Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Court of Appeal Upholds Union's Attorney Fees Award After City Failed to Meet and Confer

On September 15, 2014, in Indio Police Command Unit Association v. City of Indio, the California Court of Appeal upheld a $102,900 attorney fees award to a police officer association. The association obtained an injunction against the City of Indio for violating the MMBA meet and confer requirements.

In City of Indio, the City notified the Indio Police Command Unit Association that it planned to implement a "strategic reorganization" of the Department's command structure. The plan eliminated the Captain and four Lieutenant positions. The plan also reduced command staff from five sworn officers to two sworn officers and one unsworn supervisor. The Department's legal counsel claimed the decision to reorganize was not subject to the MMBA meet and confer requirements. The City agreed only to negotiate the impact of the reorganization. The association obtained an injunction preventing the City from implementing the reorganization plan until it met and conferred in good faith. The City finally complied and the parties reached an agreement.

The court awarded attorney fees to the association based on the private attorney general statute. The court found the association enforced important rights affecting the public interest. The court also found the litigation benefited not only the association and its members, but all other employee associations within the City. Awarding attorneys' fees in such cases encourages employee associations to enforce the MMBA, even when the financial burden of filing a lawsuit outweighs any possible recovery.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Court of Appeal Denies Unemployment Benefits to Employee Discharged for Dishonesty

On September 12, 2014, the California Court of Appeal in Irving v. California Uninsurance Appeals Board denied a school district employee unemployment benefits because he was discharged for misconduct. The court found the employee took excessive breaks on four occasions and falsified time records.

Unemployment Insurance Code section 1256 disqualifies employees for unemployment benefits if the employee has been discharged for misconduct. Here, the employee admitted taking four different breaks exceeding the allowable 50 minutes. He also admitted falsely reporting his break time on the District's time records. The court disregarded that other employees had also taken breaks longer than 50 minutes. The court stated it is "legally irrelevant" that other employees may have engaged in similar misconduct when determining eligibility for unemployment benefits because of the dishonesty allegation.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Ninth Circuit Rules Peace Officer's ADHD is Not a Disability Under the ADA

On August 15, 2014 in Weaving v. City of Hillsboro, the Ninth Circuit ruled a police officer's attention deficit hyperactivity disorder was not a "disability" under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The court upheld the officer's termination for work-related problems caused by his ADHD.

In Weaving, the City terminated an officer for not getting along with peers and subordinates. The City alleged he "created and fostered a hostile work environment" and had problems with interpersonal communication. The officer argued his ADHD impaired his ability to work and interact with others, and qualified as disability under the ADA. He argued the City terminated him for his disability in violation of the ADA.

The court ruled his ADHD did not constitute a "disability" under the ADA because his condition did not severely impair his ability to work and interact with others. The court found he was a skilled police officer and supervisors had selected him for high-level assignments. Also, his problems interacting with others did not rise to the level of a disability. Asserting a disability on this basis requires such severe impairment that the subject is barely functional and essentially housebound. For these reasons, the court ruled his termination did not violate the ADA.