Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Mastagni Holstedt, A.P.C. Announces the Addition of New Associate, John H. Bakhit, Esq.

Mastagni Holstedt A.P.C. is pleased to announce the addition of John H. Bakhit as the newest associate attorney with the firm. Mr. Bakhit works in the firm’s Labor and Employment Department. He received his Juris Doctorate from Santa Clara University School of Law, and his Bachelor of Arts degree from Columbia College, where he graduated magna cum laude.

Before entering law school Mr. Bakhit served as an Oakland Police Officer working Patrol and Narcotics. During law school, Mr. Bakhit was awarded the Law Faculty Scholarship and the Certificate for Excellence in Oral Advocacy. He also completed an internship with the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office, where he was assigned to the Gang Unit. As a practicing attorney, Mr. Bakhit has represented hundreds of peace officers in administrative and criminal cases. He has also negotiated complex employment contracts. Mr. Bakhit is admitted to practice in all state courts in California, as well as the Central and Southern Districts of the U.S. District Court, California.

Founding partner, David P. Mastagni stated, “We are pleased to welcome Bakhit to our firm as our Southern California lead attorney; his experience will allow us to further service the firm’s regional and statewide clients.”

With more than 55 attorneys and negotiators, Mastagni Holstedt A.P.C. has the largest law practice representing law enforcement and firefighters in California and the U.S. The firm is dedicated to representing clients in the protection and advancement of public safety officers and their rights. The Sacramento-based firm has gained state and national recognition in the area of labor and employment as an AV-rated preeminent law firm by Martindale Hubbell, and has been listed among the top law firms in the Sacramento Business Journal, Forbes Magazine and Fortune Magazine.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Governor Vetoes Union Rep-Member Privilege, Signs Bills on Brady List Protections, Bargaining, Release Time

The Governor took action on several bills affecting public safety labor rights.  The Governor vetoed AB 729, which would have protected labor leaders from having to testify about communications with members.  In his veto message, the Governor wrote, "I don't believe it is appropriate to put communications with a union agent on equal footing with communications with one's spouse, priest, physician or attorney.  Moreover, this bill could compromise the ability of employers to conduct investigations into workplace safety, harassment and other allegations."  The Governor's veto underscores the importance of connecting employees with a union lawyer on the onset of disciplinary investigations to ensure privileged communications.

The Governor also vetoed AB 1373 which would have extended the statute of limitations for survivors of public safety officers to file for death benefits related to tuberculosis, cancer, and blood-borne diseases. The bill was co-sponsored by CPF and PORAC.

The Governor signed AB 313 which amended POBR to prohibit disciplining peace officers solely because they are placed on a Brady list.  The law does not prohibit employers from disciplining peace officers for the underlying conduct which may have caused them to be put on a Brady list or considering the Brady list for determining how much discipline someone gets.  PORAC sponsored the bill. Loni Hancock (D-Berkeley), Donnelly (R-Barstow), Bill Monning (D-Santa Cruz), Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco), and Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) voted against the bill.

The Governor also signed AB 537 which requires agencies to approve tentative agreements within 30 days, preventing them from delaying final ratification of contracts after the parties have TA'd at the table.  The bill also requires that if an MOU has an arbitration clause, the arbitrator- not a court or the agency- must decide if the procedural requirements for arbitration are met.

The Governor also signed AB 1181 which amended the MMBA to require employers give labor leaders reasonable time off for testifying at personnel hearings, PERB hearings, and bargaining. The MMBA already required reasonable time off for meeting and conferring.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Court: "Liking" Sheriff Candidate on Facebook Protected by First Amendment

In Bland v. Roberts (4th Cir., Sept. 18, 2013, 12-1671) 2013 WL 5228033, the federal Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled that the act of "liking" a candidate for Sheriff on Facebook by a deputy sheriff is protected speech under the First Amendment. As a result, it is unlawful for a sheriff to retaliated against an employee for "liking" his opponent.

The case started when sheriff’s office employees brought a civil rights action alleging that the sheriff retaliated against them by reappointing them because of their support of his electoral opponent. Two of the employees expressed support for the Sheriff’s opponent by “liking” his Facebook page and posting comments of encouragement for his upcoming election. After the sheriff was reelected, he refused to reappoint the employees to their positions as sheriffs deputies at the jail, a typical process in that jurisdiction.

 They sued, claiming that the sheriff violated their First Amendment rights to free association and free speech. Initially, the District Court sided with the sheriff, finding merely “liking” a Facebook page is insufficient speech to merit constitutional protection, but the Court of Appeals reversed.

The Court of Appeal said when one “likes” a political campaign's Facebook page, the user becomes associated with the campaign. A photo of the user is posted to the campaign’s profile, a link is provided on the users profile that others can use to access with the campaign’s page, and the “thumbs up” icon communicates the user’s support. The Court said the act of “liking” the page is like displaying a political sign in one’s front yard, which the Supreme court has held as substantive speech.