About the Agricultural Labor Relations Board
The agency’s authority is divided between a Board composed of five members and a General Counsel, all of whom are appointed by the Governor and subject to confirmation by the Senate. Together, they are responsible for the prevention of those practices which the Act declares to be impediments to the free exercise of employee rights. When a charge is filed, the General Counsel conducts an investigation to determine whether an unfair labor practice has been committed. If the General Counsel believes that there has been a violation, a complaint issues. The Board provides for a hearing to determine whether a respondent has committed the unfair labor practice alleged in the complaint.
Under the statute, the Board may delegate, and in practice has delegated, its authority to hear such cases to Administrative Law Judges (ALJ’s) who take evidence and make initial recommendations in the form of written decisions with respect to issues of fact or law raised by the parties. Any party may appeal any of the findings, conclusions or recommendations of the ALJ to the Board, which then reviews the record and issues its own decision and order in the case. Parties dissatisfied with the Board’s order may petition for review in the Court of Appeal. Attorneys for the Board defend the decisions rendered by the Board. If review is not sought or is denied, the Board may seek enforcement of its order in superior court.
When a final remedial order requires that parties be made whole for unfair labor practices committed against them, the Board has followed the practice of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in holding supplemental proceedings to determine the amount of liability. These hearings, called compliance hearings, are also typically held before ALJ’s who write recommended decisions for review by the Board. Once again, parties dissatisfied with the decision and order issued by the Board upon review of the ALJ’s decision may petition for review of the Board’s decision in the Court of Appeal. If the court denies the petition for review or orders the Board’s order in a compliance case enforced, the Board may seek enforcement in superior court.
In addition to the Board’s authority to issue decisions in unfair labor practice cases, the Board, through personnel in various regional offices, is responsible for conducting elections to determine whether a majority of the employees of an agricultural employer wishes to be represented by a labor organization or, if the employees are already so represented, to determine whether they wish to continue to be represented by that labor organization, a rival labor organization or no labor organization at all. Chapter 5 of the ALRA empowers the Board to direct an election provided that Board investigation reveals the existence of a bonafide question concerning such representation. Because of the seasonal nature of agriculture and the relatively short periods of peak employment, the Act provides for a speedy election process, mandating that elections be held within seven days from the date an election petition is filed, and within 48 hours after a petition has been filed in the case of a strike. Any party believing that an election ought not to have been conducted, or that misconduct occurred which tended to affect the outcome of the election, or that the election was otherwise not fairly conducted, may file objections to the election. The objections are reviewed by the Board’s Executive Secretary, who determines whether they establish a prima facie case that the election should not have been held or that the conduct complained of affected its outcome. If such a prima facie case is found, a hearing is held before an Administrative Law Judge acting in the capacity of an Investigative Hearing Examiner to determine whether the Board should refuse to certify the election as a valid expression of the will of the employees. The Investigative Hearing Examiner’s conclusions may be appealed to the Board. Except in very limited circumstances, court review of any decision of the Board in representation matters may be had only in connection with an order in an unfair labor practice case which is based upon the Board’s certification.