Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Court Upholds Trial Verdict Against Peace Officer on Alleged POBR Violations

In Abney v. Board of Trustees of the California State University (May 20, 2013) 2013 WL 2241922, the Court of Appeal affirmed a trial verdict for the CSU.  The court said POBR only requires an employer to tell the officer of the nature of the investigation. The court decided the employer did not have to state the potential discipline or exactly what the charges were while the investigation was ongoing.  The Court also noted POBR does not require employers to record IA interviews.  It only requires them to give officers a copy of the recording or transcript if they do record them.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Court Rules PC 242 Does Not Trigger Firearms Ban, Reistates Peace Officer

In Shirey v. Los Angeles County Civil Service Commission (May 6, 2013)--- Cal.Rptr.3d ---- the Court of Appeal ruled a conviction under California Penal Code section 242 does not trigger a firearms ban under the Federal Gun Control Act.

Deputy Sheriff Mark Shirey was found guilty of a simple battery in violation of Penal Code section 242, a misdemeanor. Because the subject of the crime was his live-in girlfriend, the crime was considered domestic abuse. As a result, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department fired Shirey.

Title 18 of US code § 922(g)(9), the Federal Gun Control Act prohibited possession firearms if convicted of misdemeanor battery upon a domestic partner. The Department claimed that Shirey’s conviction disqualified him from continued employment as a deputy sheriff because the federal law prohibited him from carrying a firearm. Shirey appealed the decision.

The court sided with Shirey and found that a conviction under section 242 does not qualify as a predicate misdemeanor crime of battery upon a domestic partner. The court reasoned that section 242 requires use or attempted use of any amounted force which includes merely touching, whereas the federal statute requires “a quantum of force greater than a de minimus use of force or offensive touching.” Therefore, the Court granted Shirley's petition.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Court Rules Pension Impairments Unconstitutional Under Contract Clause

In a major ruling with statewide implications, the Monterey Superior Court ruled Friday that the City of Pacific Grove’s 2010 voter initiative and charter amendment capping the City’s contributions to CalPERS are unconstitutional. The Court’s ruling follows a challenge to the measures brought by the Pacific Grove Police Officers Association and Pacific Grove Police Management Association and supported by PORAC LDF. The Court also ruled that the measures violated the City Charter and the general law because voters cannot set employee compensation by initiative.

According to Pacific Grove Police Officers Association President Jeff Fenton, “Today’s ruling is about fairness. We went to court to ensure the City keeps the promises it made to employees and today the court said they have to.” The Court struck down the ordinance and charter amendment because they violate the Contract Clause of the California Constitution. The Contract Clause requires local governments to keep the promises they make to public employees. It also forbids them from impairing contracts with labor associations.

The case has major implications statewide because it establishes that cities and counties can’t go back on the pension promises they made to employees.  PORAC LDF contributed significant resources toward the police officers’ efforts. “We are deeply thankful for the help from our brothers and sisters in the law enforcement community and PORAC LDF toward achieving this victory,” Fenton said.

The Pacific Grove Police Officers Association and Police Management Association were represented by Mastagni Law attorney Jeffrey R. A. Edwards in the matter.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Ninth Circuit: First Amendment Protects Peace Officer Labor Leaders from Retaliation

In Ellins v. City of Sierra Madre (Mar. 22, 2013) 2013 WL 1180299, the Court of Appeals ruled it is unconstitutional for an employer to retaliate against a peace officer union president for comments made as part of his role as union president.

The case involved John Ellins, a Sierra Madre police officer who led a no confidence vote of the police officers union against the Chief of Police, Marilyn Diaz. Then, Diaz delayed granting Ellins a certification that would result in a 5% raise. Ellins sued alleging the delay was an unconstitutional retaliation for the exercise of his first amendment rights. While waiting for the approval of his raise Ellins served a suspension he received years before. During the trial the city granted his pay-raise and backdated it to the date Ellins completed his suspension.

The court ruled Ellins is protected by the first amendment because comments made by a police officer acting as a union representative are not pursuant to the officers' official duties. Hence the officer is speaking as a private citizen. Furthermore, even though his pay-raise was backdated Ellins still suffered an “adverse employment action”. The court reasoned that an adverse employment action exists whenever any economic benefit is withheld for any amount of time.

The court then concluded that the proximity in time of the adverse employment action and the protected speech was enough to infer the possibility of retaliation. However, the court did not find retaliation on its own and ordered that a trial be held on the issue.

Friday, May 10, 2013

PERB to Hold Oral Arguments on Jurisdiction Over Peace Officers

PERB will hold oral arguments in Lompoc Peace Officers Association v. City of Lompoc, to decide whether PERB has jurisdiction over "mixed units," bargaining units composed of both sworn and non-sworn employees.  This is the first time in about ten years PERB has scheduled oral arguments.

Government Code section 3511 is at the heart of the issue.  In 2000, the Legislature gave PERB jurisdiction over labor disputes in agencies covered by the MMBA.  But it made an exception.  Government Code section 3511 says those changes "shall not apply to persons who are peace officers as defined in Section 830.1 of the Penal Code."  There have been some disputes about what section 3511 really means.

In this case, the issue is whether PERB has authority to make peace officers whole in a bargaining unit composed of both peace officers and non-peace officers.  PERB initially decided the employer broke the law and ordered it to make the affected employees whole, but only the non-sworn employees.  The POA appealed, arguing the same remedy should apply to all of the employees in the bargaining unit, including the peace officers.  Oral argument will take place at PERB's Sacramento headquarters on June 13, 2013 at 2:00 p.m.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

California Court Uphold Employees' Right To Vacation Pay On Termination

California Labor Code section 227.3 requires employers immediately pay a terminated employee for all his vested vacation time. In Howard Choate et al., v. Celite Corporation (May 2, 2013) B239160, the Court of Appeal decided the right provided in section 227.3 can only be waived if a negotiated collective bargaining agreement clearly and unmistakably waves that right.

Under their collective bargaining agreement, Plaintiffs in Howard earned their vacation based on hours worked the previous year and there was no waiver of section 227.3. However here was no past practice of paying out next year’s vacation time. Until the lawsuit, neither the terminated employees nor their union had objected to this practice. The court found the parties' past practice of not enforcing the vacation rule did not count as a clear and unmistakable waver of section 227.3. Therefore, the Court said the Plaintiffs were entitled to be paid for time earned. However, the court did not grant special penalties to Plaintiffs because it said the employer did not act “willfully”.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

California Supreme Court: Cities and Counties Can Ban Marijuana Dispensaries

In City of Riverside v. Inland Empire Patients Health And Wellness Center, Inc. (May 6, 2013) S198638, the California Supreme Court unanimously ruled the City of Riverside was within its rights to use zoning ordinances to prohibit all marijuana dispensaries from operating within its borders. The court held that a Riverside City ordinance making all marijuana distribution a prohibited land use and all marijuana dispensaries a public nuisance not to be in violation of Compassionate Use Act of 1996 and the more recent Medical Marijuana Program of 2004.

The court reasoned that local laws banning marijuana distribution were protected by article XI, § 7 of the California Constitution which gives counties and cities the right to make and enforce within its limits all local, police, sanitary, and other ordinances and regulations not in conflict with general laws of California. Because the Compassionate Use Act and the Medical Marijuana Program only shield dispensaries from prosecution under California state laws, local municipalities are free to regulate dispensaries as they see fit, including banning them altogether.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

CalPERS Back in Black After Record-Breaking Investment Gains

CalPERS has recovered more than $97 billion is value since the great recession battered its assets.  CalPERS' investment portfolio recently reached $261.7 billion, breaking CalPERS' pre-recession record on $260.5 billion in October 2007.  CalPERS still needs to grow to improve its funded status, but the returns are good news to public employees and employers.