Know Your Rights

Civil Service Exempt Rules

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COBRA Rules & Rights

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Incorrect Wage Payment

Any employer can sometimes miscalculate the wages for its employee(s). This can either lead to underpayment or overpayment. The remedy is different in each case.

Underpayment:

The City owes its employees the proper wages under the terms of the MOU. An underpayment must be corrected by a supplemental payment as soon as possible after the mistake is brought to the attention of the City to avoid a breach of contract.

If an employee is not paid for hours worked, the first step is to determine if the employee properly reported the hours. If not, that must be corrected and processed in the same way reported hours are normally processed. If the employee reported the proper hours and someone else changed those hours, the employee should begin the grievance process by holding the informal meeting with her/his supervisor.

If an employee is paid for the correct hours, but the hourly wage rate is incorrectly low, this is also grievable.

Overpayment:

If the City has overpaid an employee, either by paying for an incorrect number of hours or by using an incorrect hourly rate, it is entitled to recoup the overpayment, but only after following the proper procedure.

  1. The City cannot unilaterally deduct the overpayment amount from an employee’s check as this constitutes an illegal garnishment of wages.
  2. The City must document the overpayment.
  3. The City must negotiate a mutually acceptable and reasonable repayment schedule with the employee.
  4. These issues were addressed by the State Supreme Court in 1989.

The rules are somewhat different in the two cases because the employer is assumed to have the proper amounts of money available to compensate its employees in accordance with its labor contract. The employee, on the other hand, is not assumed to have a reservoir of cash to immediately repay an overpayment of which the employee may not have been aware.  The best way to avoid any problems is to check your pay stub each pay period and ask questions if something seems incorrect.

Military Family Leave Entitlement

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Privacy in the Workplace

We all have heard about our rights to privacy and that those rights are seemingly eroding, primarily due to advances in technology. But we should not assume that this privacy right extends into our places of employment. In fact, the best rule of thumb to follow is that you only have privacy in very limited circumstances while you are working.

Remember, your work computer, your office, your desk, and your work telephone are all the property of the City of Los Angeles. As the owner, the City is well within its rights to monitor the use of its equipment. In addition, members of the public can obtain copies of almost any and all writing, including electronic writings (emails), through requests for information under the appropriate public disclosure acts. This does not apply in the same way to the private sector, but as public employees, we are subject to the scrutiny of the taxpayers, who pay our salaries and expect our services in return.

There are some areas where you may expect privacy, but you do not have a right to that privacy, a big difference legally. We would normally expect privacy in a locked drawer or cabinet only if that locked drawer or cabinet has a personally provided lock. If the City provided the lock, the assumption is that the lock is to protect the contents from those outside of the City, not from supervision or management. While we might think our automobiles are safe and private places, the City can, and in some departments, including trunks, are subject to inspection for security reasons. Your personal items, such as briefcases and purses, are not subject to inspection except as part of an overall security inspection of all persons entering a building. These types of inspections have become much more common since the heightened security after 2001.

If this all seems Orwellian, remember that there is no right to privacy guaranteed in the United States Constitution, but only the right to unlawful search and seizure by the Government. The courts have substantially broadened the coverage of this right over the years so that it seems we have a right to privacy. Most privacy legislation and litigation is concerned with acts of the Government (at any level) against citizens and not with acts of employers against employees.

In some ways, this entire subject goes back to the basics of your MOU, a contract in which both sides give and take. In this case, the City gives you a livelihood and you give up your expectations of privacy. In handling workplace issues, we have heard, “Oh, my comment was not meant for the boss” or “I only went to questionable websites during lunchtime.” These are tough arguments to win when utilizing the City’s property. To avoid negative repercussions, you should say, write, and do nothing while at work that you would not want publicized at all.

Probation Rules

The following provisions of the Los Angeles City Charter govern probationary periods within Civil Service employment. EAA positions may have a six or twelve month probationary period, which is within the requirements herein.

LOS ANGELES CITY CHARTER

Sec. 1011. Probation. 

(a)     Length of Probation.  A candidate appointed to an entry level classified position shall be employed on probation for a period not exceeding 12 months, with the specific period to be established by the board, and for a period not exceeding 18 months, to be measured from the commencement of recruit training, for those members of the Police Department appointed under civil service rules and regulations and sworn in, as provided by law, to perform the duties of regular police officers.  The civil service rules may provide for a different period of probation for non-entry level employees, not exceeding six months except that a longer period, not exceeding 12 months, may be fixed for management personnel.

(b)     Termination During Probation.  At or before the expiration of the probationary period, the appointing authority may terminate the probationary employee by delivering written notice of termination to the employee assigning in writing the reasons for the termination.  The appointing authority shall subsequently notify the board of such termination.  Unless the probationary employee is served with written notice of termination during the probationary period, the employee’s appointment shall be deemed complete.

Whistleblower Laws

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This Statement Could Save Your Job

“I request union representation.”

If you are called to a meeting with management, be aware of what this statement means. You could even read the following or present this paper when the meeting begins.

If my responses to your questions could lead to my being disciplined or terminated, or adversely affect my personal working conditions, I respectfully request that my union representative is present. Until my representative arrives, I choose not to answer any questions.

Weingarten Rights

California, by law and Constitution, recognizes that public employees have the right to representation and gives workers the right to request union representation during investigatory interviews by supervisors, security, personnel, and other management staff. These are commonly referred to as Weingarten Rights due to a similar court case. (Weingarten vs. NLRB)

An investigatory interview occurs if:

  1. Management questions you to obtain information, and
  2. You have a REASONABLE APPREHENSION that your answer could be used as a basis for discipline or other adverse action.

You must ask for union representation either at the beginning or during the interview. Management does not have to remind you of this right. If your request is refused and management continues asking questions, you may refuse to answer, but you cannot refuse to be present however. If your request is denied, you should do your best to take notes on what takes place at the interview. Your employer may be guilty of an unfair labor practice and charges may be filed.

Your Personnel Folder

Pursuant to Article 4.2 of our Memoriam of Understanding (MOU), “no evaluatory or disciplinary document may be placed in an employee’s personnel file without his/her review”. You are also entitled to a copy of any such document for your own personal records. While you are required to acknowledge your review of any such document (assuming that it is provided to you), you are NOT required to agree with the content or conclusion of the document – and you have a right to file a grievance if you wish to dispute the content and or conclusion. 

A number of instances have come to light where some of our members have become aware of the presence of “disciplinary” documents in their Personnel Folders, which were never presented to nor discussed with them. It is advisable for ALL City employees to review his or her Personnel Folder at least once per year.

Your right to review your Personnel Folder is explicitly established in MOU Article 4.2. Please exercise that right. If in the course of that review you find a document that you feel should not be there, immediately contact your EAA Labor Representative to discuss appropriate action.

If you are facing some form of disciplinary action – of any kind – DO NOT sign ANY “voluntary” acknowledgement of conduct and/or performance subject to discipline unless/until you have consulted with your EAA Labor Representative. Such “voluntary” acknowledgements (of “guilt”) remain in your Personnel Folder indefinitely, and may be used against you in any future disputes over evaluations or discipline. The desire to quickly “get past” a difficult moment must not be allowed to jeopardize future career prospects, or the fair adjudication of any future dispute.