strafford County Sheriff wrongfully imposed new work rules on the heels of his Deputies’ petition to unionize. In Appeal of Strafford County Sheriff’s Office, the Court found that the Sheriff had committed various Unfair Labor Practices by unilaterally changing terms and conditions of employment in the period immediately after the Union filed for certification, and during the period when the parties were negotiating their first contract.
New Hampshire’s highest Court concluded unequivocally that the Deputies’ work shifts are mandatory subjects of bargaining that cannot be altered by the Sheriff without first negotiating with the Union. Similarly, the Court ruled that the Sheriff could neither alter the pay rate for outside details nor change the way in which overtime was calculated without first negotiating the change with the Union. The ruling affirmed the Board’s decision ordering the Sheriff to rescind the unlawful changes, and reinstate the benefits previously enjoyed by the employees.
The Court’s decision goes a long way in protecting employee’s rights and benefits during the period following organizing petitions and, significantly, should provide a profound limitation on the right of management to attack existing benefits simply because a group of employees desires to unionize.
The case was litigated by NPH lawyers Peter Perroni and Meghan Cooper. A copy of the decision is available here.