Schultz v. Regents of University of California

Decision Date03 October 1984
Citation160 Cal.App.3d 768,206 Cal.Rptr. 910
Parties, 20 Ed. Law Rep. 632 David SCHULTZ, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. REGENTS OF the UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA (sued herein as University of California at Davis Medical Center, University of California, State of California), Defendants and Appellants. Civ. 21825.
CourtCalifornia Court of Appeals Court of Appeals

Kronick, Moskovitz, Tiedemann & Girard and Thomas C. Hughes, III, Sacramento, for plaintiff and respondent.

SIMS, Associate Justice.

In this case we hold, among other things, that the trial court improperly granted summary judgment requiring defendant Regents of the University of California (hereafter University) to provide plaintiff a hearing in connection with the reclassification of his job. We conclude plaintiff failed to show the job reclassification deprived him of a property interest sufficient to invoke federal constitutional guarantees of due process of law. In so holding we clarify our prior opinion in Ng v. State Personnel Bd. (1977) 68 Cal.App.3d 600, 137 Cal.Rptr. 387. We also conclude that People v. Ramirez (1979) 25 Cal.3d 260, 158 Cal.Rptr. 316, 599 P.2d 622, which sets forth a test for invocation of procedural due process rights under the state Constitution (where a statutory interest is subject to deprivation), should not be extended to this case, which implicates no statutory interest. Rather, we conclude Skelly v. State Personnel Bd. (1975) 15 Cal.3d 194, 124 Cal.Rptr. 14, 539 P.2d 774 continues to define the circumstances in which procedural protections of due process will be afforded employees of public entities who can show no statutory interest subject to deprivation.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Plaintiff, a cytotechnologist, is a permanent full-time employee of the University of California at Davis Medical Center. He had been employed since 1976 in the position of Hospital Laboratory Technician III.

In June 1980 the personnel department at the Medical Center began a classification study of jobs in the Hospital Laboratory Technician series. The purpose of such a study is to compare the duties and responsibilities of classified jobs with the duties and responsibilities of other classified jobs. Such studies occur periodically throughout the University to help assure equitable and consistent relationships among all job responsibilities and classifications. As a consequence of such a study, jobs may be classified upward or downward or reassigned outside an existing "series" (here the Hospital Laboratory Technician series). Plaintiff's job was one of 53 jobs studied.

In 1980, the personnel department recommended reclassification of approximately one-third of the positions in the Hospital Laboratory Technician series, including that held by plaintiff. Plaintiff's job was to be reclassified from Hospital Laboratory Technician III to Hospital Laboratory Technician II.

Section 290.2 subdivision (b) of the University's Staff Personnel Policy 290 specifically provides that the procedures set forth in the policy shall be applicable to complaints regarding position classification. Staff Personnel Policy 290 generally provides that complaints about a job classification shall be submitted in writing to the Personnel Manager and thereafter, upon request, to the Chancellor "whose decision shall be final." No hearing is provided. 1

Plaintiff requested a full hearing on the reclassification of his job. The request was denied, and petitioner ultimately appealed to the Chancellor, who denied his appeal.

After the reclassification, plaintiff continued to perform the same job he had previously done; his salary remained the same. The only effect of the reclassification was to "redline" plaintiff's salary--to freeze it at its then-current level until the salaries of others in the new classification rise to equal his. Plaintiff has conceded that the reclassification was not disciplinary in nature.

Plaintiff filed a petition for a writ of mandate in Sacramento County Superior Court alleging three causes of action and seeking (1) reinstatement as Hospital Laboratory Technician III, and (2) reclassification as Hospital Laboratory Technician IV. Plaintiff and defendant filed cross-motions for partial summary judgment on plaintiff's first cause of action, which alleged a denial of procedural due process of law.

The trial court granted plaintiff's motion for partial summary judgment on his first cause of action, finding that plaintiff has a property interest in his job, that such interest embraces his classification as Hospital Laboratory Technician III, and that plaintiff was entitled to a full due process hearing on the reclassification of his position.

On appeal, 2 defendant contends that (1) reclassification did not deprive plaintiff of an interest protected by procedural due process; and (2) the record demonstrates no lack of procedural due process. We reach only the first of these contentions and reverse.

DISCUSSION
I

Before addressing plaintiff's contention he was constitutionally entitled to a full hearing, we examine whether any statute, University rule, or written policy specified plaintiff was entitled to the hearing he seeks.

University Staff Personnel Policy 280, governing "Employee Grievances," expressly provides for a full due process hearing for an employee subject to "demotion." Although plaintiff concedes his job was not reclassified as a punitive measure, he contends his job reclassification was a de facto "demotion."

However, we conclude plaintiff was not demoted. The University's personnel policies expressly define demotions and reclassifications differently. 3 Moreover, the difference between demotions and reclassifications is one of substance. When an employee is demoted, job classifications remain static and the employee travels downward on the fixed matrix of defined jobs. This downward movement creates the ready inference that the employee's performance has been less than satisfactory. And an inference of unsatisfactory performance may be a stigma that may burden the employee's ability to work in the future.

By way of contrast, the process of job reclassification undertaken by the University does not focus on the performance of individual employees. Rather, that process compares the prescribed duties of different jobs. The University's process of job reclassification does not permit a reasonable inference that an employee has performed his or her job in an unsatisfactory manner.

We conclude the reclassification of plaintiff's job was not a "demotion." Therefore, plaintiff was not entitled to review of the reclassification under Staff Personnel Policy 280. Staff Personnel Policy 290, which does not provide an adversary hearing, applied to plaintiff's grievance. Apart from Staff Personnel Policy 280, neither party has cited any statute or rule granting plaintiff a hearing on his grievance, nor are we aware of any.

II

We next address plaintiff's contention the due process clause of the Fifth Amendment to the federal Constitution mandated that he be given a hearing.

A

It is clear that a public employee has a number of qualitatively different protectible interests that entitle him or her to the protection of procedural due process of law under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the federal Constitution before a public employer may violate the interest. (See, generally, Tribe, American Constitutional Law (1978) § 10-9, pp. 514-522.) "Under the due process guarantees of the federal Constitution ... a public employee is entitled to due process upon termination from employment if either 'property' or 'liberty' interests are implicated. (Arnett v. Kennedy (1974) 416 U.S. 134 [94 S.Ct. 1633, 40 L.Ed.2d 15]; Perry v. Sindermann (1972) 408 U.S. 593 [92 S.Ct. 2694, 33 L.Ed.2d 570]; Board of Regents v. Roth (1972) 408 U.S. 564 [92 S.Ct. 2701, 33 L.Ed.2d 548]; Skelly v. State Personnel Bd. (1975) 15 Cal.3d 194 [124 Cal.Rptr. 14, 539 P.2d 774].) In addition, and without regard to the existence of a property or liberty interest, procedural and substantive safeguards attach to termination for reasons which deprive the employee of other constitutional rights, such as freedom of speech (e.g., Mt. Healthy City Board of Ed. v. Doyle (1977) 429 U.S. 274 [97 S.Ct. 568, 50 L.Ed.2d 471] )." (Figueroa v. Housing Authority (1982) 131 Cal.App.3d 528, 531, 182 Cal.Rptr. 497.)

In the instant case, plaintiff presented neither facts nor legal argument to the trial court suggesting that the reclassification of his job had affected any "liberty interest" 4 or that the reclassification had been undertaken as a reprisal for plaintiff's exercise of any constitutionally protected rights. Rather, the parties presented the case to the trial court as one involving the limited question of whether plaintiff had a property interest in his job classification sufficient to invoke procedural due process requirements under the doctrine of Skelly v. State Personnel Bd., supra, 15 Cal.3d 194, 124 Cal.Rptr. 14, 539 P.2d 774. We limit our discussion of federal due process to the issue tendered to the trial court; i.e., whether plaintiff showed he had a sufficient property interest to invoke federal due process guarantees.

The status of federal procedural due process was summarized by our Supreme Court in Skelly v. State Personnel Bd., supra: "In Board of Regents v. Roth (1972) 408 U.S. 564 [92 S.Ct. 2701, 33 L.Ed.2d 548], the United States Supreme Court 'made clear that the property interests protected by procedural due process extend well beyond actual ownership of real estate, chattels, or money. [Fn. omitted.]' (Id., at pp. 571-572 [92 S.Ct. at p. 2706, 33 L.Ed.2d at p. 557].) Rather, '[t]he Fourteenth Amendment's procedural protection of property is a safeguard of the security of interests that a person has already acquired in specific benefits. These interests--property interests--may take many forms.' (Id., at p. 576 [92 S.Ct. at p. 2708...

To continue reading

Request your trial
25 cases
  • County of Sutter v. Davis
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals Court of Appeals
    • 23 Septiembre 1991
    ...rules adopted by the United States Supreme Court for invocation of federal due process rights." (Schultz v. Regents of University of California (1984) 160 Cal.App.3d 768, 780, 206 Cal.Rptr. 910.) It is also true that the California Supreme Court, on occasion, has concluded that article I, s......
  • El Dorado County v. Schneider
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals Court of Appeals
    • 22 Julio 1986
    ...rules adopted by the United States Supreme Court for invocation of federal due process rights." (Schultz v. Regents of University of California (1984) 160 Cal.App.3d 768, 780, 206 Cal.Rptr. 910.) On occasion, our Supreme Court has concluded due process of law requires a trial by jury in cer......
  • County of El Dorado v. Schneider
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals Court of Appeals
    • 13 Mayo 1987
    ...rules adopted by the United States Supreme Court for invocation of federal due process rights." (Schultz v. Regents of University of California (1984) 160 Cal.App.3d 768, 780, 206 Cal.Rptr. 910.) On occasion, our Supreme Court has concluded due process of law requires a trial by jury in cer......
  • Elijahjuan v. Superior Court of Los Angeles Cnty.
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals Court of Appeals
    • 17 Octubre 2012
    ...304 [treating an order compelling arbitration as a petition for writ of mandate]; see also Schultz v. Regents of University of California (1984) 160 Cal.App.3d 768, 788, 206 Cal.Rptr. 910 [treating purported appeal from denial of summary judgment as petition for writ of mandate].) To dismis......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT