Bureau of Employee Relations v. Maine Labor Relations Board, 611 A.2d 59 (Me. 1992)
affirming State of Maine v. AFSCME Council 93, MLRB No. 91-UCA-02, (Feb. 12, 1991), 
appeal of 89-UC-07 (Aug. 10, 1990), aff'd No. CV-91-143 (Me. Super. Ct., Ken. Cty., 
Aug. 6, 1991.
MAINE SUPREME JUDICIAL COURT                        Reporter of Decisions
						   Decision No. 6252
						   Law Docket No. KEN-91-454


		      Argued June 1, 1992     
		     Decided July 15, 1992

       COLLINS, JJ.


     The Bureau of Employee Relations appeals from a decision of the
Superior Court (Kennebec County, Alexander, J.) affirming a decision of the
Maine Labor Relations Board that affirmed and adopted the hearing
examiner's unit clarification report.  On appeal the Bureau challenges the
Board's interpretation of section 979-A(6) of the State Employees Labor
Relations Act (SELRA), 26 M.R.S.A.  979 to 979-Q (1988 & Supp. 1991),
that the six-month employment requirement to attain bargaining status may
include time spent as a temporary state employee.  We affirm the judgment.

     In May 1989, Council 93 of the American Federation of State, County
and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), the bargaining agent for the
Institutional Services Unit of Maine Employees (ISU) filed a petition for unit
clarification with the Maine Labor Relations Board.  See 26 M.R.S.A.  979-E.
In its petition AFSCME sought inter alia a determination that the time spent


in a temporary position by persons who later obtained a permanent position
could be counted toward satisfaction of the six-month requirement of the
SELRA's section 979-A(6)(E).  The hearing examiner accepted AFSCME's
position and the Bureau appealed to the Board.  See 26 M.R.S.A.  979-G(2).
In February 1991, the Board affirmed and adopted the hearing examiner's
report.  The Superior Court affirmed the Board's decision and this appeal
followed.  AFSCME participated as a defendant in the Superior Court but did
not participate in this appeal.

     On appeal from a decision of the Superior Court acting as an
intermediate appellate tribunal from an administrative hearing, we review
the administrative decision directly.  See Kelley v. Commissioner, Maine
Dept. of Human Servs., 591 A.2d 1300, 1303 (Me. 1991).  When the
administrative agency's findings of fact are unchallenged, we review only for
legal error.  Id.  Since the parties in this case stipulated to facts and
exhibits, we will directly review the hearing examiner's decision for error of

     SELRA is one of four public sector collective bargaining statutes
administered by the Maine Labor Relations Board.  It covers only executive
department employees, and then only those employees who are not
specifically excluded from the definition of "state employee."  A "state
employee" is defined as:

     any employee of the State of Maine performing services within
     the executive department except any person:


	  E.  Who has been employed less than 6 months; or

	  F.  Who is a temporary, seasonal or on-call employee;

26 M.R.S.A.  979-A(6).  The Bureau contends that only time spent in a
permanent position can be counted to satisfy the six-month requirement
necessary to become a member of the bargaining unit.  The Bureau argues
that a person is included in a bargaining unit only if that person is both a
nontemporary, nonseasonal, or non-on-call position and is employed in that
nontemporary position for more than six months.  That argument means
that employment in a permanent position for six months is a prerequisite to
membership in the bargaining unit regardless of prior temporary service.
The hearing ex aminer found that the six-month requirement and temporary
status exclusion in SELRA are separate exclusions that must be applied

     The cardinal rule of statutory construction is that when the words of
the Legislature are clear, they are to be given their plain meaning and
further judicial interpretation is not necessary.  See Phelps v. President and
Trustees of Colby College, 595 A.2d 403, 405 (Me. 1991); Paradis v. Webber
Hosp., 409 A.2d 672, 675 (Me. 1979).  In this instance, because the
language of section 979-A(6) is sufficiently expressive of the legislative
purpose, we need go no further.  The Legislature joined the subsections at
issue with the disjunctive "or."  As a general rule, the use of a disjunctive in a
statute indicates alternatives and requires that those alternatives be treated
separately.  Hence, language in a clause following a disjunctive is considered
inapplicable to the subject matter of the preceding clause.  Thus the six-


month employment requirement of section 979-A(6) may include time
spent as a temporary employee.  In so concluding, we have applied the
principle that a statute as plainly worded as section 979 must be construed
without a forced interpretation designed to limit its scope.

     The Bureau also contends that the Board's interpretation contravenes
the intent of the Civil Service Law.  See 5 M.R.S.A.  7031-7085 (1989 &
Supp. 1991).  Under the Civil Service Law the probationary period for all
original appointments to classified service[fn]1 shall be no less than six months.
See 5 M.R.S.A.  7051(5).  In addition, the right to appeal and arbitrate a
dismissal or suspension hinges on the employee's satisfactory completion of
an initial probationary period.  See 5 M.R.S.A.  7051(7).  Contrary to the
Bureau's contention, however, there is no conflict between the Board's
interpretation of SELRA and the Civil Service Law.

     The entry is:

			Judgment affirmed.

1.  Classified service is defined as "all offices and positions of trust and employment in state
service, except those placed in the unclassified service by chapter 71."  See 5 M.R.S.A.  7032