Thursday, September 18, 2008

Court Reaffirms Charter County Power Over Employee Compensation

In Dimon v. County of Los Angeles (available here), the Court of Appeal for the Second Appellate District, Division Four, held that Article XI, Section 4(f), which gives charter counties the right to control the "compensation" of their employees, exempts a charter county from having to comply with Industrial Welfare Commission regulations regarding meal breaks and failure to pay for missed breaks. The court relied on numerous prior cases, including County of Riverside v. Superior Court, 30 Cal. 4th 278 (2003), in which I represented the county. As a result the decision breaks no new ground; indeed, another Court of Appeal recently resolved a similar claim against the employees. See Curcini v. County of Alameda, 164 Cal. App. 4th 629 (2008). Both cases hold that the "compensation" protected by the constitution against state legislative or regulatory interference includes more than just salaries. The Dimon court also held that (1) the reference to "ordinance" in Article XI, Section 4(f) does not require a charter county to set employee salaries by ordinance, not resolution; and (2) the meal break regulation does not involve a matter of statewide concern.

Because the decision represents only a minimal advance over prior law, if that, it seems unlikely that the Supreme Court would grant a petition for review.

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