Volume 21, Issue 1 | January-February 2021
News from Oakland City Attorney
Barbara J. Parker
BJP new
This month:

  • Golden State Warriors will pay $1.2 million to reimburse the City of Oakland, Alameda County, and the Joint Powers Authority for legal fees and costs incurred in defeating the Warriors’ campaign to escape their agreement to pay longstanding debt
  • City Attorney resolves complaints alleging that Southwest Airlines violated Oakland’s Sick Leave Law, enters into settlement agreement
  • Court affirms City Attorney injunction ordering Humanist Hall owners to cease repeated and continued violations of COVID-19-related public health orders

Dear Friends and Fellow Oaklanders:

City Hall remains closed during California's statewide Shelter-in-Place order to slow the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) and preserve critical health care capacity. For up-to-date information and resources, see the Alameda County Public Health Department website or the City's COVID-19 information page.

I hope you are staying healthy and safe during these unsettling times.

As always, I invite your comments and thoughts about the newsletter and our Office’s work.
Golden State Warriors will pay $1.2 million to reimburse the City of Oakland, Alameda County, and the Joint Powers Authority for legal fees and costs incurred in defeating the Warriors’ campaign to escape their agreement to pay longstanding debt

On February 19, the City of Oakland, County of Alameda, and Joint Powers Authority (JPA) approved a settlement of many years of costs and fees incurred in fighting the Golden State Warriors’ efforts to escape the debt they have always owed these public entities. This settlement follows the California Supreme Court’s December 2020 decision denying the Warriors’ final attempt to overturn an arbitration decision which found that the Warriors could not escape the tens of millions of dollars of debt they owe the local government entities for renovations to the Oakland-Alameda County Arena.
More than two decades ago, as is typical to finance large projects, the County and the City issued bonds worth over $140 million to pay to renovate the sports arena. They did so in reliance on and assuming the good faith of the Warriors, who agreed to help repay that debt over decades. When the Warriors chose to leave Oakland several years ago, they also attempted to leave their unpaid debt behind. In August of last year, the Court of Appeal rejected the Warriors’ claim that their obligation to pay the debt ended when they chose to leave Oakland and ordered them to comply with the terms of the agreement. Despite evidence of a shared agreement and shared understanding starting as far back as 1996, the Warriors nonetheless required the local governments to spend precious time and money over many years to enforce the terms of the agreement through arbitration, the superior court, the court of appeal, and their petition seeking review by the California Supreme Court.

I am pleased that the Warriors have finally agreed to start paying their debts. Their many years of dodging their responsibilities and dragging local governments through unnecessary litigation are over. Now it is past time for them to start repaying the local governments that spent years fulfilling our part of the agreement to renovate the arena and support the team. And make no mistake: this settlement is only a down payment. We look forward to the Warriors fully satisfying their obligations to their former home—and their loyal fans.
City Attorney resolves complaints alleging that Southwest Airlines violated Oakland’s Sick Leave Law, enters into settlement agreement

On December 28, 2020, the Oakland City Attorney and Southwest Airlines Company (Southwest) entered into a pathbreaking settlement agreement resolving alleged violations of Oakland’s municipal sick leave law at Oakland International Airport (OAK). The City Attorney’s multi-year investigation into Southwest’s leave policies and practices led to this agreement, which: (1) restores rightfully earned sick leave hours to Oakland ground crew employees; (2) ensures that Southwest’s practices fully comply with Oakland’s sick leave law going forward; (3) requires that Southwest pay civil penalties; and (4) allows Oakland ground crew employees to use their union’s grievance procedures for any adverse employment consequences that flow from Southwest’s non-compliant prior policies.
My office initiated an investigation of Southwest’s practices in 2017, when City officials received complaints that the airline’s sick leave policies at OAK violated Measure FF, Oakland’s Minimum Wage and Sick Leave Law. Complainants alleged that some of Southwest’s OAK-based employees were not accruing sick leave as required by Oakland’s law, and that Southwest had unlawfully “zeroed out” (i.e., taken away) their accrued sick leave at the end of each calendar year. The City’s Department of Workplace and Employment Standards completed an initial thorough investigation, and then referred the complaint to my office for legal analysis and continued investigative collaboration. After we advised Southwest of our findings, we negotiated extensively with the airline to resolve the legal violations.
This settlement is crucial, because the law is clear: Oakland-based employees have a right to paid sick leave. Now more than ever, during a global pandemic, access to lawfully-guaranteed sick leave is not a luxury—it’s a legally guaranteed and often life-saving necessity. This settlement serves as a notice to all employers in Oakland that the City of Oakland takes workers’ complaints seriously—and that the City Attorney will enforce Oakland workers’ rights under our laws. And I am grateful for our cross-departmental partnership with Oakland’s Department of Workplace and Employment Standards during the investigation.
The settlement applies to Southwest ground crew employees based at OAK, including ramp agents, operations agents, provisioning agents, freight agents, aircraft mechanics, ground mechanics, customer service agents, material specialists, and certain ground crew employees not represented by a union. Under the Settlement, Southwest must:
1. Modify its existing sick leave policies to ensure that earned sick leave hours are carried over from the prior year, subject to a 72-hour cap, and ensure that Southwest’s policies comply with Measure FF on an ongoing basis;

2. Restore earned sick leave hours that were “zeroed out” from Oakland ground crew employees on a one-time basis, subject to a 72-hour cap;
3. Make a payment of $53,000 in civil penalties to the City; and
4. Allow ground crew employees to initiate any grievance procedures for discipline or discharge related to Southwest’s policies for up to 45 days following the execution of the Agreement.
The investigation and settlement highlighted the importance of a 2014 ballot initiative that Oakland voters overwhelmingly passed (“Measure FF”). Measure FF entitles Oakland-based employees to paid sick leave: specifically, Oakland employees are entitled to accrue one hour of paid sick leave for every thirty hours worked. Under Measure FF, businesses with ten or more employees must allow employees to accrue up to 72 hours of paid leave that can carry over year to year, and employees must be able to use their leave to care for themselves, close family members, domestic partners, and/or another person so designated by the employee. Measure FF applies to all employees who in a particular week perform at least two hours of work in the City.
At this challenging time, as the ongoing public health crisis has multiplied the economic crisis, my office is ever more committed to protecting workers’ crucial right to paid sick leave.
Employees and employers may visit https://www.oaklandca.gov/topics/measure-ff-and-measure-z or call (510) 238-6258 for more information about Oakland’s Minimum Wage and Sick Leave Law. Individuals may also visit https://www.oaklandca.gov/services/file-complaint-minimum-wage-paid-leave-service-charge to submit a complaint regarding suspected violations of Oakland paid sick leave to the Department of Workplace and Employment Standards.  
Court affirms City Attorney injunction ordering Humanist Hall owners to cease repeated and continued violations of COVID-19-related public health orders

On January 8, 2021, the Alameda County Superior Court denied requests to dissolve the city’s injunction against the owners and managers of Humanist Hall, which had been holding large, illegal events for months in violation of local and state public health orders. The court also refused to grant the various orders requested against the City. The court affirmed that, despite the City’s efforts to work collaboratively with the Hall through summer and fall 2020 to bring them into compliance with the law, including through conversations, warnings, notices, and fines, the Hall’s owners and managers refused, including by downplaying the seriousness of the global pandemic of COVID-19. With the court’s issuance of the full preliminary injunction in January, Humanist Hall must start to comply with the same public health orders that govern all residents, businesses, and others in Alameda County.

Since March 2020, the City of Oakland has operated under various local and state emergency, shelter in place, and other public health orders with the purpose and effect of limiting and preventing the spread of the dangerous and sometimes deadly disease of COVID-19. Despite those orders, Defendants operated a business in repeated, flagrant, and knowing violation of local and state public health orders, including hosting parties and events for untold numbers of people and allowing partygoers and event-goers to pack into their indoor space without masks or social distancing. The City tried to help Defendants comply with public health orders through courtesy letters, warnings, a notice of violation, fines, and conversations, but Defendants chose to continue. Even after I filed the lawsuit and request for a temporary restraining order against them, they continued to assert that the public health crisis was a hoax and that the city and county had no power to require them to comply with public health orders.
I am grateful that this injunction will protect Black, Latinx, Asian and other people of color, people with disabilities, and other communities that have historically been marginalized and victimized by discrimination and who have borne the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic. When people and organizations like the Defendants in this case refuse to comply with public health orders, they are further endangering communities that are already suffering disproportionate harm.
Phone (510) 238-3601| Email info@oaklandcityattorney.org | Home www.oaklandcityattorney.com