Workplace Fairness

Menu

Skip to main content

  • print
  • decrease text sizeincrease text size
    text

Immigration agency warns of furloughs amid cash crunch

Share this post

USCIS says it’s facing a $1.2 billion shortfall, but lawmakers say they’re still waiting on a detailed budget breakdown from the White House.

The agency charged with administering the nation’s immigration system is facing a $1.2 billion budget shortfall that it says will force thousands of furloughs in the coming weeks absent an emergency cash infusion from Congress, which could come in the next round of coronavirus relief.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services says the pandemic has led to a dramatic drop in fee processing, putting the agency’s finances in dire straits. But Democrats and Republicans say they’re still waiting on a detailed budget breakdown from the White House that fully outlines the problem and addresses the agency’s needs.

Meanwhile, former Obama administration officials — who have raised concerns about existing budget problems at USCIS and what they view as the Trump administration’s anti-immigrant agenda — say Congress should tread with caution.

A senior Trump administration official contended that it has given Congress ample warning about the coming budget shortfall, including in a June 19 letterfrom acting OMB Director Russ Vought to House and Senate appropriators.

“The Administration has provided Congress with all the information they need to do their job,” said Robert Kuhlman, a former Department of Homeland Security official who’s now a spokesperson at OMB. “If Congressional Democrat appropriators have a problem with keeping the lights on at USCIS they should just say so.”

But that letter, Democratic and Republican appropriators note, didn’t even include a dollar amount.

“The Trump White House is responsible for requesting supplemental funding, but all they have sent Congress is a one-page letter that provides virtually no information on the shortfall or proposed remedies,” said House Appropriations spokesperson Evan Hollander.

“Despite this egregious lack of communication, House Democrats are closely tracking USCIS’ financial difficulties and are prepared to discuss solutions as part of negotiations on the next phase of coronavirus response legislation. So far, Senate Republicans are unwilling to begin those talks.”

A Senate GOP aide confirmed to POLITICO that Republican appropriators are still waiting for an official budget request that provides a top-line number, including a more detailed breakdown of the pandemic-related needs at USCIS.

Without intervention from Congress, the shortfall threatens to put 13,400 USCIS employees on furlough beginning August 3.

The agency said last Wednesday it will prioritize southwest border screening and fraud detection in its refugee and asylum office during the furlough, according to a copy of an email reviewed by POLITICO. The administration ramped up those procedures during his first term in an effort to discourage illegal immigration.

In response to a request for comment on its priorities during the furlough, a USCIS spokesperson told POLITICO via email that, “In the event of a furlough, all agency operations will be affected.”

A former Obama administration official and the nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute say that a falling number of immigration applications, as well as the agency bringing on more personnel to detect fraud and vet applications, likely played a large role in the funding gap.

“They went on a huge staffing surge … so they ramped up their expenses at the same time revenues were going up. And then, Covid just exposed the fragile position they put themselves,” said Doug Rand, who worked on immigration policy in the Obama White House and is now the co-founder of Boundless Immigration, a technology company that helps immigrants obtain green cards and citizenship.

He argues that the increased vetting practices implemented as part of the Trump administration’s anti-immigration agenda also slowed down processing and increased application denials, sapping potential revenues for the agency.

“You’ve got an agency that in the best of times was adding all this red tape, slow walking adjudications, wait times are skyrocketing, denial rates are going up …” Rand told POLITICO, “then Covid hit, and suddenly they’re claiming they’re insolvent and they might just shut down legal immigration completely for some period of time.”

The agency, which relies solely on immigration fees for funding, did shutter its field offices during the pandemic. But USCIS acknowledged it was facing a funding deficit as early as November, writing in a proposed rule that it needed to raise immigration application fees and charge a first-ever fee for asylum — and that without the hike in fees, it would face an annual shortfall of $1.2 billion.

USCIS counters that the deficit predicted in the rulemaking and the shortfall it’s seeing from the pandemic are “different scenarios.”

A spokesperson said in an emailed statement that USCIS “did not spend at the levels estimated in the proposed fee rule” and that “the precipitous decline in revenue as a result of COVID-19 began in March.”

This blog originally appeared at Politico on July 1, 2020. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Caitlin Emma covers the federal budget and congressional spending bills on Capitol Hill for POLITICO Pro. Prior to that, she spent five years as an education policy reporter for Pro.

About the Author: Rebecca Rainey is an employment and immigration reporter with POLITICO Pro and the author of the Morning Shift newsletter. Prior to joining POLITICO in August 2018, Rainey covered the Occupational Safety and Health administration and regulatory reform on Capitol Hill. Her work has been published by The Washington Post and the Associated Press, among other outlets.


Share this post

The H-1B Termination “Stinger” in the Era of COVID-19: What Employers Need to Know

Share this post

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and its global economic repercussions have forced many employers to make difficult choices regarding their workforces.  Businesses that employ workers who are not U.S. citizens must reckon with additional complications, as their decisions will affect both the employees’ livelihoods and their ability to remain in the United States.

Given these challenges, it is essential that companies consult an immigration attorney if they are considering personnel actions that would affect their foreign national employees, including layoffs, furloughs, and other terminations. (For more general information on the immigration consequences of workforce reductions, please see our prior H-1B Stinger article about this topic.)

Managing H-1B visas in these situations can be particularly complex, given the expansive network of underlying and inflexible terms and conditions. Employers that sponsor foreign nationals for U.S. employment through the H-1B visa program take on numerous exacting – and all too often unforgiving – obligations.  And on the employee’s side of the relationship, those who are laid off, furloughed, or fired will need to find new employment as soon as possible or else leave the U.S. indefinitely per the equally exacting obligations that the program imposes upon them.

Chin & Curtis previously published a post (linked above) that examines an employer’s obligations following the termination of an H-1B employee, and the substance of this piece still stands. As we noted, the 2006 case of Amtel Group of Florida, Inc. v. Yongmahapakorn essentially confirmed that the employer’s obligations under the H-1B and the LCA do not cease until the employer completes the following steps:

  • Notifying the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that the employment relationship has been terminated; and
  • Offering payment to the H-1B employee for return transportation to their home country.

The termination of an H-1B employee that occurs prior to the expiration of the employee’s valid H-1B status can only be “bona fide” if the employer completes both of these two steps.

While the obligations outlined in our prior article still hold, there are two relevant updates that employers should be aware of in light of the current situation.

First, a new DHS regulation from 2017 institutionalized a “grace period” of up to 60 days, during which a terminated H-1B employee may remain in the United States to find new employment, secure a new immigration status, and/or wrap up their affairs and depart the US.  This change, while obviously beneficial for employees, is also welcome on the employer’s side, as it allows employers to execute terminations without putting their former H-1B employees in immediate legal peril.

Second, employers should consider the impact of the current climate on their protocols for offering payment for return transportation. For instance, how will travel restrictions, if any, affect the availability of return flights and how will airline service reductions impact the cost of the tickets? The applicable regulations leave a good deal of ambiguity around these and other questions concerning the offer of payment for return transportation costs, including whether an offer is sufficient as opposed to actual payment; whether the employer can set a limit to the cost amount; or whether setting a time limit for accepting the offer is appropriate. Absent any specific, regulatory guidance on these matters, employers are generally advised to use “reasonableness” as their guiding principle (though, of course, what is “reasonable” will depend on the situation).

Employers should therefore be mindful of the circumstances surrounding a COVID-19-related termination, including issues arising out of international travel restrictions– and should adjust their policies accordingly. 

About the Author: Phil Curtis has practiced immigration law for more than 30 years and is a founder of Chin & Curtis, LLP.  He has guided Chin & Curtis for the last seven years and now serves as Co- Managing Partner.  With more than 40 professionals dedicated to serving the immigration needs of the business community, Chin & Curtis is New England’s largest independent immigration law firm.


Share this post

We need strong policy now to avert a depression, this week in the war on workers

Share this post

We know that unemployment is sky-high, but that’s not the end of the story. The Economic Policy Institute’s Heidi Shierholz sounds a warning that, if lawmakers don’t act, we’re looking at a depression.

“If the federal government provides sufficient aid during this crisis so that people’s income doesn’t drop dramatically (even if they have been unable to work), so that businesses stay afloat (even if they have been totally or significantly shuttered), and so that state and local governments whose tax revenues are plummeting are not forced to make drastic cuts that will hamstring the economy, then those furloughed workers could get back to their prior jobs and the recovery could be rapid because confidence and demand would be relatively high,” she writes. “But if the federal government doesn’t act, then those furloughs will turn into permanent layoffs and the country will face an extended period of high unemployment that will do sweeping and unrelenting damage to the economy—and the people and businesses in it.”

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities’ Michael Leachman sounds a similar note with an eye to state budgets, writing “Federal aid that policymakers provided in earlier COVID-19 packages isn’t nearly enough. Only about $65 billion is readily available to narrow state budget shortfalls. Treasury Department guidance now says that states may use some of the aid in the CARES Act of March to cover payroll costs for public safety and public health workers, but it’s unclear how much of state shortfalls that might cover; existing aid likely won’t cover much more than $100 billion of state shortfalls, leaving nearly $665 billion unaddressed. States hold $75 billion in their rainy day funds, a historically high amount but far too little to meet the unprecedented challenge they face. And, even if states use all of it to cover their shortfalls, that still leaves them about $600 billion short.”

This blog originally appeared at Daily Kos on May 23, 2020. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Laura Clawson has been a Daily Kos contributing editor since December 2006. Full-time staff since 2011, currently assistant managing editor.


Share this post

Job losses have now hit 40% of low-income homes

Share this post

Thirteen percent of all U.S. adults, or 20 percent of people who were employed in February, were laid off or furloughed.

One in five American workers lost their jobs in March, including almost 40 percent of those in lower-income households, according to a Federal Reserve survey, underscoring the staggering impact of the coronavirus crisis.

The data — released hours after the Labor Department reported that workers filed almost 3 million new unemployment claims last week — is further evidence that the economic crunch is pounding poorer Americans the hardest. It comes as the country increasingly looks to the Fed to ease the pain of the recession and the central bank itself presses Congress to do more to halt the wave of layoffs.

“A clearer understanding of how families are coping with the changed economic landscape is vital as the Federal Reserve considers next steps to address fallout from the pandemic,” Fed Governor Michelle Bowman said in a statement.

Thirteen percent of all U.S. adults, or 20 percent of people who were employed in February, were laid off or furloughed as the pandemic began sweeping through the country in March, the Fed said. Another 6 percent of all adults worked reduced hours or went on leave without pay, the central bank found in the survey, included in its annual Report on the Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households.

For those who lost their job or were working fewer hours, only 64 percent expected to be able to pay off all their bills, compared to 85 percent of Americans who didn’t see their employment situation change.

Yet in a sign that Americans are maintaining their optimism, 91 percent of people who lost their jobs or were furloughed said they expected to return to the same employer eventually, suggesting that government efforts to keep workers tied to their current jobs might be working. Five percent in that group had already returned to work by the time of the survey.

Still, the numbers paint a grim picture: 39 percent of employed people in households making less than $40,000 lost their job or were furloughed in March. That compares to 19 percent of individuals in households making between $40,000 and $100,000, and 13 percent of people in households with an income above $100,000, a Fed official told reporters.

Meanwhile, 7 percent of workers took a new job or increased their hours. Overall, 23 percent of Americans reported lower income in March compared to February, while only 5 percent saw their pay increase.

Some people who saw their employment situation change for the worse might have been able to get new jobs or had second jobs.

Fed Chair Jerome Powell on Wednesday warned that the depth of the crisis could result in lingering pain for the economy and said further action by Congress to mitigate that damage would be worth the high cost.

“This reversal of economic fortune has caused a level of pain that is hard to capture in words, as lives are upended amid great uncertainty about the future,” Powell said.

The survey findings also highlight disparities among workers with different education levels, with financial well-being declining among those with a high school education or less.

People with more education also had more ability to work from home; 63 percent of workers with at least a bachelor’s degree worked entirely from home during the last week of March, compared to 20 percent of workers with a high school degree or less, and 27 percent of people with some college education or an associate degree.

The supplemental survey polled roughly 1,000 adults between April 3-6.

This blog originally appeared at Politico on May 14, 2020. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Victoria Guida is a financial services reporter covering banking regulations and monetary policy for POLITICO Pro. She covers the Federal Reserve, the FDIC and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, as well as Treasury, after four years on the international trade beat, most recently for Pro and previously for Inside U.S. Trade.


Share this post

7 tips to get through a coronavirus furlough

Share this post

Matthew Goldberg

It doesn’t matter the industry or the occupation, a furlough can happen to just about anyone.

That’s why it’s important for those dealing with the financial difficulties of a recent coronavirus-driven furlough to know there are a number of ways to try and stay afloat when you’re not receiving your normal pay.

Even if you’re lucky enough to still have your job today, it may be in your best interest to take some proactive steps to plan ahead in the event a furlough, or lay off, impacts you in the near future. Facing the economic uncertainties of a pandemic, it’s entirely possible that you could potentially be the victim of an employment interruption at some point.

Here are seven tips for surviving a furlough in these tough times.

1. See if you’re eligible for unemployment insurance

Take advantage of benefits available through the CARES Act or unemployment insurance benefits. The U.S. Department of Labor has answers to some of your eligibility questions.

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) may be an option for those who wouldn’t normally qualify for regular unemployment compensation.

“The Federal supplement to the state unemployment benefits now makes a big difference,” says Mark Meredith, certified financial planner at Meredith Wealth Planning in Maryville, Illinois.

States give an additional $600 weekly payment to eligible individuals receiving other benefits under Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC).

2. Your bank or lender may provide short-term savings options

Many banks are waiving certain fees or allowing borrowers to defer making payments.

For homeowners, a monthly mortgage payment is usually one of the highest expenses. A mortgage forbearance takes a big expense, temporarily, off of a person’s plate if they’re eligible.

“This could be a good way that you could potentially reduce your monthly outflow towards living costs,” says Amar Shah, CFA, certified financial planner and founder of Client First Capital in San Diego.

Those with federal student loans can take advantage of the CARES Act, which automatically stops student loan payments until Sept. 30. During this time interest is being temporarily set at 0 percent.

Unfortunately, private student loans aren’t covered under the CARES Act.

Bankrate is tracking how many of the largest banks are helping their customers. See if there’s a way that your bank can help you during this emergency.

3. Set a furlough budget

Cut back on spending now to either survive your furlough or prepare for one. Budgeting is the best way to see where your money is being spent.

“Take a close look at your monthly budget,” says Greg McBride, CFA, Bankrate chief financial analyst. “Identify which items you could cut back or eliminate right now. And identify those items you could cut back or eliminate if conditions get even worse.”

Making meals at home, instead of getting delivery or takeout can save you money. Also, you may be able to cut costs by analyzing your subscription services, gym memberships and other expenses that are on autopilot.

Also, reevaluate your fixed expenses. It’s not uncommon to switch auto insurance and homeowners insurance providers and save $500-$1,000 a year, Meredith says. Your cell phone bill might be another area of opportunity.

“I think people, when they’re so ingrained in their work lives they rarely have the time or desire to look into it very deeply,” Meredith says.

4. Balance transfer credit cards can buy time

This emergency can be a little easier to handle if you have more time. More time can help you save, cut your budget and hopefully find a steady income. There are a few lending tools that can do this.

Consider using a balance transfer credit card, a 0 percent introductory offer or a balance transfer offer on an existing credit card.

One caveat is that part of a new credit card application will likely be based on your income. So those who still are employed may be in a better position to take advantage of a low or no-interest period. Some banks may charge an upfront fee of 3 to 5 percent to take part in these offers. If you don’t have the best credit, a personal loan is another option for getting the funds you need.

Be aware of what you’re charging on this credit card and have a plan for how to pay it back — preferably before the favorable interest period ends.

“Limit it to essential spending only,” McBride says.

Keep in mind, losing your paycheck is an emergency.

“So, somebody who’s already been laid off, this is a time when it’s OK to make the minimum payment on your credit card,” McBride says.

5. Try to avoid touching your retirement savings

You may qualify to take a penalty-free withdrawal from an eligible retirement plan, such as a 401(k). But these withdrawals should only be an absolute last resort. Some coronavirus-related withdrawals won’t have a 10 percent early withdrawal penalty if they’re made in 2020. But keep in mind that you’ll still have to pay taxes on these withdrawals, though you may be able to spread these payments out. Also, you could use a Roth IRA as an emergency option if other options aren’t available. Contributions from a Roth IRA can be withdrawn at any time.

A $10,000 withdrawal from your retirement account today could be $57,000 in lost retirement savings 30 years from now, McBride says. That’s based on a six percent annual rate of return.

Annual contribution limits and the fact that you might never replenish these retirement funds are also reasons to avoid this route if possible. A per

6. Find saving opportunities

Try to keep adding to your emergency fund, if you have one, and are still working.

“Do that with any stimulus check you may be receiving, your tax refund and with the discretionary spending you’re not doing,” McBride says. “It’s the money that’s not being spent in restaurants, at movie theaters or ball games — is money that you can be putting into savings to pad your cushion.”

Look for other ways to try and replace income, if necessary. It’s OK to dip into your emergency savings if you’re furloughed right now, since this is an emergency.

Even if you entered this furlough without an emergency fund, hopefully spending cuts can help you create one on the fly. Consider keeping these funds separate from your normal checking account. Keeping it separate can prevent it being spent and may help you earn more interest. (Compare savings accounts on Bankrate to find the right one for you.)

7. Achieve a goal during furlough

You’d rather be receiving paid time off or be working. But you can’t control being furloughed, so it makes sense to use this time wisely. This could be a good time to complete a project around the house or achieve a career or personal goal. These items could help you improve the value of your house or improve yourself for a future job. You might be able to find an interesting (and possibly free) webinar, virtual learning experience or online group related to your professional development. Also, look into finding organizations or societies related to your career, if applicable. The organization, or some of its members, might be going through the same situation and could offer helpful advice.

Perhaps it’s also a good time to update your resume in case the furlough turns into a layoff down the road. It might also be a good time to reconnect with old colleagues, your professional network or your alma mater. Catching up virtually or on the phone seems more commonplace with at least parts of the U.S. on pause and under stay-at-home orders.

“Now [that] you have this extra time,” Shah says. “Make sure you’re capitalizing on it.”

Prepare for future furloughs or a permanent job loss

Spending every cent wisely has never been more important. Keep your spending to the essentials as much as possible.

“None of us knows exactly what the road ahead entails,” McBride says.

Those that are still employed or are only furloughed with reduced hours or pay should use budgeting to save even more.

This article was published at Bank Rate on April 23, 2020. Reprinted with permission. 

About the Author: Matthew Goldberg is a consumer banking reporter at Bankrate. He graduated from Illinois State University with a bachelor’s degree in mass communication and earned an MBA at William Paterson University.

He began his writing career in 1998 at Sun Publications in Crystal Lake, Illinois. He was sports editor at The Daily Vidette, a sports reporter at The Journal Standard and a sports writer at The Quincy Herald-Whig. His work has also appeared in Sports Illustrated On Campus. He has been honored by both the Illinois Associated Press Editors Association and the Illinois Press Association.

He also has more than seven years of financial services experience, in both banking and insurance.


Share this post

Furloughed workers rally in the rain to end the GOP shutdown

Share this post

seiu-org-logoToday hundreds of furloughed federal workers gathered by the Capitol in pouring rain to protest the reckless government shutdown in a rally organized by the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC).

SEIU Executive Vice President Eileen Kirlin spoke about the damage the shutdown is causing to working people who rely on federally-funded services like Head Start, as well as to federal workers who arefurloughed or working without regular paychecks for the duration of the shutdown.

Andrew Sailes is one such worker. Andrew is a SEIU NAGE member and a Department of Defense civilian employee whose work as an electronic measurement equipment mechanic ensures our troops have working vehicles. He was furloughed over the summer because of the sequester cuts and was furloughed again because of the shutdown. Andrew is back to work under the Pay Our Military Act, but because of the shutdown, his program doesn’t have enough funds for him to do his job properly.

Many Members of Congress joined SEIU and fellow union leaders in speaking out, including Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and CPC co-chairs Reps. Keith Ellison (D-MN) and Raul Grijalva (D-AZ).

This article was originally printed on SEIU on October 10, 2013.  Reprinted with permission.

Author: Jill Raney, SEIU organizer.


Share this post

Around the Country, State Employees Rally Against Furloughs, Pay Cuts

Share this post

State workers in West Virginia spent Presidents Day staging a rally at the capitol to ask for a $1,000 cost-of-living raise and better working conditions. Meanwhile, workers in California hope a bill advances that would ease some of their furlough pain.

As part of a plan to deal with California’s budget gap, state workers have given up three days of work per month, essentially cutting the pay of some 200,000 state employees by 14 percent. The future is uncertain for these workers, as Gov. Schwarzenegger has proposed to end the layoffs come June, but cut pay and payroll by 5 percent each.

The California state Senate Public Employment and Retirement Committee will hear the bill today. It is among more than two dozen bills aimed at fueling job creation in the state, and one of those that’s been received tepidly by Republicans, who want a jobs bill more focused on creating jobs in the private sector. It would affect jobs in revenue- and tax-collecting jobs.

The rally in West Virginia focused on a small cost-of-living increase and a smaller caseload for workers in the Department of Health & Human Resources.

“There’s bigger issues to deal with, but we’re having to beg for $1,000 a year,” said Jay Miner, of the Bateman Chapter of the West Virginia Public Workers Union, UE Local 170. The demonstrators presented a 2,000-word petition of support to the governor. They also face health insurance premium hikes.

The Charleston, W.Va., public service workers are among those around the country have been staging protests in recent weeks in response to the looming threats of pay cuts, furloughs, retirement benefit losses, insurance increases and spending cutbacks that affect their jobs.

On February 4, county, city and schools workers in Detroit marched downtown to demonstrate their opposition to furloughs and pay cuts. The protest was spearheaded by AFSCME, which represents about 60,000 Michigan workers, after Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano announced that workers would have to take a day each week off without first negotiating with the union.

Furloughs are an increasingly common tactic being used by both government entities and companies to improve the bottom line. But it puts workers in perilous conditions because they often can’t apply for unemployment.

Jacqueline Price, a 12-year county veteran, told The Michigan Citizen:

It’s terrible. Ficano is calling a lay-off a furlough. We can’t file for unemployment, and we are only working 32 hours a week so we are no longer considered full-time employees.

Detroit city employees are facing a possible 10-percent pay cut. The demonstration in Michigan came just days after public-sector workers stormed the capitol in Santa Fe, N.M., to show their opposition to a proposed 2-percent pay cut for state employees and teachers.

*This post originally appeared in Working in These Times on February 16, 2010. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Emily Udell is a writer for Angie’s List Magazine in Indianapolis. In 2009, she finished a stint drinking bourbon and covering breaking news for The Courier-Journal in Louisville, Ky. Her eclectic media career also includes time at the Associated Press, Punk Planet (R.I.P.), The Daily Southtown in southwest Chicago, and Radio Prague in the Czech Republic. She co-hosted and co-produced In These Times’ radio show “Fire on the Prairie” from 2003 to 2006.


Share this post

Gov. Schwarzenegger’s Furlough Days for Thousands of State Workers Ruled ‘Illegal’

Share this post

Image: Kate ThomasCA Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger acted illegally by placing tens of thousands of state employees on unpaid furloughs, a Superior Court judge ruled late Thursday on SEIU Local 1000’s lawsuit to overturn the furlough scheme. The ruling to halt thrice-monthly furloughs marks a much-improved start to 2010 for the state workers, who had seen their salaries slashed roughly 15 percent as a result of the mandated unpaid days off.

Alameda Superior Court Judge Frank Roesch ruled that by ignoring legal restrictions on furloughs, the Schwarzenegger administration overstepped its authority in approving the unpaid days off. Judge Roesch called the furloughs an “abuse of discretion” that interfered with operations of state agencies (like the DMV) and achieved questionable savings. From Roesch’s case ruling:

Moreover, when furloughs are implemented to save money, yet their implementation in some agencies saves nothing and increases costs, such a policy is arbitrary, capricious and unlawful.

“We said all along that the governor’s actions were illegal,” said SEIU Local 1000 President Yvonne Walker. “The governor violated the law and, as a result, people lost money…to remedy that violation, you have to give people back the money they lost.” SEIU Local 1000 first filed suit after the governor began the furloughs in February, in response to the state’s $42 billion budget gap.

Judge Roesch’s ruling could affect up to 50,000 employees represented by SEIU who work at agencies that do not rely on the state’s general fund, as well as tens of thousands of workers represented by two other unions, CASE and UAPD.

More details from SEIU Local 1000 on Judge Roesch’s ruling to halt furloughs after the break.

Judge Frank Roesch’s December 31st ruling is the second consecutive legal victory for Local 1000 on the furlough issue. In November, another Superior Court judge ruled that the governor violated the state insurance code when he included State Fund employees in his unilateral furlough orders.

An administration spokesperson said the governor would appeal and that an automatic suspension of Roesch’s order will result–leaving furloughs in effect and halting consideration of back pay–while an appellate panel considers the case. At a minimum, Judge Roesch’s ruling orders Governor Schwarzenegger to “cease and desist” the furlough of employees whose salaries are paid from special funds. Additional litigation may be necessary to clarify whether Judge Roesch’s order extends to state employees whose salaries are paid from the General Fund. “It remains to be seen whether the governor will continue to waste scarce state resources litigating this issue rather than simply complying with the Court’s order,” said Local 1000 president Yvonne Walker.

SEIU Local 1000 attorneys said they will ask Roesch to put the ruling into immediate effect and stop the furloughs during the appeal. In the State Fund case, Roesch ordered an immediate end to furloughs and reinstatement of back pay. The judge ruled that the governor’s reliance on the state Emergency Services Act, to furlough state workers, was misplaced because an emergency must have some time limit. “The emergency necessitating them was the failure of the Legislature to pass the budgets, though the reach of the orders extended long after those budgets were subsequently passed and signed into law,” the judge wrote.

Roesch ruled that furloughing state employees who are paid from special funds illegally interferes with the operation of specially funded agencies. “When furloughs are implemented to save money, yet their implementation in some agencies saves nothing and increases costs, such a policy is arbitrary, capricious and unlawful,” he said.

Roesch also rejected what he described as Schwarzenegger’s final justification: the need to treat all employees equally, regardless of the source of their agency’s funds. The governor is arguing, in effect, that furloughs should be spread throughout state government “so that all state employees suffer equally, without regard to savings to the General Fund and without lessening the pay cuts suffered by the General Fund employees,” Roesch said. “This is not rationally related to any government purpose.”

» View the Order Granting Petition For Writ of Mandate [PDF]

Read the original news update from SEIU Local 1000 here.

*This post originally appeared in SEIU Blog on January 4, 2009. Reprinted with permission from the author.

About the Author: Kate Thomas is a blogger, web producer and new media coordinator at the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), a labor union with 2.1 million members in the healthcare, public and property service sectors. Kate’s passions include the progressive movement, the many wonders of the Internet and her job working for an organization that is helping to improve the lives of workers and fight for meaningful health care and labor law reform. Prior to working at SEIU, Katie worked for the American Medical Student Association (AMSA) as a communications/public relations coordinator and editor of AMSA’s newsletter appearing in The New Physician magazine.


Share this post

Follow this Blog

Subscribe via RSS Subscribe via RSS

Or, enter your address to follow via email:

Recent Posts

Forbes Best of the Web, Summer 2004
A Forbes "Best of the Web" Blog

Archives

  • Tracking image for JustAnswer widget
  • Find an Employment Lawyer

  • Support Workplace Fairness

 
 

Find an Employment Attorney

The Workplace Fairness Attorney Directory features lawyers from across the United States who primarily represent workers in employment cases. Please note that Workplace Fairness does not operate a lawyer referral service and does not provide legal advice, and that Workplace Fairness is not responsible for any advice that you receive from anyone, attorney or non-attorney, you may contact from this site.