End governor veto of employment-discrimination claims in California

It seems like a long time since Arnold Schwarzenegger was governor, presiding over an era of gridlock, overdue budgets and multibillion-dollar deficits. As his successor, Jerry Brown has done much to reverse the harms done by the flamboyant and autocratic actor. But there is at least one important holdover from the Schwarzenegger era that Brown needs to address.

A secret policy put in place during the Schwarzenegger administration and continuing under Brown gives the governor the power to veto employment-discrimination claims against public agencies without explanation or disclosure. The practice, recently revealed in a state legislative report, effectively handcuffs the Department of Fair Employment and Housing in public-agency cases and deprives public employees of equal treatment before the law.

The purpose of the review, what standards are applied and how many claims have been denied by governor’s veto have yet to be disclosed. What is clear is that the policy has resulted in a suspiciously steep decline in claims against public agencies, which accounted for 15 percent of DFEH enforcement actions before the policy took effect in 2008, but only 1 percent last year.

We can understand how the Governator might have liked the idea of dismissing sexual harassment, retaliation and other workplace-discrimination claims with a wave of his pen. But Brown, a graduate of Yale Law School and former clerk to the California Supreme Court, should have more respect for due process and the state’s labor laws. The governor should take immediate action to rescind this discriminatory practice.