LAPD Officers Win City of Los Angeles’ Lawsuit for Reimbursement of Academy Training

When a police officer resigns from the force shortly after completing training, can he or she be required to reimburse the city for the costs of attending the police academy? The answer is no – an answer the City of Los Angeles learned the hard way. (See In re Acknowledgement Cases, 239 Cal. App. 4d 1498, decided August 12, 2015.)employment lawyer

In the early 1990s the City experienced a high attrition rate amongst officers of the Los Angeles Police Department. In an attempt to mitigate the costs of turnover, the City enacted an administrative code provision that required officers to pay a prorated portion of the cost of their required training at the Los Angeles Police Academy if they voluntarily left the force within sixty months of graduation, and were hired by another law enforcement agency within one year of leaving. New officer recruits were required to sign an acknowledgment of this policy.

The City brought suit against a series of officers for reimbursement of academy training expenses under this provision. With many pending cases on the same issue, the City agreed that the rulings on the enforceability of the acknowledgment for one case would apply to all pending acknowledgment cases. The trial court ruled in the City’s favor, finding the acknowledgements to be enforceable against the officers. The officers appealed.

The Fourth Appellate District examined the administrative reimbursement provision under the California Labor Code, which provides that employers must indemnify employees against the necessary expenditures or losses incurred in the discharge of the employee’s duties. (Cal. Labor Code § 2802(a)). While no cases had directly resolved the issue of whether training was such a necessary expenditure, the appellate court nonetheless determined that it could be. Training required under state law (such as Peace Officer Standards and Training) was not mandated by the employer, and therefore the court found that it was not an expense of employment. The Los Angeles Police Academy, however, had training which exceeded the state requirements of POST. That portion of training was found to be an expense of employment for which the City could not seek reimbursement from recruits.  

It is interesting to note how the First Appellate District resolved a similar question a mere five months after the Acknowledgement opinion. In USS-Posco Industries v. Floyd Case (244 Cal. App. 4d 197, decided January 26, 2016) the employee had enrolled in a voluntary training program offered by the employer. This, too, was subject to a written reimbursement agreement, which the employer later sued to enforce. Because the voluntary training program was not an expense “necessarily incurred” in the discharge of Mr. Case’s duties, the First District held that the Labor Code did not preclude its reimbursement.

Based upon the current case law, the determination of whether or not a training program is reimbursable by the employee appears to be a fact-specific analysis of whether the employer required the training or not. Contact the Nassisi Law Group with any questions about the reimbursement of training expenses. Our employment lawyers represent employers and employees in Los Angeles and Orange County to ensure compliance with legal rights in the workplace.

Contact the employment attorneys at Nassiri Law Group, practicing in Orange County, Riverside and Los Angeles. Call 714-937-2020.

Additional Resources:

LAPD broke labor laws in requiring some officers to to repay trianings costs, court rules, August 16, 2015, by Hailey Bronson-Potts, LA Times

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Will Cities and Counties Soon Investigate Discimination Claims in California?, May 28, 2017, Employment Lawyer Blog