Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Court of Appeal Denies Administrative Appeal for Officers' Involuntary Transfers

On December 9, 2014, the California Court of Appeal held the Public Safety Officers' Procedural Bill of Rights Act ("POBR") does not afford officers the right to an administrative appeal of a transfer of assignment solely because the transfer may lead to negative employment consequences. In Los Angeles Police Protective League v. City of Los Angeles, the Court of Appeal denied two peace officers an administrative appeal for their involuntary transfers of assignments.

In City of Los Angeles, two officers were involuntarily transferred to different assignments. The City based one transfer on the officer's negative performance in the areas of counseling, communication, and management skills toward subordinate employees. The City transferred another officer because a discipline investigation supposedly damaged the officer's relationships with his coworkers. The City claimed his transfer provided an opportunity for a "fresh start with new coworkers."

POBR affords officers an opportunity for administrative appeal of "transfers for purposes of punishment." The officers alleged their transfers were punitive. As evidence, one officer asserted that the transfer would not allow her to work as many overtime hours and she would lose her department-issued take-home vehicle. The other officer showed he was placed on restrictive duty status, which prohibited him from carrying a gun, and the transfer damaged his reputation. Both officers asserted the transfers would adversely affect their opportunities for promotion in the department.

The court held the transfers were not punitive and the officers were not entitled to an administrative appeal. The court held the loss of possible overtime did not result in a "reduction of salary" because the officers were not entitled to particular amount of overtime and it varied depending on departmental needs. The court also found officers were not entitled to take-home vehicles, and it did not result in any reduction of salary. In addition, the City presented evidence that involuntary transfers would not hurt the officers' chances of promotion. This is an unfortunate case for peace officer's appeal rights.