Legislature(1993 - 1994)
01/25/1994 08:00 AM STA
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 277 - INDEMNIFICATION OF PUBLIC EMPLOYEES Number 032 REPRESENTATIVE BRIAN PORTER presented CSHB 277. He said the committee substitute addresses a number of concerns put forth by the Department of Law. He reiterated comments of last week regarding SEC. 1A and SEC. B. REPRESENTATIVE PORTER further explained that an employer is not required to provide indemnification if that employer feels that the act was outside the scope of employment or as a result of gross negligence or an intentional act. If this is the allegation of the employer and the employer has been dropped from the suit or never was named in the suit, the remedy of the employee it to bring suit if he or she feels that indemnification is still justified under this act. If the employer is named in the suit and still refuses to indemnify, there is a provision for a cross claim by the employee. If the employer takes advantage of the provision that allows for indemnification to the extent of providing a defense for the employee, but reserves the right to indemnify damages until the end of the proceeding, which may or may not establish that there was outside of the scope of gross negligence, they may do so. The employees remedy then is, within one year, to file suit for indemnification under this act. He went on to say the suggestion by the department that an employee must notify his or her employer within ten days can be waived for good cause and cited an example. REPRESENTATIVE PORTER continued with an overview of letters of support, starting with the letter from Kent. E. Swisher from the Alaska Municipal League. In addition, he noted the updated memo from the Anchorage Telephone Utility, a letter of endorsement by Michael Grimes, statewide President of Alaska Peace Officers Association, and a letter from the Alaska Association Chiefs of Police. REPRESENTATIVE PORTER noted the presence of Terry Cramer from the Division of Legal Services, Legislative Affairs Agency. REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY asked Representative Porter if there were other public entities that have a problem in this area. REPRESENTATIVE PORTER said he has been aware of individual employees, who have expressed concern over the years about being vulnerable. He further noted that municipalities change policy, potentially every four years. REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY asked for clarification regarding punitive damages to the employee. Number 207 REPRESENTATIVE PORTER said that it is not a requirement under this legislation, but it also does not preclude it. He further stated that a labor contract or any other policy may provide for punitive damages, but it is not mandated by this bill. Number 261 REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY referenced the Fairbanks ordinance outlining indemnification. He noted the importance of local self-determination, and voiced a concern about usurping that. He asked if there was a provision to allow a municipality's ordinance to supercede state law in cases of indemnification. Number 317 REPRESENTATIVE PORTER responded by saying that as a sponsor of the bill, he did not have a problem with language that would defer to the codification of public employee indemnification that exceeds what is outlined in HB 277. REPRESENTATIVE PORTER asked Representative Gary Davis, as a former municipal official, if he had a problem with HB 277. REPRESENTATIVE G. DAVIS said he supported the bill. Number 346 REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY asked Representative Ulmer if she had anything to share regarding this legislation, as a former municipal official. REPRESENTATIVE FRAN ULMER responded by saying she supports the policy goal of statewide uniformity that the bill puts forth. She asked for clarification in cases of age, race or specifically, sexual harassment cases. Number 361 REPRESENTATIVE PORTER reiterated the provisions in the bill regarding gross negligence, the options of the employer and the employee, in a situation where they do not agree on indemnification. Number 368 REPRESENTATIVE ULMER asked Terry Cramer if she had any comments or insights on how the employer would proceed, internally, whether or not they should provide counsel. Number 407 TERRY CRAMER, DIVISION OF LEGAL SERVICES, said that it would be up to the individual public employer to follow whatever procedures they have established for those kinds of decisions. Number 412 REPRESENTATIVE G. DAVIS echoed comments made by Terry Cramer: the individual employer usually has a sexual harassment policy in place which outlines procedures to deal with decisions regarding sexual harassment. He pointed out that though wording in the bill defining "scope of employment" and "good faith" can be subject to interpretation, in sexual harassment cases, there is most often a separate policy specific to that issue. Number 432 REPRESENTATIVE PORTER followed up by saying that "scope of employment" and "good faith" have generally accepted definitions. Number 443 REPRESENTATIVE ULMER moved to adopt CSHB 277 Number 450 CHAIRMAN VEZEY called for a roll call vote. CSHB was MOVED out of committee with a unanimous vote.