The State Worker

Appellate court upholds $9 million furlough decision against Jerry Brown

A San Francisco appellate court has upheld a trial judge’s decision that Gov. Jerry Brown wrongly furloughed thousands of state-government scientists and engineers three years ago.

The ruling by the 1st District Court of Appeals opens the possibility that some 16,000 state workers will receive a total $9 million in back wages, according to their unions’ estimates, for time they were kept off work without pay for two days in May 2011. The figure does not include interest.

The governor could appeal to the California Supreme Court, which also could decide on its own to take up the case. Either would would delay payment to employees. Brown spokesman Jim Evans said the administration is reviewing the decision.

Professional Engineers in California Government and California Association of Professional Scientists sued Brown for imposing two more furlough days in on their members than he imposed on management.

The unions also argued that furloughing 255 scientists and engineers at the Department of Toxic Substances Control and the State Water Control Resources Board violated the law. Those workers handle hazardous substance management and remediation at military bases and should receive full payment for all 70 days they were forced to take unpaid time off, the unions said.

While the appellate court agreed with Judge Steven A. Brick that all the unions’ members were disproportionately furloughed, it reversed the trial court’s ruling that Toxic Substances and Water Resources employees should have been exempt from all furloughs.

A union spokesman said that PECG and CAPS leaders haven’t decided whether to appeal.

The appellate court’s decision becomes final in 30 days from when it was issued Thursday.

1st DCA Furlough Decision by Jon Ortiz