Miller Barondess Wins Published Decision on Behalf of LA County

On January 29, 2021, Miller Barondess partner Mira Hashmall won a published decision from the California Second District Court of Appeal on behalf of the County of Los Angeles.

LA County is one of the largest employers in Southern California with a workforce of approximately 100,000 strong. The Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs (ALADS) is the recognized employee organization that represents sworn non-management peace officers employed by the LA County Sheriff’s Department.

ALADS previously filed a case against LA County challenging the County’s practices for recouping inadvertent overpayments through payroll deductions. When Miller Barondess obtained a dismissal of the case, ALADS appealed, challenging the dismissal and seeking a writ of mandate and declaration that a provision of the memorandum of understanding (MOU) between ALADS and the County is unenforceable on the grounds it violates wage garnishment law and the Labor Code. In the provision at issue, the parties agreed on how paycheck errors would be corrected, including how overpayments to employees would be recovered by the County.

The California Court of Appeal ruled that dismissal was proper because ALADS’s petition did not state valid claims against the County. The home rule doctrine gives the County the exclusive right to regulate matters relating to its employees’ compensation. Under the home rule doctrine, the County has authority to recoup overpayments through payroll deductions. The County’s MOU with ALADS, approved by the County Board of Supervisors, is a lawful exercise of that exclusive right, and the Labor Code provision at issue does not apply to a charter county. Consequently, ALADS cannot allege sufficient facts to state a cause of action.

This win resolves a long time recurring issue that has been hanging over the Auditor-Controller’s Payroll division and payroll administrators in departments across LA County—and counties and cities state-wide. This decision will help governmental employers understand how to tackle their internal employment compensation matters. [Read the Decision]

Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs v. County of Los Angeles, Los Angeles County Superior Court, Case No. BS173389; California Second District Court of Appeal, Case No. B296425