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California: Guard Union Members Not Entitled to Back Pay for Furloughed Days

The California Court of Appeal has reversed an order by the Superior Court of Alameda County that would have resulted in back pay for approximately 30,000-35,000 state civil service employees working at correctional facilities operated by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) and the Department of Mental Health (DMH), all represented by the California Correctional Peace Officers Association (CCPOA) and all subject to a three-day-per-month furlough program implemented in the wake of two Executive Orders signed by then-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (in December 2008 and July 2009) in an attempt to deal with California's budgetary shortfalls.

Relying on intervening California Supreme Court authority, viz., Professional Engineers in California Government v. Schwarzenegger (2010) 50 Cal.4th 989, the Court of Appeal held that, in enacting revisions to the 2008 Budget Act, and later the 2009 Budget Act, the Legislature in effect retroactively validated the Governor's furlough program by reducing the funds appropriated to both CDCR and ME. The Court acknowledged that the furlough program resulted in a reduction of CCPOA members' pay (by approximately 13%), but noted, consistent with the reasoning of Professional Engineers, that such a reduction in state-employee compensation was within the Legislature's authority to effectuate.

Responding to CCPOA's argument that its members were forced to work without any compensation, in violation of minimum-wage laws, the Court held that "furlough days are a species of deferred compensation, a concept well-embedded in the State employer-employee matrix." See: Brown v. Superior Court (CCPOA), 199 Cal.App.4th 971 (2011).

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Related legal case

Brown v. Superior Court (CCPOA)