An Anne Arundel County judge today ruled that Gov. William Donald Schaefer had the authority to order state employees to work 40 hours a week.
The ruling by Circuit Court Judge Raymond G. Thieme Jr., which union leaders said they would promptly appeal, could force thousands of state employees to work an eight-hour workday beginning tomorrow instead of the 7.1-hour workday now required of them.
Schaefer mandated the longer workweek in February to save money. About half of the state's 80,000 contractual and non-contractual employees work 35 1/2 hours a week under a 1942 personnel policy.
Lawyers for the Maryland Classified Employees Association and Council 92 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, two unions representing thousands of state workers, argued that the governor violated a contract by calling for the longer hours without compensation.
Judge Thieme ruled that no contract exists and that state workers are salaried employees. He dismissed the suits.
Union representatives said they will ask Robert C. Murphy, chief judge of the state Court of Appeals, to stay Schaefer's executive order until the appeal is heard.
"We're extremely upset that the judge didn't rule in our favor," Joseph Cook, acting director of MCEA, said today. "The morale of state employees is extremely low."