The State Worker

Chronicling civil-service life for California state workers

January 14, 2011
UPDATE: Judge rules against prison officers in furlough lawsuit

110114 Newton v. Schwarzenegger ruling
Update, 1:49 p.m.: This story has been updated with a response from CCPOA.

A judge in San Francisco has struck down a class action lawsuit over correctional officer furloughs that alleged the policy violates federal labor laws. The case is the first furlough litigation orally argued by state attorneys since Gov. Jerry Brown took office on Jan. 3.

"We are disappointed in the court's ruling today and will be reviewing the decision to determine what steps to take next." said Ryan Sherman, spokesman for the California Correctional Peace Officers Association, which backed the lawsuit.

The ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn Walker comes just one day after arguments in Newton v. Schwarzenegger. The union's attorneys argued that "self-directed" furloughs of correctional officers violated the Fair Labors Standards Act. The case applied only to members of Bargaining Unit 6.

CCPOA said that cutting employee pay but deferring the furlough time off violates the law because employees aren't paid in full for hours worked within a given pay cycle, that time worked on an unpaid furlough day should be calculated in figuring overtime and that the state hasn't kept adequate payroll records.

In essence, the judge ruled that the plaintiffs didn't make the case to support their claims or misinterpreted the policy as forcing employees to work for free. "The furlough program, while perhaps convoluted in execution, ensures that plaintiffs are compensated for all hours worked during the pay period," Walker wrote. "Because plaintiffs are compensated for all hours worked, and because that compensation exceeds federal minimum standards, plaintiffs claim of violation of FSLA fails."

And federal law, Walker said, authorizes only the secretary of labor to sue for recordkeeping violations, so "plaintiffs here lack standing to raise a separate claim relating to alleged recordkeeping violations."

Click here for a previous post with more details and documents about the lawsuit. We've embedded Walker's decision above.

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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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