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Lawyers union says California gives too many state jobs to retirees

The union alleges that California bends the rules to hire retirees to fill legal positions because they are cheaper and require less training.

LOS ANGELES (CN) — The union representing legal professionals employed by California sued the state because too many legal jobs at state departments, agencies, boards, and commissions are allegedly given to retirees rather than to rank-and-file state employees.

California Attorneys, Administrative Law Judges and Hearing Officers in State Employment, or CASE, filed a lawsuit Tuesday in Fresno against the California Department of Human Resources, seeking a ruling that the the state is skirting its own rules when it comes to hiring retirees for positions that statutorily should go to rank-and-file employees.

CASE, which represents about 4,500 legal professionals employed by the state, claims that California relies on so-called retired annuitants to fill jobs because they are cheaper, in so far as the state doesn't have to pay pension contributions and many employee benefits that can add as much as 64% to the costs of hiring rank-and-file employees, and because they don't require as much training.

"RAs almost invariably are employed to work at the department from which they retired, and typically served at that department as a rank-and-file employee for many years." according to CASE. "As a result, RAs do not require any training, any orientation or onboarding, and are generally able to be productive workers from the first day of employment as an RA. As such, departments perceive the use of RAs as more attractive in the short term than hiring and training new employees."

A spokeswoman for the Department of Human Resources said she's unable to comment on pending litigation.

California currently employs at least 173 persons as retired annuitants in legal positions, distributed amongst at least 50 state departments, the union said.

There are state laws, however, that limit the hiring and reliance on retirees, according to the union. Retired annuitants are supposed to be temporary positions, but the Department of Human Resources has allowed departments to employ them indefinitely, according to the complaint. Departments also can't hire a retired annuitant until at least 180 days after their retirement, but the department hasn't enforced this condition either, the union said

In addition, the retiree must have specialized skills needed to perform the jobs for a limited period, according to the union.

"CalHR has refused to enforce the requirement that departments show that their RAs have any specialized skills that do not exist among rank-and-file state employees and has refused to enforce the requirement that RAs be employed for only a limited duration," the union claimed. "CASE seeks to end the unlawful employment of RAs — at least as to attorneys and judges — and obtain from this court an interpretation of state law regarding the proper employment of RAs."

The union is asking for the court to find that the Department of Human Resources' interpretation of the meaning of "limited duration" and "specialized skills" is contrary to state law.

The union is represented by Patrick Whalen in Sacramento.

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