OPEN MEETINGS -- The fact that most people working for local government agencies in California are "employees at will"subject to dismissal for any or no reasondoes not deprive them of the right to 24-hour written notice when the governing body of their agency proposes to discuss complaints or charges against them in closed session, the California Court of Appeal has ruled.
In its opinion filed April 30 in Kent v. Don Pedro Community Services District, the Fifth District Court of Appeal dealt with two district employees, General Manager Robert D. Kent and Treasurer Kimberly L.Topie, who were dismissed by the board of directors at an open and public meeting, and who sued alleging, among other things, that they had not been given the advance written notice required by the Brown Act. That statute requires, in Government Code Section 54957 (b) (2):
This notice was not provided, the employees said.
The Fifth District ruled that the employees could proceed in the trial court to try to prove the violations they alleged, and in doing so rejected the notion that, as employees at will, they had no right to the notice of complaints and charges.
It makes no difference that Kent and Topie were at-will employees. The relevant provisions of the Brown Act make no distinction between at-will employees and other employees. All local agency employees have the rights described in section 54957, subdivision (b). Section 54952.2, subdivision (b)(1), applies to all business within the local agency's jurisdiction. There is no exclusion for personnel matters concerning at-will employees.
Contrary to the district's view, there is no "conflict" between section 54957, subdivision (b)(2), and statutes on at-will employment, such as section 61050, subdivision (d), and Labor Code section 2922. There is no reason why a statute, such as the Brown Act, cannot give certain rights to employees who are terminable at will. There are many examples of statutes which do just that, such as antidiscrimination laws.