Human Rights Update

Judge, Haywood S. Gilliam Jr. of the US District Court in Oakland, on Sunday granted a request by more than a dozen states to temporarily block the Trump administration from putting into effect new rules that would make it easier for employers to deny women health insurance coverage for contraceptives. 

Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

New Laws in California for 2019

Farm Employee Overtime

In 2016, California became the first state in the U.S. to require employers to pay overtime for farmworkers who work more than eight hours. The first phase of the new rules will begin in January, when agricultural employees will earn overtime after working 9 1/2 hours in a day or 55 hours in a week. Currently, California farmworkers can get overtime after working 60 hours in a week or 10 hours in a day.  The change only applies to businesses that employ at least 26 people. The rules do not apply to smaller agricultural employers until 2022. Discloser, our office consults with agricultural employers on compliance matters and we represent employees on wage and labor claims. Aside from wage and hour claims, sexual harassment and discrimination are constant concerns on the farm. 

Street Vendor Permits

A law going into effect in January will allow local governments to design permit programs for vendors and limits when they can be criminally prosecuted. It pertains to anyone selling food or other merchandise from a pushcart, stand or “non-motorized conveyance.” I anticipate the City of Eureka will embrace this new law and its economic benefits. I predict the County will ignore this law until the County is forced to follow it by a judge.  

Home Kitchen Businesses

A new law encourages Counties (like Humboldt) to permit home kitchens for the purpose of selling food products. California Assembly member Eduardo Garcia, who authored the bill, says that homemade food sales are a vital part of self-reliant communities. “Legitimizing these home businesses will offer a means of economic empowerment and pathways for many to achieve the ‘American dream,’” Garcia said when the bill was signed. Humboldt historically resists new opportunities which provide residents access to residual income. Perhaps after the County Supervisors election in 2020 progress will be made on this front.  

Fred Fletcher

January 17, 2019

The Measure S Lawsuit

Measure S is the cannabis cultivation tax the voters passed. We are challenging the County Supervisor's decision to amend Measure S as passed by the voters. The Supervisors amended the tax to apply to the property owner, not the farmer, and regardless of whether any crop is grown.  

Yesterday, we filed our response to the County's demurrer to the Measure S lawsuit. (Set to be heard January 28, 2019.) The County hired a large Sacramento Firm (founded the year I was born) to defend the lawsuit. They argue it's impossible to tax farmers for the actual crop grown because the County can't verify how much was grown. We informed the Court, governments since the beginning of governments have taxed farmers for crops actually grown, and we cited the Book of Genesis as our evidence.  

The amendments by the Supervisors have been misreported. The Supervisors amended Measure S to tax the permitted area regardless of the amount of crop grown.  As such, the supervisors have amended the tax to be assessed against fallow land, without regard to crop grown. We provided the Court authority that Measure S as amended is a property tax and is unconstitutional. We ask the Court to return Measure S to its original state which acted as an excise tax on legal crop actually grown. 

We will update this one. 

Fred Fletcher

January 15, 2019

Humboldt's Censorship Problem

Our law library has dozens of reference books about criminal law, and I could only find one book about constitutional rights limited to 42 U.S.C § 1983 civil rights cases, a small subsection of constitutional law. Civil rights provide the platform for civil redress which is the alternative to violence.

We decided as a community to center ourselves around our jail, instead of a school, a library, museum, or performing arts theater. Our county supervisors meet at the same building as our jail, which sends a chilling message to anyone wanting to speak on the public agenda, especially federal outlaws. Our prison is being expanded to the tune of $25 million, give or take a dime, meanwhile our schools are in a financial crisis.  The Humboldt establishment's response, is to stay positive and cheery. 

  

County Supervisor's Can't Silence Critics, including Humboldt's Supervisors. 

In a 3-0 decision, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Phyllis Randall, chair of the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors, violated the First Amendment free speech rights of Brian Davison by banning him for 12 hours from her “Chair Phyllis J. Randall” facebook page.

Last election my office received a few complaints from citizens who were censored for making comments critical of politicians, on the left and right (somehow our local politics are becoming politically polarized). Now these citizens may have recourse. This First Amendment decision could impact local elections nationwide by allowing the public to be heard.    

Fred Fletcher

January 8, 2019

Update on Nation v Trump filed in the 9th Circuit

This lawsuit challenges HUD's rule which forces subsidized apartments to evict medical cannabis users. Plaintiff was evicted from her HUD apartment on July 10, 2018 when a maintenance man discovered some medical cannabis in her bedroom. She remains homeless and is not alone.

The lawsuit not only challenges HUD's rule but relies upon Murphy v NCAA (decided May 2018) to challenge the constitutionality of the Controlled Substance Act itself relative to medical marijuana in the State of California. The Supreme Court in Murphy v NCAA resurrected from near death the anti-commandeering doctrine, which in laymen's terms means the Congress cannot make orders directly to the States. 

We are optimistic this lawsuit will prevail. If the District Court issues an order in our favor appealing the decision would pose a political pitfall for the Trump administration. 

I will update this one.

January 3, 2019

Fred Fletcher 

Update on Volkswagen Diesel Fraud Case

We filed an action in Butte County on May 17, 2018 with the intent of having a jury decide punitive damages. We would be the first party to bring the defeat device case to jury trial.  Peer reviewed studies proved thousands of people with lung diseases died from the fraud.  

 

California Unions Appeal Pension Ruling

Posted by Fred Fletcher on Friday, October 21, 2016 Under: Pensions

SAN FRANCISCO – Four labor union groups in Marin County, California, are asking the state supreme court to reconsider a lower court ruling that would alter pension plans and retirement benefits for public employees currently on the job.

The unions filed an appeal for the California Supreme Court to review a ruling issued in August by an appeals court allowing the state to reduce the amount of benefits offered to workers who are still working.

Pension reform advocates are calling the ruling a win.

"It's critical, to say the least," Citizens for Sustainable Pension Plans Founder Jody Morales told the Northern California Record. "For the first time in recent history, there is a decision questioning the so-called California Rule, an interpretation by previous courts that has allowed the staggering unfunded pension debt that is crippling California."

Public records show that as of 2014, California's unfunded pension debt is about $241 billion.

The unions – the Marin Association of Public Employees (MAPE), the Marin County Management Employees Association, Service Employees International Union 1021 and the Marin County Fire Department Firefighters Association – argue that employees who are currently employed took their jobs with a certain understanding of their retirement benefits.

"Public employees earn a vested right to their pension benefits immediately upon acceptance of employment," lawyers for MAPE said in court. "Such benefits cannot be reduced without a comparable advantage being provided."

The issue began in 2012, after California passed two state amendments creating new rules for county retirement boards in an attempt to curb pension spending. The law specifically targeted "pension spiking," or the practice of inflating income and retirement benefits in lieu of traditional employment benefits such as unused vacation time or bonuses. 

The case in Marin County was to determine whether employees who were already hired with specific pension benefits would have those locked in, or whether the state could reduce them. 

In August, a state appeals court ruled against the unions, arguing that the law only requires municipal governments offer "reasonable" pensions. Reducing pensions and pension spiking does not violate the "reasonable" expectation, the court found.

"While a public employee does have a 'vested right' to a pension, that right is only to a reasonable pension,'" a judge said in the August opinion. "Not an immutable entitlement to the most optimal formula of calculating a pension."

Morales said this decision could create a domino effect throughout the state.

"It will give all California counties, municipalities and special districts the ability to adjust prospective unearned benefits to make them sustainable and to avoid accumulation of more unfunded debt," she said.

Read more here. 

In : Pensions 


Tags: california  supreme court  appeals  pension  employees  unions 

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