ANDERSON v. CITY OF LOS ANGELES No. B222441.
TERESA ANDERSON, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. CITY OF LOS ANGELES et al., Defendants and Appellants.
Court of Appeals of California, Second District, Division Seven.
Filed March 30, 2011.
Stone Busailah, Michael P. Stone, Muna Busailah and Marc J. Berger for Plaintiff and Respondent.
NOT TO BE PUBLISHED IN THE OFFICIAL REPORTS
Defendants, the City of Los Angeles and William J. Bratton, the former Chief of Police of the Los Angeles Police Department, appeal from the judgment granting the petition for writ of mandate filed by plaintiff Teresa Anderson (Anderson) and issuing a peremptory writ of mandate, commanding defendants to vacate the Board of Rights decision terminating Anderson's employment as a police officer, to calculate the amount of compensation she lost as a result of that decision and to pay her that amount. We affirm.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
Around September 10, 2008, Anderson, a sergeant with the Los Angeles Police Department (Department), received notice that she was being charged with misconduct. On January 21, 22 and 23, 2009, the Board of Rights, the Department's administrative tribunal, held a hearing on the complaint against Anderson.
Count 1 of the complaint alleged that "[o]n several occasions between June 2001 and February 2003, [Anderson] knowingly violated Departmental policy when [she] neglected to request compensation after working overtime." Count 2 alleged that "on several occasions between June 2001 and February 2003, [Anderson] neglected to report misconduct after witnessing unidentified sworn officers discourage subordinates from submitting requests for overtime compensation." The third and final count alleged that around September 10, 2007, while on duty, Anderson "made a false statement during a deposition when [she] stated that Department employees were aware that [she] violated Department Policies and Procedures involving the Fair Labor Standards Act." Anderson pleaded guilty to count 1 and not guilty to counts 2 and 3.
Following an evidentiary hearing and deliberations, the Board of Rights found Anderson guilty of all counts. The Board's finding of guilt on count 1 was not premised solely on Anderson's guilty plea. Although prior to deliberations Captain Curreri had advised Anderson's counsel that "we will most likely come to a guilty finding on Count 1 in that she pled guilty," he clarified that "we have to have some more evidence on it than just the plea." True to his word, Captain Curreri explained to Anderson that the Board's finding of guilt "not only comes from your guilty plea to this count, but also from your sworn testimony at a deposition, during which time you admitted several times that you worked overtime in preparation for roll call without submitting a request for compensation, doing this knowing you were permitting misconduct." The Board also found Anderson guilty of counts 2 and 3. The Board advised Anderson that it would recommend to the Chief of Police that her employment with the Department be terminated. The Board added, "If the Chief of Police decides to allow you to remain as a member of the Department to allow you to complete your 20 years of service, which is only nine months away, and therefore be eligible for retirement, we would recommend that he consider imposing a significant suspension and demote you to the rank of Police Officer II." The Chief of Police thereafter adopted the recommendation of the Board of Rights and terminated Anderson's employment with the Department.
On April 29, 2009, Anderson filed a verified petition for peremptory writ of mandate in the superior court pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure section 1094.5, seeking judicial review of the order of termination. On October 20, she filed a verified first amended petition.
Following a hearing on Anderson's petition, during which the administrative record was admitted into evidence, the trial court granted Anderson writ relief as to all counts. With regard to count 1, the only count with which we are concerned on appeal, the court stated that it "knows of no instance in which a police officer has ever been disciplined for [failing to seek payment for working overtime] and the court doubts that the employer has ever communicated to police officers that they may be fired simply for working overtime and not requesting to be paid for it."
The trial court ruled that Anderson "is entitled to a writ of mandate commanding her employer to vacate its administrative decision discharging her for misconduct, to compute the amount of back pay to which [she] is entitled because of that administrative decision, and to pay [her] the amount so determined." A judgment so commanding was entered on January 5, 2010, and this appeal followed.
Defendants do not challenge the trial court's grant of writ relief with regard to counts 2 and 3 of the complaint. They contend only that the trial court's ruling with regard to count 1 must be reversed and the matter remanded for reconsideration of the appropriate penalty to be imposed. We disagree.
Standard of Review
As this court observed in Wences v. City of Los Angeles (2009)
On appeal, the trial court's decision will be upheld if it is supported by substantial evidence. (Fukuda v. City of Angels (1999)
Relevant Departmental Directives
On September 3, 1999, in an effort to comply with the overtime provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq.) (FLSA),
Order 20 further directed employees to "report overtime worked on an Overtime Report, Form 2.24.0, prior to their end of watch." If overtime was worked while off-duty, the employees were mandated to "submit the Overtime Report no later than the employee's next scheduled work day."
On August 27, 2001, Chief Parks issued Notice 2.1, containing a prohibition against working unauthorized overtime to prepare for roll call. The notice begins: "The Department is aware that some watch commanders and watch supervisors are seeking overtime for their time spent preparing for roll call. The purpose of this notice is to reiterate the Department's longstanding policy that no overtime may be worked by employees without first obtaining authorization from their immediate supervisor. Employees who do not receive prior authorization may not work on Department business outside of their regularly scheduled working hours. This Department policy, which complies with the law, applies to all work performed for the Department, including preparation for roll call by watch commanders and supervisors of a watch. Any employees found to be in violation of this Department policy will be subject to discipline."
In urging reversal of the trial court's ruling as to count 1, defendants rely heavily on the August 27, 2001 notice issued by the Chief of Police. This notice reiterated the Department's policy against working overtime without first obtaining authorization and stated in explicit terms that any employee who violated this policy would be subject to discipline. This policy applied to all work performed for the Department including preparation for roll call. Defendants' reliance on this August 27, 2001 notice is misplaced.
Although Anderson did acknowledge at her Board of Rights hearing and at her deposition in an unrelated FLSA action in federal court that she worked overtime without authorization to prepare for roll call, count 1 does not charge Anderson with working unauthorized overtime to prepare for roll call or for any other purpose. Rather, as previously noted, count 1 alleged that "[o]n several occasions between June 2001 and February 2003, [Anderson] knowingly violated Departmental policy when [she] neglected to request compensation after working overtime." Significantly, the gravamen of this charge is the failure to request compensation for working overtime, not working unauthorized overtime. In fact, the charging allegation did not differentiate between authorized and unauthorized overtime. Although Anderson did admit that she committed misconduct by working unauthorized overtime and that she did not ask to be paid for the overtime she worked, as the trial court found, defendants have failed to point to a statute, rule or regulation, in force at the time the alleged misconduct was committed, that makes it an act of misconduct for a police officer to work overtime, whether authorized or unauthorized, and not ask to be compensated for it.
The trial court determined that the conduct charged against Anderson in count 1 did not constitute misconduct in the first instance. It is for this reason it concluded that Anderson's guilty plea, along with her deposition testimony, did not support the Board of Right's finding of guilt on count 1. Because we conclude that substantial evidence supports the trial court's determination with regard to count 1, and defendants do not challenge the trial court's decision to grant writ relief as to counts 2 and 3, we have no basis for disturbing the judgment of the trial court.
The judgment is affirmed. Anderson is awarded her costs on appeal.
PERLUSS, P. J.
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