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Individual State’s Attorney’s Offices Are Municipal Employers for Purposes of Collective Bargaining Statute

In In re Election Petitions, 2016 VT 7 (January 8, 2016), the Vermont Supreme Court held that, with regards to employees of the State’s Attorney’s Offices (“SAOs”), the individual state’s attorneys’ offices are municipal employers for purposes of the Vermont Municipal Employee Relations Act (“MERA”). The Court further held that the legislatively created Vermont Department of State’s Attorneys and Sheriffs (the “Department”) is not a municipal employer under MERA with regards to the employees of the SAOs. The Court therefore reversed the decision of the Vermont Labor Relations Board, which had determined that the SAO employees were not covered under MERA.

Issue: The Vermont State Employees’ Association (“VSEA”) filed eight petitions with the Vermont Labor Relations Board to elect collective bargaining representatives under MERA, seeking to represent the employees within the fourteen SAOs, who had previously not been a part of the collective bargaining unit. The issue on appeal was whether the individual state’s attorneys, or the Department, or some combination thereof, are municipal employers for purposes of MERA.

Holding: The Court held that each individual state’s attorney that employs five or more employees is a municipal employer for purposes of MERA. Only municipal employers and their employees may bargain collectively under MERA. Previously, the employees within the SAOs have not had collective bargaining representation. Of note, the Addison County state’s attorney took the position that SAO employees were not covered under MERA, whereas the Chittenden County state’s attorney agreed to those employees voting in a consent election under MERA to decide whether they wished to be represented by VSEA.

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