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News

Douglas County files lawsuit challenging state’s Collective Bargaining by County Employees Act (COBCA)

Posted on May 7, 2024 2024News and Events

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Douglas County – acting through the Board of Douglas County Commissioners and Douglas County Sheriff Darren Weekly – filed litigation against the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment claiming the 2022 Collective Bargaining by County Employees Act (COBCA) does not apply to the Sheriff’s Office, and therefore the recent Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) petition to unionize the Sheriff’s Office has no merit.

The litigation makes three central claims:

  1. COBCA does not apply to the Sheriff’s Office therefore any petition to unionize Sheriff’s Office employees is inapplicable and invalid.
  2. COBCA is an unfunded mandate thus County compliance is optional.
  3. If COBCA applies to Sheriff’s Office employees, collective bargaining is not applicable to matters governed by other state laws, including the Sheriff’s authority to staff his office and set the pay for his employees.

The complaint, filed in District Court, also alleges that as COBCA is an unfunded mandate by the state, with no reimbursement from the state for complying, thus Douglas County’s compliance with COBCA is optional.

Specifically, the lawsuit contends that statutorily COBCA does not extend beyond county employees and does not include sheriff’s employees and that the County Sheriff is a constitutional office, which is a separate public entity from the County and County Commissioners. COBCA cannot give the County Commissioners collective bargaining authority that usurps the Sheriff’s authority to control the hiring, firing or terms of employment of the Sheriff’s Office employees.

Accordingly, COBCA does not apply to the Sheriff’s Office, and the state has no authority to implement or enforce COBCA with respect to the Sheriff’s Office.

According to the litigation, this conclusion also applies to other separate constitutional County elected officials such as the Clerk and Recorder, Coroner, Treasurer, Surveyor, and Assessor, as well as County Health Department.

The Collective Bargaining by County Employees Act (COBCA) passed in 2022, granting certain county employees collective bargaining rights and imposing related obligations on counties.

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