In a case handled by Mark Meyerhoff and Connie Almond of our Los Angeles office, the California Court of Appeal, in an unpublished decision, affirmed a trial court's ruling sustaining a demurrer and dismissing retaliation claims filed by two police managers.
During a police management association meeting, the police managers disagreed on whether the association should join with the rank and file police association for labor negotiations. One of the police captains allegedly made statements to the others deterring them from voting in favor of joining the rank and file police association. The association members voted and ultimately split on the issue.
Subsequently, the two police managers unsuccessfully tested for promotion. One of them received an "above standards" rather than an "outstanding" performance evaluation rating.
The police managers then sued the City alleging retaliation in violation of the Meyers-Milias-Brown Act and Labor Code section 1102.5. They alleged that the City had retaliated against them because of their vote during the association meeting. The superior court sustained a demurrer dismissing all of the claims because the employees had failed to file a grievance prior to filing their lawsuit.
When an agency provides an internal administrative remedy, an individual must generally exhaust those remedies before filing suit. Here the City's MOU with the police management association included a grievance procedure. The grievance procedure defined a grievance as any matter involving a dispute about the interpretation or application of a City ordinance, rule, or regulation governing personnel practices. The Court noted that the City's ordinance prohibited employees from abusing their position in order to influence another's job promotion and prohibited discrimination based on political opinions or affiliations. Moreover, the Municipal Code prohibited employees from using their office or employment to discriminate against someone for any corrupt reason. The Court of Appeal unanimously held that the police managers' claims fell within the scope of the grievance procedure, and their failure to exhaust the grievance procedure precluded them from filing their lawsuit in court.