Recent Public Employment Decisions
White v. County of Los Angeles
• October 8, 2008: Hudson’s physician released her to work as a deputy sheriff
• November 2008, AME [worker’s compensation doctor] if released Hudson as a deputy sheriff
Facts: The Written Agreement
December 22, 2008, the County and Hudson entered into a written agreement, which memorialized the “oral” agreement. The agreement specified:
• Hudson would be a Custody Assistant for 120‐days
• Hudson would be medically reevaluated by LACERA
• Hudson would be restored as a deputy sheriff if cleared• Hudson would be restored as a deputy sheriff if cleared by LACERA
• If LACERA did not clear Hudson, she would be made apermanent Custody Assistant 22
LACERA Refuses to “Play Ball”Facts:
• However…because Hudson withdrew her retirement contributions in December 2006, LACERA determined that
her membership had ended and it refused to reevaluate her disability status
• In June 2009 the Department and LACERA allegedly orally “agreed” to accept Hudson based upon her physician’s statement (this is contested by the Department)
• Ultimately, the Department refused to reinstate without a determination by LACERA, given the prior decision that she was disabled
• LACERA refused to make any official findings due to the fact that Hudson withdrew her contributions and thus was no longer a member 23
Hudson’s Superior Court Lawsuit
• Hudson filed suit against the County and LACERA – his claims are convoluted, but he is apparently claiming the following:
– The County was obligated to reinstate Hudson as a deputy sheriff under the contract(s)under the contract(s)
– The County should be compelled to reinstate Hudson per the Commission’s order of February 2008 requiring reinstatement following her for‐cause discharge
– LACERA failed to inform Hudson of the consequences of her withdrawal of retirement contributions
– LACERA be required to accept Hudson’s repayment of retirement contributions
The Superior Court dismissed Hudson’s lawsuit, but . . . Court of Appeal: REVERSED (sort of)
• The Court of Appeal ruled, among other things:
– The settlement agreement might (or might not) supersede the Commission’s order requiring Hudson to return to work…
– The disability retirement ordered by LACERA might (or might) h d i d th C i i f j i di tinot) have deprived the Commission of jurisdiction over
Hudson’s prior discharge
– The jurisdiction of the Commission is not based upon a severance of the employment relationship but the manifested severance of the employment relationship, but the manifested intent of the employee
– Likewise, the Court of Appeal distinguished the prior cases of Zuniga and Latham which adopted a “bright line” rule of Commission jurisdiction
– The matter goes back to the trial court for determination on these issues
Sometimes Courts Just Get it Wrong.
• The Court created a great deal of uncertainty on several fronts
– Does LACERA have the final word on whether an employee is disabled or not?employee is disabled, or not?
– How can the County “comply” with a Commission order and return an employee to work if in the interim LACERA awards the employee a disability retirement?
• The Court then published the case, creating uncertainty for the County as well as the Courtesy
• By doing so, the Court virtually guarantees more litigation
What Was Once Clear is No Longer:
Ambiguities Created by the HudsonAmbiguities Created by the Hudson Decision
• The Commission’s Jurisdiction: Is this still a bright line, or simply a matter of an employee’s expressed intent?
• LACERA’s Disability Determination: Does LACERA have the last word on whether an employee is physically capable of working, or not?
• The County’s Quandary: If LACERA no longer has the last word regarding whether an employee is disabled last word regarding whether an employee is disabled for disability retirement purposes, who does?
“bright line” Rule No More: Key Quote from Hudson “Under these circumstances Hudson’s disability disability retirement cannot be deemed to have established her intention to forever sever her employment status with the Department (the ground on which the broad rule stated in
the Zuniga and Latham, supra, decisions rest) to forfeit her pending Civil Service Commission appeal.”
Hudson v. County of Los Angeles, 232 Cal.App.4th 392, 413 (2014).
But, a New Glimmer of Hope…But, a New Glimmer of Hope…
In the even more recent case Monsivaiz v. Los Angeles County Civil Service Commission, 236 Cal App 4th 236 (2015), the court affirmed the bright line jurisdictional rules of Zuniga and Latham and did not follow Hudson. The Court called the facts in the Hudson case “unique” and “somewhat tortured.”
What can we learn from Hudson
• 1 The Court of Appeal does not always get it
• 2 If the Commission makes an order that is not workable, a Department must timely challenge in the Superior Court or be possibly challenge in the Superior Court or be possibly be saddled with all of the consequences of that decision whether it is logical legal or that decision, whether it is logical, legal or not.