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.
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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.
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
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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.
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