“Charter” Counties Allowed to Unilaterally Recoup Employee Overpayments
March 5, 2021 by Christopher HammerGenerally, California employers can only deduct salary overpayments from an employee’s paycheck with the employee’s consent or with a court order obtained through the wage garnishment process. But a California appellate court has now ruled that a “charter” county is exempt from the state’s wage garnishment laws and can rightfully recover an overpayment by unilateral payroll deductions after providing notice to the employee. (Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs v. County of Los Angeles, 2021 Cal. App. LEXIS 75, 2021 WL 302487.)
The California Constitution recognizes two types of counties: general law counties and charter counties. General law counties adhere to state law; charter counties, on the other hand, have a limited degree of “home rule” authority.
The Court here reasoned that under the “home rule” doctrine, a charter county has the exclusive right to regulate matters relating to employee compensation, which includes the recovery of overpayments.
California’s chartered counties include Alameda, Butte, El Dorado, Fresno, Los Angeles, Orange, Placer, Sacramento, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, and Tehama.
While this decision is limited to public employees of chartered counties, and consistent with the rule for state employees, it is a significant break from the rule for private-sector and other public-sector employees.
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