Friday, February 12, 2010
C.A. Rejects Increase to Corrections Supervisors’ Compensation
By STEVEN M. ELLIS, Staff Writer
The First District Court of Appeal yesterday rejected the state’s corrections officers union’s argument that the state did not increase supervisors’ compensation enough after an arbitrator directed it to increase pay and benefits for rank-and-file officers.
Div. Four held that state laws requiring general equivalency between increases for the two groups and higher compensation for supervisors gave the Department of Personnel Administration discretion to determine the appropriate difference in light of the overall compensation picture.
An arbitrator in a contractual dispute between the state and the California Correctional Peace Officers Association found in 2006 and 2007 that the state underpaid rank-and-file officers and required the department to grant them a retroactive 3.125 percent increase in base pay and an increase in health benefits.
‘Generally Equivalent’ Changes
The union then sought a similar increase for supervisors, contending Government Code Sec. 19849.18’s requirement that supervisors be given “generally equivalent” compensation changes when salary or benefits awards are granted to rank-and-file members applied every time a rank-and-file employee received an increase. The department disagreed and awarded supervisors only a 3.125 percent pay increase that was not retroactive.
The department supported its position by presenting statistical charts showing that, even after the arbitration award, supervisors still enjoyed an 11.45 percent differential in salary and benefits over rank-and-file officers. The charts also showed that a significant salary and benefits differential between the groups had existed since at least 2003, and that supervisors had enjoyed a 5.94 percent advantage over rank-and-file members in health benefits from 2004 to 2007.
The union filed a formal grievance with the department challenging its decision, but the DPA reiterated its position that the base pay increase for supervisors, along with the current salary and benefits differential, satisfied its statutory obligations.
The union then filed suit, but San Francisco Superior Court Judge Suzanne R. Bolanos dismissed, concluding that Sec. 19849.18 did not require that supervisors automatically be given contemporaneous compensation changes when changes were granted to rank-and-file members.
She said the union’s interpretation of the section was “unreasonable, and not supported by the plain language of the statute, the legislative history, or other legal authorities,” and reasoned that the department satisfied its obligation to maintain compensation differentials, therefore fulfilling the overall purpose behind Secs. 19849.18 and 19849.22. The latter creates a general policy of maintaining compensation differentials between supervisors and rank-and-file employees.
On appeal, Presiding Justice Ignazio J. Ruvolo wrote that Bolanos was correct. He explained:
“[I]t is within DPA’s discretionary power to decide what compensation increases comply with sections 19849.18 and 19849.22. DPA’s discretion allows it to look past each isolated rank-and-file compensation increase and determine the appropriate differential in light of the overall compensation picture, such as the presence or absence of compaction [of the compensation differential], the size of the existing compensation differential, the size of the demonstrated recruitment and retention problems among supervisors, and the state’s budgetary concerns….
“CCPOA has presented no evidence to suggest that DPA has maintained an inadequate pay differential, ignored a serious compaction problem, or allowed the rank-and-file members to receive greater salary or benefits than their correctional supervisors. In fact, the evidence demonstrates the contrary.”
Justices Timothy A. Reardon Patricia K. Sepulveda joined Ruvolo in his opinion.
The case is California Correctional Peace Officers’ Association v. State of California, A124221.
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