Knowledge of legal concepts, albeit the most basic ones, provides all of us with a better understanding of how things work and how to traverse certain situations. This is particularly true in the workplace where we all must conduct ourselves a certain way in accordance with the contracts that we enter into, like in the case of collective bargaining agreements. To give us a primer on this topic is Richard Hodsdon.
One of Justice Clearinghouse’s regular instructors, Rick has a prolific career catering specifically to legal concerns in corrections, criminal prosecution, and law enforcement operations. He is currently an assistant county attorney in Stillwater, MN where his duties include representation of the county and criminal justice agencies.
Specifics unpacked on this course include:
- The fundamentals of legal contracts: the legal entities, its basic components, and the concept of intent.
- Meeting of minds: Agreements in labor management relations and the recourse when the parties do not arrive at a mutual agreement.
- The two schools of thought when it comes to interpreting contracts.
- The critical role of history when it comes to determining the intent of the involved parties and the applicability of contracts or clauses within it.
- Why silence is presumed as agreement and why ambiguities are construed against the drafter of the clause/contract.
- Considering the circumstances that led to changes or insertion in the contract/policies/statutes.
- The limitations of arbitration and why it is highly recommended to be as thorough and detailed in documenting proposals during negotiation.
- The concept of Parole Evidence Rule, how this requires comprehensiveness in the contract, and how arbitrators, judges, and mediators utilize this.
- Other rules and guidelines in contract interpretation and meaning.
- Highlighting the importance of clear relations, grammar and punctuation, and dictionary definitions in a contract.
- Considering industry-specific special terms of art that may be included in the contract.
- Attention to the proper use of shall and may.
- The importance of language consistency throughout a contract.
- How specific language takes precedence over general language.
- Settling conflicts in provisions and the applicability of prior settlements.
- Rules that surround inclusions and exclusion in lists.
- Avoiding contract provisions that are contrary to existing laws or lead to harsh or absurd results.
- Preventing forfeiture by exhausting means to give valid legal effect to every clause in the contract.
- Past practice: What is considered as past practice, its legal definition, and the written vs. actual debate.
- What courts consider when looking at past practice, how past practice becomes binding, and how to break/end past practice.
Questions raised by the audience were on:
- Right to work state: What it is, states that practice it, and how it impacts unionization.
- How the current pandemic may limit past practice.
- How to best familiarize with contracts and labor management relations.
- Dissecting the use of shall, will, and may.
- The differences between arbitrator, judge, and mediator.
- “Excellent information for both Administration and Rank & File.” — Robert
- “How the language used really determines a lot even a simple thing like a comma.” — Susan