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I am an official court reporter for Orange County Superior Court (California.) All court reporters have had their hours reduced

Corona, CA |

to 35 hours a week, making us "part time" employees from full time as we've always been. Our health care is now being effected as we will be part time employees have our health costs will double as well as what amounts to a 12% pay cut just on the hours cut back. Can they do this? I have been there over 20 years as a full time employee. The county is only doing this to court reporters. All over employee groups have not had this happen to them. I am facing a 1,000 net a month pay reduction.

Attorney Answers 4


  1. Are you a County employee? Are you represented by a union? Most in-court CSRs are both. If so, start with a discussion with your union rep. What you describe is very common at present and in most cases an agreement has been hammered out with the union. If your union has assented, you as an individual are stuck.

    If you are not repped by a union, and you are an employee, check your County's personnel policies and work rules. In public employment, those are more than advisory and cannot be changed at whim by the employer. Most jurisdictions have elaborate procedures in place for lay-offs and work force reductions, and you may have legal rights to enforce those rules and processes.

    But if you are asking the overarching question of can a public entity be forced to retain a workforce that it can not afford and has determined that it does not need, the ultimate and eventual answer is "no." There is legal and lawful process by which the public entity can divest itself of the labor obligation and it is inevitable that CSR's are on the line for this result.

    The public employing entity has the right to treat different employee groups differently. The county need not retain buggy-whip makers because it needs to stay attractive as an employer to IT workers. Over time, this battle will be lost, but it would not surprise me if there were some missteps as the public entity lurches toward its objective.

    In candor, CSRs have had about 20 years actual notice that this day was coming. The sweep of progress in technology is typically ruthless and indiscriminate. CSR lobbyists have been amazingly successful at holding this reckoning off for so many years and there may be substantial additional useful info available to you through your state org.

    My responses to questions on Avvo are never intended as legal advice and must not be relied upon as legal advice. I give legal advice only in the course of an attorney-client relationship. Exchange of information through Avvo's Questions forum does not establish an attorney-client relationship with me. That relationship is established only by individual consultation and execution of a written agreement for legal services.


  2. As someone who appears in the OC Superior Court regularly, and depends on your services, I can fully appreciate the hardship created by these cutbacks. It affects us all. But as Ms. McCall says, this has not come as a surprise. And yes, it is legal, as I am not aware of any contractual or statutory prohibition from cutting back your hours. Nor is it an unlawful practice to target one group over another. This is not a form of unlawful discrimination.

    All we can do is hope that as the state and county rebound from the economic mess we've been in, your hours will be restored. Keep up the good work.

    They say you get what you pay for, and this response is free, so take it for what it is worth. This is my opinion based on very limited information. My opinion should not be taken as legal advice. For true advice, we would require a confidential consultation where I would ask you questions and get your complete story. This is a public forum, so remember, nothing here is confidential. Nor am I your attorney. I do not know who you are and you have not hired me to provide any legal service. To do so would require us to meet and sign written retainer agreement. My responses are intended for general information only.


  3. Everyone in the legal community is suffering from the horrible budget limitations. You have seen it far more intimately than I have . . . hiring freezes, dark courtrooms, temporary closures, reduced hours . . . all of this and more. It is tragic that the shortages so severely affect the court reporters. Evidently this is happening throughout the state because we are getting notices that various courts will no longer supply court reporters and attorneys must make their own arrangements.

    Ideally, you (individually or as a group) or your union would be able to negotiate benefits for part-time employees. This may take collective action, so if you don't already have a union, you may want to consider forming or associating with one.

    If you do not have a union and are not going to be working with one, but want to try to do something about this, for your protection, whatever action you take (if any), please do it on behalf of yourself AND the other employees. It's best if you and at least one other person take the action, but if you cannot get anyone else to join you, make it absolutely clear that what you are doing is on your own behalf AND on behalf of the other employees. This is because employees have a right to concerted activity (acting together, acting "in concert") for things related to wages, hours and terms of employment. This right is guaranteed by the the same law that allows workers to organize into unions.

    Marilynn Mika Spencer
    San Diego

    twitter.com/MikaSpencer *** All legal actions have time limits, called statutes of limitation. If you miss the deadline for filing your claim, you will lose the opportunity to pursue your case. Please consult with an experienced employment attorney as soon as possible to better preserve your rights. *** Marilynn Mika Spencer provides information on Avvo as a service to the public, primarily when general information may be of assistance. Avvo is not an appropriate forum for an in-depth response or a detailed analysis. These comments are for information only and should not be considered legal advice. Legal advice must pertain to specific, detailed facts. No attorney-client relationship is created based on this information exchange. *** Marilynn Mika Spencer is licensed to practice law before all state and federal courts in California, and can appear before administrative agencies throughout the country. She is eligible to represent clients in other states on a pro hac vice basis. ***


  4. As a long time consumer of your services, I would like to echo Michael Kirschbaum's sentiments. I am sincerely sorry you are being so adversely affected by this budget crunch. At least OC has not had to face to closure of ten full courthouses like LA County which even more severely affected your brothers and sisters to the North. Nonetheless, I understand your situation.

    There was a technology company at the State Bar Convention a few months ago that was talking about a pilot project being implemented in one courtroom that would remove reporters altogether from the courtroom to be replaced by a sophisticated system of microphones and video recorders that would sense who is talking and video record whoever is speaking at the time. It was heralded as the courtroom technology of the future which has already been implemented in several state and county courts in other parts of the country. It was pretty impressive.

    I fear that you are an endangered species in the courtroom. It would not surprise me to see most court reporters removed from most courtrooms within the next 15 to 20 years.

    Sorry for the doom and gloom talk. However, I see it may be the reality we will all have to face.

    I wish you the best of luck.

    This answer should not be construed to create any attorney-client relationship. Such a relationship can be formed only through the mutual execution of an attorney-client agreement. The answer given is based on the extremely limited facts provided and the proper course of action might change significantly with the introduction of other facts. All who read this answer should not rely on the answer to govern their conduct. Please seek the advice of competent counsel after disclosing all facts to that attorney. This answer is intended for California residents only. The answering party is only licensed to practice in the State of California.

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