Wednesday, September 12, 2007
C.A. Says Deputy Sheriffs Can Be Forced to Use Vacation Time
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer
The Los Angeles County Code and relevant collective bargaining agreements allow the county to force deputy sheriffs and district attorney investigators to use their accumulated vacation time instead of cashing it out, the Court of Appeal for this district ruled yesterday.
Justice Kathryn Doi Todd, writing for Div. Two, said Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Michael L. Stern was correct in finding the county’s forced vacation policies to be legal.
Several employees and their unions, the Los Angeles County Professional Peace Officers’ Association and the Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs, sued the county in 2003 after they were ordered to use deferred vacation time in excess of 40 days the year before.
Prior to 1979, the county allowed employees to accumulate up to 40 days of vacation time, and required them to forfeit any time accumulated in excess of that limit.
After that, however, pursuant to negotiations between the county and some of its unions, including PPOA and ALADS, certain employees were given the right to defer unused vacation time in excess of 40 days to the following year and to receive cash compensation at the end of that year for any time not used.
The benefit was incorporated into a county ordinance, as well as into several memoranda of understanding between the county and the unions.
Officials who testified during the lawsuit said that both the district attorney’s and sheriff’s offices had interpreted the ordinance and MOUs as giving them the right to force employees to take their vacation time prior to the end of the deferral year, in order to avoid having to pay them for the time.
Employees were notified of these policies, and the departments enforced them consistently, although some exceptions were made, as when the office needed to have the employee continue working or when it was cheaper to pay the employee for the unused hours than to replace him or her while on vacation.
Stern found that the county has “the management right to set the terms and conditions of its employees, including, but not limited to, the management right to require plaintiffs and petitioners herein to take off accrued vacation under the California Constitution, applicable California laws, and the charter of the County of Los Angeles.”
Doi Todd, writing for the Court of Appeal, agreed with the trial judge that forcing the employees to take their vacations after a time did not divest them of their deferral and buy-back rights.
“[W]e agree with the court’s characterization in Los Angeles County Prof. Peace Officers’ Assn. v. County of Los Angeles (2004) 115 Cal.App.4th 866, 872...of the County’s excess vacation buy-back policy as not granting any rights to employees, but rather limiting the amount of vacation time that can be accrued,” the justice wrote.
In Professional Peace Officers’ Association, this district’s Div. Eight sided with the county and the Los Angeles County Employees’ Retirement Association in rejecting claims by the PPOA that injured investigators whose vacation time was cashed out when they had to retire because they were unable to return to work after exhausting their disability leave were entitled to have the amount of the cash-out treated as salary for pension purposes.
Doi Todd said the cash-out ordinance does not grant an unconditional right to a cash payment, and that the county appropriately, and with proper notice to the employees, exercised its discretion as to whether to force the employees to take their deferred vacation time or to pay them for it.
Attorneys on appeal were Richard A. Shinee and Helen L. Schwab of Green & Shinee for ALADS, Stephen H. Silver of Silver, Hadden & Silver for the PPOA, and Gregory G. Kennedy for the county.
The case is Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs v. County of Los Angeles, 07 S.O.S. 5682.
Copyright 2007, Metropolitan News Company