It is the intent of the Legislature that the commission act as expeditiously as possible to settle disputes regarding alleged unfair labor practices. To this end, violations of the provisions of s. 447.501 shall be remedied by the commission in accordance with the following procedures and in accordance with chapter 120; however, to the extent that chapter 120 is inconsistent with the provisions of this section, the procedures contained in this section shall govern:
(1) A proceeding to remedy a violation of the provisions of s. 447.501 shall be initiated by the filing of a charge with the commission by an employer, employee, or employee organization, or any combination thereof. Such a charge shall contain a clear and concise statement of facts constituting the alleged unfair labor practice, including the names of all individuals involved in the alleged unfair labor practice, specific reference to the provisions of s. 447.501 alleged to have been violated, and such other relevant information as the commission may by rule require or allow. Service of the charge shall be made upon each named respondent at the time of filing with the commission. The charge must be accompanied by sworn statements and documentary evidence sufficient to establish a prima facie violation of the applicable unfair labor practice provision. Such supporting evidence is not to be attached to the charge and is to be furnished only to the commission.
(2) The commission, or any agent designated by it for such purpose, shall thereupon review the charge to determine its sufficiency.
(a) If upon review it is determined that the charge is insufficient, the commission or its designated agent may issue a summary dismissal of the charge. A charging party whose charge is dismissed by a designated agent may appeal the dismissal to the commission within 20 days after the date of issuance of the dismissal. If the commission finds the charge to be sufficient, it shall reinstate the charge.
(b) If upon review it is determined that the charge is sufficient, the commission shall notify the parties. Each respondent so charged shall thereupon file an answer to the charge with the commission, and serve a copy upon the charging party, no more than 20 days after service of notification of the sufficiency of the charge, unless otherwise allowed by the commission. The commission, in its discretion, may allow a charge or answer to be amended at any time. The commission may also, in its discretion, allow other interested parties to intervene in the proceeding.
(3) Whenever a charging party alleges that a respondent has engaged in unfair labor practices and that the charging party will suffer substantial and irreparable injury if not granted temporary relief, the commission may petition the circuit court for appropriate injunctive relief pending the final adjudication by the commission with respect to such matter. Upon the filing of any such petition, the court shall cause notice thereof to be served upon the parties and, thereupon, shall have jurisdiction to grant such temporary relief or restraining order as it deems just and proper.
(4) The commission may issue prehearing orders requiring the parties to provide written statements of relevant issues of fact and law and such other information as the commission may require to expedite the resolution of the case. Such orders may further direct the parties to identify witnesses, exchange intended exhibits and documentary evidence, and appear at a conference before the commission or a member thereof, or a designated hearing officer, for the purpose of handling such matters as will aid the commission in expeditiously resolving the case before it.
(5) Whenever the proceeding involves a disputed issue of material fact and an evidentiary hearing is to be conducted:
(a) The commission shall issue and serve upon all parties a notice of hearing before an assigned hearing officer at a time and place specified therein. Such notice shall be issued at least 14 days prior to the scheduled hearing.
(b) The evidentiary hearing shall be conducted by a hearing officer designated by the commission. Said hearing officer may be the commission itself, a member of the commission, or an agent designated by the commission for such purpose, provided that such agent shall be an employee of the commission and a member of The Florida Bar.
(c) Not later than 45 days after the close of the evidentiary hearing, unless extended by the commission with the consent of all parties, the hearing officer shall submit to the commission and to all parties a recommended order which shall include findings of fact and recommended rulings on procedural matters. The recommended order may also include recommended conclusions of law if requested by the commission.
(6)(a) If, upon consideration of the record in the case, the commission finds that an unfair labor practice has been committed, it shall issue and cause to be served an order requiring the appropriate party or parties to cease and desist from the unfair labor practice and take such positive action, including reinstatement of employees with or without back pay, as will best implement the general policies expressed in this part. However, no order of the commission shall require the reinstatement of any individual as an employee who has been suspended or discharged, or the payment of any back pay, if the individual was suspended or discharged for cause. The order may further require the party or parties to make periodic reports showing the extent to which it has complied with the order. If, upon consideration of the record in the case, the commission finds that an unfair labor practice has not been or is not being committed, it shall issue an order dismissing the case.
(b) If the commission determines that the alleged unfair labor practice occurred more than 6 months prior to the filing of the charge, the commission shall issue an order dismissing the case, unless the person filing the charge was prevented from doing so by reason of service in the Armed Forces, in which case the 6-month period shall run from the date of the person’s discharge.
(c) The commission may award to the prevailing party all or part of the costs of litigation, reasonable attorney’s fees, and expert witness fees whenever the commission determines that such an award is appropriate.