Westinghouse workers who were fired win case

June 01, 1995|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,Sun Staff Writer

The Court of Special Appeals yesterday ruled that 33 former Westinghouse Electric Corp. employees are entitled to unemployment benefits for the 60 days between the receipt of their layoff notices in 1992 and their last day at work.

The ruling stems from Westinghouse's decision to lay off 33 managers, professional workers and nonunion employees at its Electronic Systems Group facilities and to alert them with notices issued when they arrived for work on Oct. 30, 1992.

The notices, required as part of the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, said the employees' last day on the job would be Dec. 30, 1992, and that until then they were to keep their supervisors "abreast of their whereabouts."

The employees filed for unemployment and were challenged by Westinghouse, which argued they were not entitled to the payments for the two-month period they were drawing checks from the company.

Westinghouse filed suit in Anne Arundel Circuit Court after a Department of Economic and Employment Development hearing examiner ruled in 1993 that the employees were entitled to the compensation.

Jack Martin, a Westinghouse spokesman, yesterday called the ruling disappointing.

"We're disappointed, but it will not mean any changes in our company's polices or procedures," he said.

After announcing the layoffs, Westinghouse set up an Employee Resource Center, with fax machines, job listings, resume writing assistance, job counselors and telephones, to help the 33 workers find jobs, according to the opinion.

Although use of the center was not mandatory, "attendance was suggested," the opinion said.

The DEED hearing examiner ruled that the payments made to the workers during their final 60 days with Westinghouse were dismissal payments, not wages, and that they were entitled to unemployment benefits for that stretch.

The DEED ruling was upheld by Anne Arundel Circuit Court Judge Lawrence H. Rushworth, and Westinghouse appealed that decision.

The Court of Special Appeals upheld the lower court, saying the payments were not wages because no services were rendered by the workers. "The activities performed at the Resource Center were not intended to benefit the corporation," Judge Ellen Hollander wrote.

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