CORTE MADERA, CA - JULY 10: A California Department of Motor Vehicles customer peers into the door of a closed DMV branch July 10, 2009 in Corte Madera, California. As California struggles with a $26-billion budget imbalance, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger declared a state of emergency earlier this month and has ordered three work furlough days per month leaving most state offices closed today. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
A state appeals court has temporarily reinstated furloughs of three days per month for more than 70,000 state workers.
The Court of Appeal order restores the furloughs mandated by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger until the court rules on his appeal of an Alameda County Superior Court decision ending the unpaid days off.
The 70,000 workers are about one-third of all of the approximately 200,000 state employees who were put on furlough last year by Schwarzenegger in response to the state's budget crisis.
They work for agencies that receive most or all of their funding from sources other than the state general fund, such as from special fees or from the federal government.
The court order stayed a ruling in which Alameda County Superior Court Judge Frank Roesch last week blocked the furloughs.
Roesch ruled in a lawsuit filed by the Service Employees International Union, which represents most of the workers in the group.
SEIU attorney Felix De La Torre noted that the stay is not a ruling on the merits of the case, but rather an interim action to keep the status quo in place during the appeal.
De La Torre said, "It says nothing about the merits of the appeal. It is a precautionary action to give the justices time to make a decision."
SEIU Local 1000 President Yvonne Walker said, "We will continue to aggressively fight these furloughs - which have already been found illegal by a trial court - until our workers are back at their jobs and receiving full pay."
Schwarzenegger spokesman Aaron McLear said, "We asked for a stay and got it."He said the administration was pleased with the order.
The 70,000 employees work for 66 so-called "special fund" state agencies including the Department of Motor Vehicles, Caltrans, Public Utilities Commission, Employment Development Department, Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board and Parks and Recreation Department, among others.
The appeals court set no date for hearing the appeal, but ordered the Schwarzenegger administration to file additional documents by Friday and the union to file an opposing brief by April 7.
Schwarzenegger originally mandated two furlough days per month beginning in February 2009 and increased the number of days to three in July, resulting in a 15 percent pay cut for the workers.
The furloughs occur on the first three Fridays of each month and the next furlough day is April 2.
Roesch ruled in December that Schwarzenegger violated a state law by not considering the needs of the non-general-fund agencies when he set the furloughs.
In a second decision last week, Roesch said that ending the furloughs immediately, before the appeal is completed, was justified because of the potential harm to the workers and taxpayers.