Reporting from Sacramento — A state judge on Thursday 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.
An October report from the state Senate said 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 current pay rate for prison guards. Correctional workers had also accrued 1 million hours of unused vacation through August.
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.
Thursday's ruling was not the first legal setback for the Schwarzenegger administration over the issue of furloughs.
A San Francisco Superior Court judge ruled earlier this year that workers at the State Compensation Insurance Fund should be exempt from the order. Judge Charlotte Walter Woolard said those workers were due back pay plus interest.
Three other challenges to the furloughs are pending in Alameda County Superior Court. Roesch is the presiding judge in each case.