Monday, November 14, 2011

Court of Appeal Strikes Down POBR Waiver, Awards $362,000 in Backpay

In Jaramillo v. County of Orange (November 8, 2011) 2011 WL 5338998, the Fourth District Court of Appeal awarded an assistant Sheriff  backpay because the County denied him a pre-termination administrative hearing.  The Court also voided his purported waiver of POBR rights.

Former Orange County Sheriff Mike Corona appointed Jaramillo as Assistant Sheriff after he had supported him during an election.  However, Jaramillo and the Sheriff’s relationship began to deteriorate when the Sheriff requested he participate in  illegal activities. Jaramillo became tired of covering for the Sheriff and reported the Sheriff’s illegal activities. The Sheriff then fired the him without providing him with a pre-termination hearing. After he was terminated, he was charged with misappropriation of public resources and perjury before a grand jury to which he plead no contest as part of a settlement agreement.

The County claimed Jaramillo waived his POBR rights when he signed two documents upon being appointed as Assistant Sheriff. Both documents contained provisions stating he was an “at-will” employee and he “could be released from his position at any time without notice.” Neither of the documents he signed made any reference to POBR. The Court determined the waivers were blanket waivers and undermined the purposes of POBR. The Court distinguished County of Riverside v. Superior Court, noting that case permitted only specified and narrow waivers of POBR rights.

The Court also found denying Jaramillo's right to a pre-termination hearing violated POBR, 14th Amendment due process, and Labor Code Section 1102.5 (on the basis the Assistant Sheriff had been fired for whistleblowing on the Sheriff’s illegal activities.) The Court awarded backpay from the date of Jaramillo's termination to the date he plead no contest to two state law felonies as well as injunctive relief in the form of amending the waivers for future management employees.