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Judge Expedites Process to Discipline Deputies

October 15, 2003|Jean Guccione | Times Staff Writer

The union representing 6,200 Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies suffered a double setback Tuesday as a judge affirmed an order banning wildcat strikes by its members and expedited the process for disciplining striking deputies.

Orange County Superior Court Judge John Watson issued a preliminary injunction barring deputies from participating in the illegal sickouts that have plagued the county for the last three weeks.

Watson also refused to stop Sheriff Lee Baca from disciplining deputies who are absent from work.

Despite widespread rumors that the largest sickout to date was planned for Tuesday, all deputies reported to work, according to officials.

"I'm hoping sincerely that the job action has run its course and the deputies want to come back and serve the public," Principal Deputy County Counsel Rick Brouwer said after the hearing.

Baca had threatened to summarily suspend or withhold pay for deputies who stayed home from work as part of a sickout.

That policy came under scrutiny in court Tuesday when attorney Elizabeth J. Gibbons, who represents the Assn. for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs, contended that it would undermine the department's established grievance policy.

She argued that deputies should not have their pay docked or be suspended until they can appeal the decision.

But Watson said the sheriff's emergency policy is designed to send a message to deputies.

"I don't think the board contemplated the sheriff taking away rights," he said.

The judge ordered Baca to extend the same due process rights to deputies disciplined under the new policy, but he said the sheriff could immediately discipline deputies and hear their grievances later.

Watson also said it was reasonable for Baca to reassign his staff on a moment's notice, in violation of his own policy to give deputies five days' notice for scheduling changes.

Hundreds of deputies have had unauthorized absences put on their records since Aug. 25, Gibbons said.

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