AB 1655: “Public Employees Bill of Rights” is Resurrected

AB 1655—titled the “Public Employees Bill of Rights Act”—was introduced by Assemblymember Dickinson on February 14, 2012. The bill purports to change from three years to one year the statute of limitation to take disciplinary action against a state employee. The bill also provides state employees a variety of other protections such as priority over outside contractors and non-union state workers to fill permanent, overtime and on-call positions. The bill is sponsored by SEIU Local 1000 and the Union of American Physicians and Dentists.

AB 1655 immediately received a lot of press as an example of overreaching by public employees. According to the Sacramento Bee, Assemblymember Dickinson’s office justified the bill as simply extending the protections in the Peace Officer Procedural Bill of Rights and the Firefighter’s Bill of Rights to state employees. However, the truth is that AB 1655 goes far beyond the protections given to police officers and firefighters.

Moreover, AB 1655 is not new.  It is (as far as I can tell) an exact replica of AB 1744 which was introduced by Assemblymember Portantino during the 2009-2010 legislative session. I authored a prior blog post (click here) on AB 1744 describing how it went far beyond the existing protections for police officers and firefighters. Nothing has changed.

As I said in my prior post on AB 1744, there are legitimate public policy arguments in favor of a one-year statute of limitation for disciplinary action against an employee.  However, to be fair the one-year limitations period must run from when the employer discovers, or reasonably should have discovered, the alleged misconduct; not when the misconduct actually occurred. As written, AB 1655 gives employees an incentive to hide misconduct and actually rewards fraudulent behavior. For reasons unknown to me, AB 1744 never advanced to the Governor. Hopefully this bill will not either.

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