Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger was dealt a setback Monday when a Superior Court judge in San Francisco tentatively ruled that the 6,260 employees of the state Compensation Insurance Fund are exempt from furloughs the governor imposed in February.

They are due back pay plus interest, Judge Charlotte Walter Woolard ruled.

She said state law exempts the fund’s employees from the governor’s order, adding that “a ‘furlough’ reduces the availability of staff and constitutes a ‘staff cutback.’ ”


The judge will hold a hearing today before finalizing her ruling in the lawsuit, which was filed by the Service Employees International Union Local 1000.

“This is another crack in the governor’s illegal furlough scheme,” said Yvonne Walker, president of the local, which has filed five lawsuits challenging Schwarzenegger’s furlough of more than 200,000 state employees three times a month.

Schwarzenegger ordered the furloughs to help balance the state’s budget.

-- Patrick McGreevy