(CN) – An Oregon district attorney violated the rights of a union representative by telling him to stop smirking, a state appeals court ruled.
The Clackamas County Employees’ Association claimed that Clackamas County had engaged in unfair labor practices during a meeting between a district attorney and his receptionist, Ms. Acton.
The meeting was scheduled for Jan. 30, 2008, the final day of Acton’s probationary period. Her representatives, described in court records simply as Bailey and Morales, asked to reschedule the meeting for the next day.
At the meeting, the union representatives informed the district attorney that the receptionist was no longer a probationary employee and was therefore under a different set of rules that would make it more difficult to fire her.
The district attorney yelled at the union reps for “playing games” and told one of them to stop smirking. Morales replied that he would smirk if he wanted to.
The district attorney then said that the representative would be removed and permanently banned unless he stopped smirking. The representative stayed, but Acton was fired.
The union then sued the county for the district’s attorney’s remarks, saying that they interfered with the union’s protected rights.
The Employment Relations Court dismissed the case in a divided ruling, but the Oregon Court of Appeals overturned the decision on May 25, ruling that the “stop smirking” remark violated the union’s rights.
“Morales’ right to represent Acton included a right to express himself at the meeting with the district attorney,” Judge Robert Wollheim wrote for the court. “When the district attorney ordered Morales to stop smirking, Morales was smugly communicating that the association had outwitted the district attorney, albeit without words.”