STATE PERSONNEL RELATIONS LAW (SPRL) APPEALS
State employees in classified service who are not represented by a union, and those in management service, have the right to appeal to the Employment Relations Board (ERB) any suspension, reduction, demotion, dismissal, reprimand, discipline, or other personnel action. Appeals must be in writing and filed not later than 30 days after the effective date of the action.
An appeal is timely if it is received by the Board or postmarked, if mailed postpaid and properly addressed, not later than 30 days after the effective date of the action.
How to File a SPRL Appeal
There is no cost to file the appeal and no preprinted form to complete. Write a chronological description of what happened, describing the actions that allegedly violated the law. Attach copies of documents that are central to the appeal, including copies of relevant personnel actions. Please include your name, address, phone number, and e-mail address. Do not include information such as your Social Security Number or driver’s license number on any documents submitted. If such information appears on any documents you feel are necessary for your case, please redact (black out or otherwise make unreadable) that information before submitting the documents to ERB.
You may fax, mail, or hand deliver the appeal to:
Employment Relations Board
528 Cottage Street N.E., Suite 400
Salem, Oregon 97301-3807
Fax: (503) 373-0021
Phone: (503) 378-3807
General Information About The Process and Hearings
When a State employee files a SPRL appeal, ERB assigns it to an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). The ALJ examines the appeal to determine whether it complies with the requirements of the law and applicable rules. If the appeal is defective, the ALJ will identify the problem and give you, the appellant, an opportunity to amend the appeal.
Within the first 30 days after filing an appeal, before a hearing, either party may ask the ALJ to refer the case to a mediator. A mediator is an ERB employee who will help you and the State agency attempt to resolve the dispute without a hearing. Both parties must agree to mediation, which is a voluntary process. If both you and the State agency agree to mediation, a mediator will contact you to arrange a meeting.
The mediator will meet with each side separately to find out what is needed or desired to settle the dispute. An attorney may represent you in the mediation process, but an attorney is not required. The State agency may or may not be represented by an attorney at mediation. Neither you nor the State agency is required to agree to any settlement proposal made by the other side or suggested by the mediator. If a settlement cannot be reached, the case will be returned to the ALJ who will conduct a hearing.
If, after investigation, the ALJ determines that a hearing is necessary, the ALJ will contact you and the State to schedule a hearing date and location. The ALJ will conduct the hearing. The SPRL requires ERB to conduct a hearing within 30 days after it receives an appeal from a regular employee who appeals a reduction, dismissal, suspension, or demotion. The parties can waive the 30-day requirement (ORS 240.560(1)).
Before the hearing, the ALJ will send you a form entitled “Advice of Rights” which explains the hearing process in more detail. At the hearing, you may represent yourself or be represented by an attorney, or other representative of your choice, at your expense. The State is generally represented by an attorney in ERB hearings.
After the Hearing
After the hearing ends, the ALJ will issue a recommended order based on the evidence in the record. This is not a final order. Any party to the case may object to a recommended order by filing written objections within 14 days from the date the recommended order was issued. Whether or not objections are filed, the matter will be referred to the full Board for a final decision. The Board's final decision must be based on the evidence in the record. The Board generally provides the parties an opportunity to present oral and written argument on any timely objections before making its final decision. The Board can accept or modify the ALJ’s recommended order.
The final Board Order can be appealed to the Court of Appeals.
If you have questions regarding the merits of your appeal, the strength or weakness of your case, or the likelihood that your appeal will be successful, you should consult an attorney. ERB staff can answer your questions regarding procedures and applicable laws and rules; however, they are not permitted to give you legal advice.
The ERB has a library with the text and summaries of prior SPRL decisions for your review. The cost for copies is $.25 per page. The library is open from 8:00 a.m. to noon and 1:00 to 5:00 p.m., Mondays through Fridays.
Representation by Attorneys
Throughout the appeal process, the State agency generally will be represented by an attorney from the Attorney General´s Office. You may choose to be represented by an attorney at any time during the appeal process, but it is not required. You are responsible for paying the fees of your own attorney.
State Personnel Relations Law – Precedent
Removals from Management Service
Standard Applied in Reviewing Appeals
The State Personnel Relations Law (SPRL) is contained in ORS Chapter 240. It permits certain State employees to challenge a personnel action issued by a State agency by filing an appeal with the Employment Relations Board. The Board issues formal written decisions regarding appeals filed under the SPRL.
The Board publishes summaries of those decisions in the State Personnel Relations Law Digest. The digest and the full text of all the decisions are available for review in the Board’s library, which is located at the Old Garfield School Building, 528 Cottage Street N.E., Suite 400, Salem, Oregon. The library is open from 8:00 a.m. to noon and 1:00 to 5:00 p.m., Mondays through Fridays.
The Board decides appeals of many types of personnel actions. Below is an excerpt from a Board decision in an appeal by an employee who was removed from management service. (ERB Case No. MA-17-93, issued July 7, 1994, Pages 20-21.) In this decision, the Board describes the standards that it applies to determine if a management service removal complies with the requirements of the SPRL. The Board stated:
“We have emphasized the unique employment relationship of management service employees in several of our prior decisions:
“* * * The Legislative Assembly, in creating the management service, apparently intended to provide top management in state government with greater flexibility in dealing with perceived deficiencies by middle management than was afforded in dealing with employees without management or supervisory responsibility (i.e., those in the classified service). * * * If performance standards are not arbitrary or unreasonable, given the authority and responsibility of the employee in question, failure to satisfactorily meet these expectations can be cause for discipline or removal even if the standards are very strict. But because the standard in ORS 240.570 (3) is not merely a subjective one, this Board still must decide whether under all the circumstances of the case the ‘action [of the employer] is objectively reasonable.’ [Quoting Brown v Oregon College of Education, 52 Or App 251 at 260, 628 P2d 410 (1981)]. Morisette v. Children’s Services Division, Case No. 1410 (March 1983) at 23 (footnotes omitted).
“* * * [T]he significant factor in our analysis is the extent to which the employer’s trust and confidence in the employee have been harmed and, therefore, the extent to which the employee’s capacity to act as a member of the ‘management team’ has been compromised. In addition, [Board precedents] give weight to the effect of the management service employee’s actions on the mission and the image of the agency and the extent to which those actions do or do not reflect the proper use of judgment and discretion. Reynolds v. Department of Transportation, Case No. 1430 (October 1984) at 10.
“* * * The primary distinction between the management and classified services both in [State Personnel Relations Law] and in employment systems generally, is the level of accountability that a manager must accept with the authority and responsibility that his or her position carries, and the lesser degree of ‘cause’ which must be established in the case of a manager’s deficiencies to justify a disciplinary sanction. Jones v. Department of Transportation, Case No. MA-6-87 (May 1989) at 17.”
Updated October 20, 2010