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Judge rules furloughs invalid for prison guards [Updated]

December 17, 2009 | 12:07 pm

A state judge today struck down Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s furloughs of correctional officers, who have been working on furlough days and banking the unpaid time off.

Judge Frank Roesch of Alameda County Superior Court ruled that the governor’s furlough order violated state law. He ordered the state to pay the prison workers for the unpaid hours they have worked. 

To save money, Schwarzenegger last summer began furloughing for three days a month nearly every category of state worker.

 “We’re gratified by the affirmation of the court that the governor was violating wage and hour laws,” said Lance Corcoran, a spokesman for the California Correctional Peace Officers Assn., which filed the lawsuit. “In essence, you can’t expect people to work for free.”

Furlough days are not supposed to be cashed out; workers were ordered to take the days off before June 2012. 

Corcoran said he expected the Schwarzenegger administration to appeal the decision. Administration officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment. [Updated at 2:42 p.m.: Schwarzenegger spokeswoman Rachel Arrezola said the administration would appeal the judge’s decision. “The governor does not believe that state workers should be shielded from the same economic realities that every California family and business is facing,” she said.]

An October report from the state Senate said that workers in the prison system had banked 1.5 million unused furlough hours in the first seven months of the program. Those hours are worth $52 million at the pay rate for prison guards. Correctional workers had also accrued 1 million hours of unused vacation through August.

-- Shane Goldmacher in Sacramento

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