Two California Courts of Appeal recently addressed the issues of whether charter counties are exempt from state statutes and regulations that govern overtime pay and meal and rest breaks. In Curcini v. County of Alameda, (164 Cal.App.4th 629, Cal.App. 1 Dist., June 5, 2008) the court concluded that overtime and meal and rest breaks are matters within a charter county’s exclusive constitutional purview. In Dimon v. County of Los Angeles, (— Cal.Rptr.3d —, 2008 WL 4214179, Cal.App. 2 Dist., Sept. 16, 2008), the court held that a charter county is exempt from state statutes and regulations governing meal breaks.
Vi Dimon is a probation officer employed by the County of Los Angeles (“Los Angeles”), which is a charter county. Dimon brought a lawsuit against Los Angeles on behalf of all county probation officers who were not provided with meal breaks and were not paid for the meal periods that were not provided. Labor Code section 512 prescribes meal periods and section 226.7 provides a premium wage as compensation for missed meal periods. A memorandum of understanding (“MOU”) had been entered into between Los Angeles and the union representing the probation officers which covered the subject of meal periods. It provides that, if meal time relief can not be provided, the probation officers will be provided with meals. The trial court found that Los Angeles, as a charter county, was exempt from the requirements of sections 512 and 226.7.
Carson Curcini and other fellow chaplains at a county jail brought a lawsuit against the County of Alameda (“Alameda”) for, among other things, violations of state laws providing for overtime and meal and rest breaks. Alameda is also a charter county. The chaplains claimed that they were entitled to overtime pay under Labor Code sections 510 and 1194 and meal and rest breaks under sections 512 and 226.7, but they did not receive either the pay or the breaks. The trial court found that the Labor Code sections that pertain to overtime and meal and rest breaks could not be applied to Alameda because it is a charter county.
The home rule doctrine provides that “county charter provisions concerning the operation of the county, and specifically including the county’s right to provide ‘for the number, compensation, tenure, and appointment of employees’ (that is, a county’s core operations) trump conflicting state laws.” California Constitution article XI § 1. Article XI § 4 provides that a county charter must provide for, among other things, compensation for county employees.
The Curcini court found that the overtime claims and the meal and rest break claims are matters of compensation and “that such compensation matters are of local rather than statewide concern.” Compensation matters are within a charter county’s exclusive constitutional purview.
Citing to the Curcini decision, the Dimon court concluded that Los Angeles was exempt from state statutes and regulations governing meal breaks. It held that Los Angeles “has exclusive authority, as a charter county, to provide for the compensation and conditions of employment of its employees, and has done so with respect to probation officers through a collective bargaining agreement adopted by resolution.”
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