By Ryan Navarre
CSLEA Senior Legal Counsel
In 2013, eight (8) Napa State Hospital (NSH) Hospital Police Officers (HPOs) attended the Santa Rosa Police Academy for on-duty job required training. Since the Academy was just over 50 miles from their assigned headquarters, Napa State Hospital; pursuant to Article 21.1 of the Memorandum of Understanding, the HPOs submitted Travel Expense Claims for appropriate per diem expenses to include breakfasts and dinners. These travel expense claims ended up amounting to a total of approximately $1,470 per HPO for the duration of their Academy training.
After much back and forth from NSH Management, NSH decided to deny the claims because the shortest distance between NSH and the Academy was less than 50 miles.
This was a unique case because the distance between NSH and the Academy was very close to the threshold amount of 50 miles. Depending on the route taken and the mapping software used to calculate the distance, the mileage could vary by as much as 15 miles.
The Department of State Hospitals argued that the mileage calculation must be calculated in the state’s best interest – which they interpreted as the shortest mileage to the Academy. However, CSLEA pointed out that the shortest distance, in this case not on main highways, actually took a significantly longer time. Furthermore, the HPOs were never instructed to drive a particular route. The HPOs chose to take the quickest route in terms of time, which may not have been the shortest route in terms of mileage. This directly benefited NSH as it limited on-duty travel time to and from the Academy, thereby limiting time worked and overtime.
With the assistance of a couple NSH HPOs who volunteered to video the actual route taken, CSLEA was able to clearly explain that the HPOs actually traveled over 50 miles from their headquarters and were entitled to appropriate per diem. The parties also understood that this issue was unlikely to repeat itself because NSH intended to instruct future HPOs on the precise route to take to the Academy – presumably to choose a route less than 50 miles.
As a result, in February 2015, just prior to Arbitration, CSLEA and the State settled this case. Each of the eight (8) HPOs were to receive a lump sum of $1,470.
If you believe you have been wrongfully denied any business or travel expenses, please contact CSLEA Legal for assistance.