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Merced County Sheriff’s Employees’ Ass'n v. County of Merced

Court of Appeal of California
233 Cal. Rptr. 519 (1987)


The County of Merced (County) (defendant) contracted with Merced County Sheriff’s Employees’ Association (SA) (plaintiff) and Merced County Professional Firefighters’ Association Local 1396 (FA) (plaintiff) regarding salary increases. Both contracts said the parties would conduct a nine-county survey of deputy salaries and the “percentage differentials” would be used to determine the average salary for those positions. Wage increases would be based on percentages of “said average,” with the percentages applied to “the actual differential determined by the survey.” The FA contract contained additional language, basing wages on a percentage of the “Deputy Sheriff II average in the survey area.” County representative Gregory Wellman calculated the projected wage increase as a percentage of the 13.66 percent differential in pay between Merced deputies’ average wage and the nine-county average. A handwritten note from Wellman stated “% Difference (13.66) x .90 = 12.294.” County attorney William Gnass told the FA the purpose of the language was to keep their salary 5 percent below the deputies’ salary. Gnass said that the percentage for wage increases would apply to average salaries determined in the survey, not the differential in salary. After the contracts were signed, the parties disagreed about their meaning. The SA and FA argued that the percentage increases applied to the differential between the deputies’ salary and the nine-county average salary. The County argued the percentages applied to the nine-county average salary. The SA and FA sued the County.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Franson, J.)

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