ANNAPOLIS -- The state's highest court is expected to rule by the end of the week on a plea by two labor unions to repeal the 40-hour workweek for about 38,000 state workers, which was imposed July 10 by Gov. William Donald Schaefer.
The seven-member Court of Appeals heard oral arguments in the case for an hour yesterday, directing skeptical questions at attorneys for both sides.
J. Edward Davis, an attorney for the Maryland Classified EmployeesAssociation, which represents 22,000 of the employees, said that he expects a ruling by Friday.
Union lawyers argued that the governor overstepped his authority by issuing an executive order imposing the 40-hour week without legislative approval.
By making no provision to pay employees for the extra hours, the unions said, the order also violated the workers' implied contract and their right to due process.
"Fairness and justice says that if you put in a day's work, you get a day's pay," Mr. Davis said.
Judson P. Garrett Jr., the deputyattorney general representing the governor, said the move saved the state $62 million by permitting it leave 1,800 positions unfilled.
Mr. Garrett said the state, faced with its biggest budget problems since the Depression of the 1930s, implemented the 40-hour workweek to avoid layoffs. He said no state law forbids a longer workweek and pointed out that three bills introduced in the last session of the General Assembly to block the 40-hour week failed to get out of committee.
Before July 10, two-thirds of state workers worked 35 1/2 hours a week, and the rest worked 40.