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Employer defense attorney

Appellant employees sought review of judgments and an order from the Superior Court of Los Angeles County (California), which, in a putative class action, ruled on summary judgment that the employees were not entitled to either reporting time or split shift pay; awarded attorney fees to respondent employer; and denied class certification under Code Civ. Proc., § 382.

One of the employees attended scheduled meetings on weekends for less than two hours, but at least half the scheduled time, and was paid for his actual time. His pay rate was significantly above the minimum wage. He did not receive split shift premiums. The other employee signed a release of claims and received a settlement payment. The court held that even if some scheduled meetings ended early, no reporting time was owed because the minimum two-hour pay requirement in Cal. Code Regs., tit. 8, § 11040, subd. 5(A), applied only when an employee was furnished work for less than half the scheduled time. No split shift pay was owed under § 11040, subd. 4(C), because the employee's pay when he worked split shifts was greater than the minimum wage for all hours worked plus one additional hour. The other employee's release of Employer defense attorney  disputed claims was valid under Lab. Code, §§ 206, 206.5. Lab. Code, § 1194, precluded a fee award to the employer as to the split shift claim, but Lab. Code, § 218.5, allowed the employer to recover fees attributable to the reporting time claim. The denial of class certification was not appealable because it was not a final judgment under Code Civ. Proc., § 904.1.

The court reversed the award of attorney fees as to both employees, remanded with directions to determine the amount of reasonable attorney fees attributable to the employer's defense of the reporting time cause of action, and affirmed the judgments in all other respects. The court dismissed the appeal from the denial of class certification.

Defendants, the chief of police, the board of police commissioners, and the city, appealed the judgment of the Court of Appeal (California) holding that the Bill of Rights Act, Cal. Gov't Code §§3300-3311, was applicable in plaintiff police officers' action requiring defendants to grant them an appeal after plaintiffs were reassigned to lower paying positions. Plaintiffs sought review of the trial court's denial of attorney fees.

Plaintiff police officers were reassigned to lower paying positions following an investigation for misconduct. Plaintiffs claimed they were entitled to an administrative appeal under the Bill of Rights Act (Act), Cal. Gov't Code §§ 3300-3311. Defendants, police chief, board of commissioners and city of Los Angeles, claimed the Act could not be constitutionally applied to a charter city and plaintiffs had no right to an appeal under the Act. The court affirmed the trial court and the intermediary appellate court, holding that the Act applied to charter cities, and did not violate the home rule provisions of Cal. Const. art XI, § 5. To the extent the Act impinged on a city's authority, it was justified to accomplish the statewide concern regarding stable employment relations between peace officers and their employers. Plaintiffs were entitled to an appeal because reassignment to a lower paying position was per se disciplinary. Cal. Gov't Code § 1021.5 allowed for attorney fees for a successful party under the private attorney general theory. The trial court abused its discretion in denying plaintiff’s attorney fees as there was no reasonable basis to do so.

The court affirmed the judgments of the trial and intermediary appellate courts that the Bill of Rights Act applied to charter cities. Plaintiff police officers were entitled to an administrative appeal, because the reassignment to lower paying positions was by its nature punitive. Plaintiffs were entitled to attorney fees under the private attorney general theory because their action promoted the public welfare.

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