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Santa Clara County Correctional Peace Officers' Association, Inc. v. County of Santa Clara

California Court of Appeals, Sixth District

March 17, 2014

SANTA CLARA COUNTY CORRECTIONAL PEACE OFFICERS’ ASSOCIATION, INC., Plaintiff and Appellant,
v.
COUNTY OF SANTA CLARA, Defendant and Respondent.

Santa Clara County Superior Court No. 1-11-CV-205583 Hon. Carrie A. Zepeda-Madrid

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COUNSEL

Mastagni, Holstedt, Amick, Miller & Johnsen, David P. Mastagni, Kathleen N. Mastagni and Jeffrey R. A. Edwards for Plaintiff and Appellant.

Miguel Marquez, County Counsel, Lori E. Pegg, Assistant County Counsel, and Cheryl A. Stevens Deputy County Counsel, for Defendant and Respondent.

OPINION

GROVER, J.

I. INTRODUCTION

At issue in this appeal is whether the County of Santa Clara (County) complied with its statutory and contractual obligations regarding meeting and conferring in good faith before reducing the work schedules for an unspecified number of correctional peace officers who are members of the Santa Clara County Correctional Peace Officers’ Association, Inc. (Association). The officers work for the County’s Department of Corrections (DOC) in staffing the County’s jails, though they remain Sheriff’s Deputies.

The County and the Association entered into a written Memorandum of Understanding (sometimes MOU) effective on June 2, 2008 that created three different work schedules, working either five eight-hour days a week (the 5/8 Plan) or four ten-hour days a week (the 4/10 Plan) for a total of 80 hours biweekly, or working 12.25 hours a day four days one week and three days the next (the 12 Plan) for a total of 85.75 hours biweekly. In order to reduce the County’s total budget for fiscal year 2012 (July 1, 2011 through June 30, 2012) while avoiding layoffs, the DOC proposed, among other things, a reduction of the 12 Plan to working mostly 12 hour shifts totaling 80 hours biweekly, not 85.75 hours. The County and the Association met twice in early June 2011 before the County’s Board of Supervisors adopted a proposed budget on June 15, 2011 which included a modified 12 Plan. After the budget was adopted, the parties met again and the Association’s members voted on the County’s proposals.

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On July 22, 2011, the Association filed a verified petition for writ of mandate, alleging that the County, in modifying the 12 Plan, had breached duties to meet and confer and to bargain in good faith under the MOU, the Meyers-Milias-Brown Act (Govt. Code, §§ 3500-3511 [1]; sometimes MMBA), and the County’s Code. After a court trial based on documents submitted by both sides, the court denied the Association’s petition, finding that a vote by the Association’s members established both that they preferred the County’s modified plan and that the County had met and conferred in good faith.

The parties renew their contentions on appeal. The County contends that the Association has failed to exhaust its contractual remedies. The Association disputes this and contends that the County set an arbitrary deadline and failed to complete its obligation to meet and confer in good faith, including participating in impasse resolution, before implementing the work schedule change. The County contends that because it reserved rights in the MOU to convert 12 Plan assignments to other plans, it fulfilled all of its statutory and contractual obligations. For the reasons stated below, we will affirm the judgment after concluding that the County complied with its obligations to meet and confer about this reduction in working hours.

A. The Memorandum of Understanding

The County and the Association entered into a Memorandum of Understanding effective on June 2, 2008. The term of the MOU was through “May 29, 2011, and from year to year thereafter.” (MOU § 27.) The MOU specified the monthly pay scales for correctional officers in different classifications, their hours of work, and lengths of shifts, among other things.

Three alternative shifts are recognized as a normal work day: the eight-hour shift of the 5/8 Plan, the 10-hour shift of the 4/10 Plan, and the 12.25-hour shift of the 12 Plan described above. (MOU, § 7.1.) The MOU provided that a full work week is 40 hours except as otherwise provided in the MOU or by law. (Ibid.) The 12 Plan, by calling for working 85.75 hours biweekly, was thus an exception to a 40-hour work week. According to the Association’s mandate petition, the 12 Plan has been in place for 30 years.

The MOU defined overtime in Section 7.5 as any time worked on a single day in excess of the defined shift length, or any time worked in a biweekly pay period over 80 hours. Section 7.5 further provided that “[f]or the employees in the Twelve (12) Plan all hours worked from 80 to 85.75 hours per pay period shall be considered for PERS purposes as overtime paid at the straight time rate.” (MOU, § 7.5 subd. (a).) In another section, the MOU

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provided that “[a]ll hours worked by such employees on the Twelve Plan (and their briefing time) shall be compensated at straight time, up to 12.25 hours per day and 85.75 hours per pay period, with all hours in excess thereof to be considered overtime.” (MOU, § 7.1, subd. (a).)

Section 7.1, subdivision (a) also provided: “Employees assigned by the Chief of Correction to the Twelve Plan will continue to work on the Twelve (12) Plan during the term of this Memorandum.”

Section 7.1, subdivision (b) (sometimes section 7.1 (b)) provided: “The Appointing Authority reserves the right to convert assignments on the Twelve Plan to either a 5/8 or a 4/10 Plan, upon the giving of forty-five (45) calendar days’ advance notice of such change to the Association, which shall be afforded the opportunity to meet and confer on such a proposed change prior to its implementation.”

It is up to the “Appointing Authority, ” the County, to “set up a standard shift and days off assignment policy within each department, ” based first “on the administrative needs of the department, so as to have a certain minimum number of experienced and/or qualified or skilled personnel on a shift.” (MOU, § 7.2.)

The MOU also included a grievance procedure that we discuss below.

B. The Meetings and the Association Vote

John Hirokawa was involved in meetings with the Association in 2011 as the Undersheriff and also Acting Chief of the DOC. He filed a declaration stating the following.[2] Facing a projected County budget deficit of $230 million, the DOC was asked to make budget cuts of $15 million while avoiding staff layoffs, if possible. Among the proposals was to alter the 12 Plan by eliminating the built-in 5.75 hours of biweekly overtime with a projected annual savings of $5, 860, 683. This modification entailed related changes of officers reporting directly to their posts instead of the briefing room, supervisors checking staff in and out, and officers sharing information during the shift change and by information technology.

On May 19, 2011, the Acting Chief notified the Association by certified letter of its “intent to change the 12-plan work schedule to a 5/8, 4/10 or modified 12-plan” (80-hour work schedule) to become effective on July 4, 2011. “These proposed changes in the above described assignments will not

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be implemented until such time as the parties shall have the opportunity to meet and confer.” The parties agree that July 4, 2011 was the start of a new pay period under a new County budget.

The Acting Chief later attended three meetings with representatives of the Association, counsel for both sides, and other interested parties, including the County’s Labor Relations Representative Ramsin Nasseri. At the first meeting on June 2, 2011, the Acting Chief provided the Association with several proposed work schedules, including versions of how the 12 Plan could be modified to result in working 80 hours biweekly. The Association responded by questioning the existence of a budget deficit and the Chief’s authority to modify the 12 Plan and complaining about the unfair impact on Association members. The Association rejected the explanation that the reduction in hours was a business necessity in order to meet the DOC’s $15 million target.

At the second meeting on June 13, 2011, the Association questioned how the schedule changes would affect the members. Custody Administrative Captain David Sepulveda explained the operational details as best he could. Some questions could not be answered because the County was awaiting the Association’s feedback. The Association complained about a seven percent salary reduction and contended that the goal could be accomplished by retirements and layoffs. The Acting Chief said that retirements and layoffs would not yield enough savings. He encouraged the Association to attend the County’s upcoming budget hearings. The Association did not offer an alternative plan to save $6.1 million.

A third meeting was scheduled for June 20, 2011. Meanwhile, on June 15, the County Board of Supervisors considered the DOC’s recommendations and, after hearing from several Association representatives, unanimously voted to accept the County Executive’s proposed budget, which included the modified 12 Plan.

According to the Acting Chief, at the meeting on June 20, 2011, the Association still disputed the existence of a budget deficit and failed to propose another method for saving $15 million. The Chief advised the Association that every day of delay in implementing the plan was costing the County about $17, 000. The County agreed to the Association’s request to delay implementation until its members could vote on the County’s proposals.

A report on the members’ vote on the County’s proposals was originally promised on July 2, 2011, and was delivered by e-mail at the end of the work day on July 6, 2011. The vote was reported as a 200 to 15 rejection of the County’s MOU proposal. As to the different 12 Plan schedules presented,

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236 members voted in favor of one eight-hour day per pay period with the rest 12-hour days, as opposed to 13 members voting for two ten-hour days per pay period and 10 voting for the 5/8 schedule. The e-mail disclaimed any consent to a reduction of the 85.75 biweekly schedule.

C. The Trial Court’s Findings

After a court trial based on the documents submitted, the trial court made the following findings in denying the petition for writ of mandate. “1. Pursuant to the Memorandum of Understanding between the County of Santa Clara and the Correctional Peace Officers’ Association (‘MOU’), the Appointing Authority reserved the right to convert assignments on the Twelve Plan to either a 5/8 or a 4/10 Plan upon the giving of 45 calendar days advance notice.

“2. Although the County did not adopt the 5/8 or the 4/10 schedule the fact that the County adopted a modified 12 Plan that Petitioner’s membership preferred established that the County met and conferred in good faith.

“3. Additionally, because Petitioner’s members chose the modified 12 Plan over the other proposed schedules, the Court finds there was mutual agreement and, therefore the parties did not need to declare impasse and mediation was not required. “The Court therefore concludes the County satisfied ...


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