For employees covered by a collective bargaining agreement (CBA), procedural due process is a cornerstone of employment protection. In the public employment sector, members of a collective bargaining unit cannot be dismissed without just cause, thereby securing their protected property interest in continued employment. This protected status entitles employees to critical procedural due process protections before any disciplinary action is imposed.

Understanding Protected Property Interests

In public employment, establishing an entitlement to procedural due process under the United States and Florida Constitutions requires demonstrating a property interest in one’s position. The United States Supreme Court defines a property interest as a legitimate expectation of continued employment, which is not created by the Constitution but by existing rules or understandings derived from state law or agreements, such as a CBA.

For example, in McRae v. Douglas, 644 So.2d 1368 (Fla. 5th DCA 1994), quoted in Depaola v. Town of Davie, 872 So.2d 377 (Fla. 4th DCA 2004), the court affirmed that an employee must sufficiently allege a property interest under Florida law to establish entitlement to procedural safeguards. This principle highlights the importance of understanding and asserting one’s rights under the specific terms of the CBA and relevant state laws.

Procedural Due Process Protections

Without meaningful procedural due process protections, a public employer cannot implement adverse employment actions or disciplinary measures against a CBA-covered employee. This principle was reinforced in Housing Authority of the City of Petersburg v. White, 617 So.2d 717, 720 (Fla. 2d DCA 1993), which emphasizes that procedural due process must be integral to any disciplinary process.

Key elements of procedural due process include:

  • Notice: Informing the employee of the charges or reasons for the proposed disciplinary action.
  • Hearing: Providing the employee an opportunity to present their side of the story.
  • Impartial Decision Maker: Ensuring the decision is made by an impartial authority.

These protections ensure fairness and justification in any disciplinary action, respecting the employee’s rights under the CBA.

Just Cause and the Burden of Proof

Just cause is a fundamental principle in employment law and collective bargaining agreements, serving as an affirmative defense. The burden of proving just cause for disciplinary action lies solely with the employer, who must provide sufficient evidence to justify the measures taken.

In cases involving serious offenses, such as crimes or acts of moral turpitude (e.g., dishonesty), most arbitrators require proof to meet a clear and convincing standard. This higher standard of proof ensures that disciplinary actions are not taken lightly and that employees’ rights are protected.

Advocacy for Aggrieved Employees

Employees feeling aggrieved by their employer’s actions must understand the procedural due process protections afforded by their CBA. Advocacy for these employees must emphasize the importance of just cause and procedural due process as essential components of fair employment practices.


Procedural due process protections are vital in safeguarding the rights of public employees covered by collective bargaining agreements. As an employment attorney in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Mark J. Berkowitz is committed to upholding these protections and that employees receive the fair treatment they deserve. If you believe your procedural due process rights have been violated or need assistance navigating the complexities of a collective bargaining agreement, please feel free to contact our office at (954) 527-0570 or visit our website for expert legal guidance.