Judge's ruling keeps hopes alive for laid-off county workers

August 31, 1994|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,Sun Staff Writer

An article Wednesday incorrectly reported the name of the labor group pursuing a lawsuit on behalf of 112 Baltimore County employees laid off in February 1993 by County Executive Roger B. Hayden. The Baltimore County Federation of Public Employees now represents the employees.

The Sun regrets the error.

The twisting legal trail that Baltimore County's laid-off workers are following in trying to regain their jobs got even more convoluted yesterday in county Circuit Court.

Judge John F. Fader II, who has been considering two parallel suits filed by two groups of former workers since mid-July, said he will:

FOR THE RECORD - CORRECTION

* Send the cases of 13 workers back for a rehearing before the Personnel and Salary Advisory Board.

* Hold a new hearing Oct. 5 on a suit by 112 former workers represented by the Maryland Classified Employees Association to determine if the county breached their contract.

The legal fate of 31 supervisory workers who never appealed their layoffs to the personnel board but who are included in one of the suits was less certain. Attorneys for the county and the workers said they expect a court hearing to be set to decide their status.

Judge Fader said he does not believe any court can order the workers rehired to jobs that no longer exist. But it is possible compensation could be ordered if the suits are successful, he said.

The layoffs of nearly 300 county workers were made in February 1993 by County Executive Roger B. Hayden. Some workers have been rehired, while others filed suit. Mr. Hayden insisted then that the layoffs were needed to deal with a financial crisis brought on by the recession.

The workers say there never was a financial crisis, that Mr. Hayden used the situation to get rid of workers his administration disliked.

Judge Fader said he will issue a written decision declaring that the 13 workers who did appeal to the county personnel board should get a new hearing because the board did not decide the issue it should have.

In a May 1993 decision, the five-member board criticized Mr. Hayden's methods in conducting the layoffs but declared that since it had no power to restore people to jobs that no longer existed, there was no reason to hear the cases. Since then, the board's membership has changed, and it is now led by T. Bayard Williams, 82, a strong Hayden supporter and mentor.

Judge Fader said the board was wrong and should have heard the evidence and decided if the county law was followed or not.

Despite a county law which says personnel board decisions cannot be appealed to court, case law shows they can be, he said.

Both sides said they were happy with the rulings. J. Carroll Holzer, one of several attorneys representing the workers, said Judge Fader treated them better than he indicated he might in July, when he seemed ready to throw the suits out of court.

And Deputy County Attorney Virginia W. Barnhart said she is pleased because the judge did not uphold constitutional or other grounds for the suits. "We're confident the PSAB will find no error in the process," Ms. Barnhart said.

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