Friday, February 14, 2020

Mastagni Holstedt Wins Cancer Presumption Exception for Imperial County Probation Officer

In California Workers’ Compensation law, injured workers must normally prove the alleged injury was caused by their job duties (to the standard of a reasonable medical certainty). Over the years, the California legislature has recognized the unique and demanding job duties public safety officers and other first responders face and outlined specific, presumptive injuries. This was done in an effort to make Workers’ Compensation claims and treatment process quicker. One such presumption is cancer. However, each presumption specifically designates who will qualify as a matter of law. These designations are not normally subject to review by the courts. Furthermore, probation officers are categorically excluded in the statutory language of the cancer presumption.

CareersNotwithstanding the statutory exclusion,  Mastagni attorney Brendan B. Rochford successfully argued for an exceptional application of the cancer presumption (William Dallas Jones Cancer Recovery Act (“Act”)), otherwise known as Labor Code §3212.1, to Imperial County Probation Manager Iran Martinez. Raising multiple factors, Mr. Rochford successfully demonstrated Martinez was performing the usual and customary duties of a special agent for the State of California as classified in PC 830.1(b), entitling him to the cancer presumption. The Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board of San Diego agreed and granted Officer Martinez an exception to the presumption. This should soon result in Martinez receiving the benefits for an accepted cancer claim.

The presumptions set forth in Labor Code §3212.1  apply to peace officers sworn under Penal Code §830.1, not to peace officers sworn under Penal Code §830.5. Probation officers in California are sworn under Penal Code §830.5. Attorneys for the County of Imperial argued Officer Martinez’ sworn status precluded him from eligibility under the Act. Relying on Reeves v. ­­­­WCAB, Mr. Rochford countered that Officer Martinez’ job duties as a Narcotics Task Force Officer/Special Agent were also critical factors in the Court’s analysis.

The Court agreed and found that Officer Martinez’ job duties, along with other circumstances including his training, equipment, and title of “Special Agent Martinez,” entitled him to classification as a special agent under Penal Code §830.1(b). After reviewing the deposition of the doctor, the Court further agreed that Officer Martinez’ entitlement to the presumption should clear the way for Workers’ Compensation benefits due to the nature and timing of his injuries. It is on this basis that an order was issued compelling Worker’s Compensation benefits. The decision recognizes the inequity of ordering a probation officer to perform traditional police duties that place them in harm’s way, without affording them the same Workers’ Compensation benefits enjoyed by other PC 830.1 (b)members of the Task Force.

This case speaks to the importance of not giving up on a serious Workers’ Compensation claim simply due to a denial of the presumption based on Penal Code designation. The actual job duties performed at work are crucial factors in determining whether you will be found eligible for a Workers’ Compensation presumption. A consultation with an experienced Workers’ Compensation attorney may be the difference in qualifying for Workers’ Compensation benefits under a public safety presumption.

This decision was recently signed by Workers’ Compensation Judge Wade DiCosmo on January 31, 2020. Defendant enjoys a right to file a Petition for Reconsideration. Updates to be provided accordingly.

Brendan Rochford is a valuable member of the Mastagni Holstedt, A.P.C. team, successfully litigating Worker’s Compensation claims for public safety officers throughout California. As demonstrated by his success in this case, he is well versed in applicable presumptions. He is based in Rancho Cucamonga and regularly appears at the Worker’s Compensation Appeals Boards in San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Pomona, Van Nuys, Santa Barbara, Anaheim, Santa Ana, Los Angeles, Bakersfield, Oxnard, and San Luis Obispo.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

AG Grants IAFF Local 1319's Application to Sue "Quo Warranto" to Enforce Appellate Ruling Invalidating Repeal of Interest Arbitration

On behalf of the International Association of Firefighters, Local 1319 (“Local 1319”), Kathleen Mastagni-Storm and Tashayla Billington received the Attorney General’s blessing to sue the City of Palo for violating the MMBA by repealing its Charter’s binding interest arbitration procedures for the police and fire unions.

On July 18, 2011, Palo Alto City Council adopted a resolution to place Measure D on the ballot to repeal binding interest arbitration for the police and fire unions. Local 1319 asserted its right to “meet and consult” under the Meyers-Milias-Brown Act (“MMBA”). The City refused. Local 1319 received favorable decisions from both the Public Employment Relations Board (“PERB”) and the Sixth District Court of Appeal, finding the City violated the MMBA. 

In City of Palo Alto v. Public Employment Relations Board (2016) 5 Cal.App.5th 1271, the Court of Appeal held binding interest arbitration is a mandatory subject of bargaining under Government Code section 3507.  As a result, the Court found the City violated the Meyers-Milias-Brown Act when it pushed through a local initiative to repeal binding interest arbitration while refusing to bargain with Palo Alto Firefighters, IAFF Local 1319.  The Court upheld PERB's factual determinations and rejected the City's arguments. (See "Court of Appeal: MMBA Requires Bargaining Over Binding Arbitration")
Despite the rulings against it, the City refused to reinstate binding interest arbitration. As a result, Local 1319 was forced to file an application to sue quo warranto to challenge the validity of the City’s charter provision.  Although the legal remedy of quo warranto—which requires the Attorney General’s approval to invoke—is most commonly used to contest a person’s entitlement to hold a public office, it may also be used to contest the validity of a city or county charter provision. The quo warranto application is typically filed after the completion of other, related litigation.

To authorize a quo warranto action, the Attorney General must find: (1) that quo warranto is the
appropriate remedy, (2) that the application raises a substantial issue of law or fact that warrants a judicial resolution, and (3) that allowing the proposed quo warranto action to proceed will serve the public interest.

On February 7, 2020, the Attorney General granted theapplication, finding Local 1319 raised a substantial question to be decided by a court – i.e. whether Measure D should be overturned based on the City’s violation of the MMBA.  The Attoreny General explaiend:

"Specifically, an employee organization of a charter city, with the Attorney General’s permission, may sue the city in quo warranto to challenge the validity of a charter amendment on the ground that the city unlawfully exercised its franchise by placing the amendment on the ballot without first complying with the MMBA’s consultation requirements.  As the Court of Appeal found here, “an action in quo warranto is the exclusive remedy to challenge the ballot initiative to repeal article V of the city charter” on the ground that the City did not consult in good faith with Local 1319 before placing  Measure D on the ballot."

The opinion also agreed that, “as Local 1319 point[ed] out, ‘the public has an interest in ensuring charter amendments are validly enacted in accordance with the law and securing stable employer-employee relations.’” This confirms statutes, like the MMBA, serve an important public interest to improve labor relationships within public agencies. 

Through this litigation, Local 1319 has vindicated important MMBA rights precluding the unilateral modification of impasse proceedures, even if enacted by ballot measure, and authorizing quo warranto proceedings to invaldiate such charter amendments.