By a MetNews Staff Writer
The statutory bars on an employer recouping over-payment of wages to an employee do not apply to efforts by the County of Los Angeles, a chartered county, to gain reimbursements from deputy sheriffs, Div. Eight of the Court of Appeal for this district declared on Friday, saying that a provision in a memorandum of understanding between the county and the deputies’ union prevails.
Acting Presiding Justice Elizabeth A. Grimes wrote the opinion. It affirms a judgment by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mary H. Strobel, though disavowing the basis of her decision.
Strobel did not reach the merits of the action filed by the Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs (“ALADS”) seeking a writ of mandate and declaratory relief. She sustained a demurrer without leave to amend on the ground that ALADS had not exhausted its administrative remedies, and the appeal was from a judgment of dismissal.
The county is seeking repayment by 107 deputies pursuant to a provision in a memorandum of understanding that provides:
“l. Employees will be notified prior to the recovery of overpayments.
“2. Recovery of more than 15% of net pay will be subject to a repayment schedule established by the appointing authority under guidelines issued by the Auditor-Controller. Such recovery shall not exceed 15% per month of disposable earnings (as defined by State law), except, however, that a mutually agreed-upon acceleration provision may permit faster recovery.”
ALADS contends that the provision is unlawful and thus unenforceable in light of Labor Code §221 which sets forth:
“It shall be unlawful for any employer to collect or receive from an employee any part of wages theretofore paid by said employer to said employee.”
It also asserts that the wage garnishment law—Code of Civil Procedure §706.010 et seq.—provides the exclusive procedures for withholding wages.
“The trial court sustained the county’s demurrer to the petition on the ground ALADS did not exhaust administrative remedies. We follow the analysis in an appellate case decided after the trial court’s ruling in this case and conclude ALADS’s administrative remedies are inadequate, so dismissal on that ground was improper.”
She cited Div. Two’s Dec. 2, 2019 opinion in Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs v. County of Los Angeles which declared the inadequacy of those administrative remedies.
“We further conclude, however, dismissal was proper because ALADS’s petition does not state valid claims against the county. The home rule doctrine gives the county the exclusive right to regulate matters relating to its employees’ compensation. The county’s MOU with ALADS, approved by the board of supervisors, is a lawful exercise of that exclusive right, and the Labor Code provision at issue does not apply to a charter county. Consequently, ALADS cannot allege sufficient facts to state a cause of action.”
She went on to say:
“[W]e observe that the State of California can recover overpayments of wages from state employees notwithstanding Labor Code section 221 and the wage garnishment law. Government Code section 19838 requires reimbursement to the state of overpayments made to state employees through a process similar to that in the MOU. If the state can do it, we see no reason why a charter county should not be able to do likewise, by means of the MOU which was approved by the board of supervisors. In short, this is fundamentally a dispute about wages overpaid and their recoupment by payroll deductions, and these are matters properly and exclusively governed by the agreed and approved MOU.”
The case is Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs v. County of Los Angeles, B296425.
Jacob A. Kalinski and Brian P. Ross of the Santa Monica firm of Rains Lucia Stern St. Phalle & Silver represented ALADS. Arguing for the county were Mira Hashmall, Andrew H. Dubin and Emily A. Sanchirico of the Century City firm of Miller Barondess.
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