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Employers doing business with the county of Los Angeles need to have a civic conscience — even if that means a bigger budget. On Tuesday, L.A.’s 2nd District Court of Appeal upheld a 2002 ordinance that forbids contracting with companies that don’t pay their employees for at least five days of jury duty. Chicago-based Burns International Security Services Corp., the largest security firm in the United States, had challenged the county ordinance, saying it was pre-empted by state law and violated the California Constitution, which prohibits local entities from enforcing regulations outside their territories. The 2nd District disagreed. “There is no evidence that the county is attempting to enlarge its powers or regulate outside its boundaries under the guise of seeking bids for security services,” Justice Daniel Curry wrote. “It is simply specifying the type of employer with which it wishes to do business.” Justices Norman Epstein and J. Gary Hastings concurred. According to the ruling, Los Angeles County enacted County Code Chapter 2.203 on Feb. 26, 2002, to prevent companies from reducing or eliminating compensation to employees for jury duty. The county said that businesses refusing to pay for jury duty reduced the juror pool, created a financial hardship for their employees, and put a burden on other employers, such as the county, who pay permanent, full-time employees who fulfill their civic responsibility. Burns, awarded two contracts in 2000 to provide security for facilities owned by the county’s Department of Public Works, was incensed when its contracts were given to another company in 2003. Burns had offered to provide jury duty pay to employees working on the county contracts, but not to the rest of its employees throughout California. The company, which has 58,000 employees in six countries, estimated that it would cost as much as $1 million to provide paid jury leave to all its California workers. L.A. County Superior Court Judge Marilyn Hoffman had upheld the ordinance based on Alioto s Fish Co. v. Human Rights Commission of San Francisco, 120 Cal.App.3d 594, a 1981 1st District ruling that OK’d a San Francisco law requiring the city’s non-discrimination ordinance to be incorporated into all employers’ leases involving city land. The appeal court affirmed. “The court’s holding in Alioto s turned on whether the ordinance represented an exercise of the city’s contracting power or its regulatory power,” Justice Curry wrote. “Because the ordinance ‘merely prescribed certain provisions in city contracts,’ and its remedies were contractual in nature and ‘inured primarily to the city’s benefit,’ the court concluded it was an exercise of contracting power.” Tuesday’s ruling is Burns International Security Services Corp. v. County of Los Angeles, B168209.

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