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socrateaser, Lawyer
Category: California Employment Law
Satisfied Customers: 39139
Experience:  Retired (mostly)
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My name is XXXXX XXXXX I am a nuclear security officer

Customer Question

My name is XXXXX XXXXX I am a nuclear security officer with PG&E at Diablo Canyon. I’m contacting you with hopes that you can provide an unbiased legal determination in regards XXXXX XXXXX alternative work schedules. Our union (SEIU) attorney’s and the company (PG&E) attorney’s have already weighed in on this and both have agreed but due to some internal “in-fighting” amongst the officers themselves the issue continues to cause controversy. I’m hoping with an external, unbiased legal opinion we can settle this issue once and for all. Ultimately what I'd like to get is a legal opinion on typed legal letter head that will provide a professional interpretation of State law so that it carries some credibility, more so than a "just answer" attorney said...etc. For this I will tip an extra $100. The issue at hand is our Collective Bargaining Agreement section, 10.3 states, “Company may establish with the Union’s written concurrence, workweeks of four workdays of ten hours each and three non-workdays. The Company will adhere to the process outlined for presentation and implementation of alternative shifts contained in the California labor code.” California labor code 514, states, “Sections 510 and 511 do not apply to an employee covered by a valid collective bargaining agreement if the agreement expressly provides for the wages, hours of work, and working conditions of the employees, and if the agreement provides premium wage rates for all overtime hours worked and a regular hourly rate of pay for those employees of not less than 30 percent more than the state minimum wage.” Essentially our labor contract defers to the California Labor Code and California Labor Code defers back to our labor contract so there is a question about the proper implementation of an alternative work schedule. A previous attempt to convert to an Alternative Work Schedule failed because our ex-Chief Union Steward enforced a 2/3 vote with a non-vote being a no vote making it nearly impossible to ever get the approval of nearly 300 officers. His interpretation is that we, the union, have to follow the requirements of California Labor Code 511 but that the company does not. The company attorneys have already stated that the company is ultimately exempt from the requirements of following California Labor Code 511 because we have a valid collective bargaining agreement in place and ultimately it is the valid collective bargaining agreement that will govern our working conditions. Essentially because a non-union, standard alternative work schedule is approved by the state and ours is not, the requirements of CLC 511 and therefore the 2/3 vote do not apply because we will only be voting for a change to our collective bargaining agreement and that we should use standard union voting procedure of 50%+1 of cast ballots. I’m really hoping that since you’re an unbiased party, that this will settle any further “in-fighting” amongst the security officers on the proper way to conduct a proper alternative shift vote. I’m paying for this myself and hope that you can draft up a letter to explain your determination on the proper voting requirement that should be used. Our meeting with the company is next week and this is something that we’ve promised the company would be resolved prior to that meeting, so a quick response would be very much appreciated. Thank you for your time and attention to this and hopefully this is something that you can help us out with.

Submitted: 4 years ago.
Category: California Employment Law
Expert:  socrateaser replied 4 years ago.

No one here can give you a written opinion on their letterhead outside of this forum. That would be practicing law, and since is not a law firm, it's legally prohibited.

If you want me to give you an opinion here, compete with supporting case law (if any exists), I'll be happy to do so, but that's as far as it goes.

Thanks in advance.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Completely understood and I already have a "just answer" opinion and supporting case law but I really do need something outside of "just answer" with a letterhead, etc. I guess I'll contact a local attorney to do this but was wondering if any other attorney's outside of the "just answer" might be willing to do this for a fee.

Expert:  socrateaser replied 4 years ago.
Very few attorneys are willing to write an objective memorandum of law, because (1) it places them in the position of providing a client with an opinion that can be used against the lawyer, if things go badly (because attorneys are not legally permitted to limit their liability for errors and omissions in advance); (2) most attorneys are weak researchers, and/or do not have sufficient access to the materials necessary to form an objective opinion; and (3) most clients are unwilling to pay for the work, because writing an opinion such as you describe could take an entire day, and at $300-plus per hour, that's $2,400 or more in fees for a written opinion which may be no more than 2-3 pages long.

There is one place, however, where you can get an opinion for free (hopefully this is worth something to you): The California Divison of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE) issues private opinion letters on important questions of California Labor Law.

A request for a legal opinion must be submitted by letter to the Chief Counsel of the Labor Commissioner and must contain a statement that there is no California decision or prior DLSE opinion on point and that you have actively researched the subject matter on the DLSE website, including the DLSE Enforcement Policies and Interpretations Manual found on the website. The request must also contain a statement that the opinion is not sought in connection with anticipated or pending private litigation concerning the issue addressed in the request nor is the opinion sought in connection with an investigation or litigation between a client or firm and the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement.


All such requests for a legal opinion which comply with the above requirements should be submitted to:

Chief Counsel
Division of Labor Standards Enforcement
P.O. Box 420603
San Francisco, CA 94142

Hope this helps.