The State Worker

Chronicling civil-service life for California state workers

October 15, 2010
Minimum-wage case set for oral arguments in January

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for 100609 gavel.jpgWith all of the historic events of the last two weeks -- action on the state budget, the SEIU labor deal and the California Supreme Court decision on furloughs -- we almost forgot about another high-profile issue that's not yet resolved: state worker minimum-wage litigation.

Sacramento Superior Court Judge Patrick Marlette has scheduled Endsley v. Chiang for oral argument on Jan. 7. If Marlette's past decisions on furloughs and minimum wage are a guide, he'll issue a tentative decision ahead of the January hearing and then, unless an argument changes his mind, he'll quickly issue a final decision.

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for marlette.jpgBetween now and then, there's a Nov. 29 "evidentiary proceeding" during which witnesses will testify, possibly for an entire week. Each side will then submit more documents to Marlette, which he'll consider in the days leading up to oral arguments.

The case continues the 2-year-old court feud over Controller John Chiang's refusal to issue paychecks with wages withheld to the federal minimum allowed a budget impasse.

Schwarzenegger, who was looking for negotiating leverage over legislative Democrats and employee unions, cited a 2003 state Supreme Court decision that says state employee pay must be temporarily reduced during budget delays. Chiang said withholding pay and restoring it along with back wages risked exposing the state to big-time lawsuits, reason enough for him to refuse the governor's pay order.

Besides, Chiang said, the state's computers couldn't handle the job.

Chiang has lost the first argument. Now the legal tussle has shifted to whether complying with the law is impossible, given the state's payroll processing rules and its creaking computer system.

Click here to view the court order that lays out the calendar of upcoming events in Endsley v. Chiang.

IMAGE: www.yolocourts.ca.gov
PHOTO: Judge Patrick Marlette makes a point during a furlough lawsuit hearing in 2009. / Sacramento Bee file, Jan. 29, 2009, Brian Baer.

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About The State Worker

Jon Ortiz The Author

Jon Ortiz launched The State Worker blog and a companion column in 2008 to cover state government from the perspective of California government employees. Every day he filters the news through a single question: "What does this mean for state workers?" Join Ortiz for updates and debate on state pay, benefits, pensions, contracts and jobs. Contact him at (916) 321-1043 and at jortiz@sacbee.com.

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