Judge: California Workers Ordered to Return to Work Immediately

By | March 26, 2010

Adding a wrinkle to California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s plan to furlough state workers to help shore-up the state budget deficit, a California Superior Court Judge has ordered that furlough days for certain state workers must end immediately.

In February, Judge Frank Roesch ordered the state to discontinue furloughs for state workers in special fund departments, including some union employees, because their budgets were not funded by the state’s general fund. He also ordered the state to issue the workers back pay with interest for furlough days that had already been incurred.

The Governor’s office had appealed the ruling, and requested a stay of the order while the case was appealed.

But this week, Judge Roesch refused to order a stay of the furlough days, yet said repayment of the wages could wait until after the appeal is heard. The decision affects workers in agencies such as Cal-OSHA and the Division of Workers’ Compensation, as well as union employees.

Meanwhile, the First District Court of Appeal also has upheld an earlier ruling exempting State Compensation Insurance Fund employees from the furloughs. In February, a San Francisco Superior Court judge ordered that California’s State Compensation Insurance Fund pay approximately 500 employees back-pay for previously instated furloughs of union workers because he said their salary setting was a legislative, rather than executive function. Therefore, the Governor had no authority to order furloughs for those employees.

The Governor’s office had appealed the ruling, but last week the Court of Appeal upheld the initial ruling affecting State Fund employees.

The Governor’s initial order to furloughs state workers began in February 2009 in which about 200,000 employees who were required to take off two days per month. The furloughs were expanded to three days per month last summer.

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