State workers cannot be denied promotions simply because the government lacks the money to pay them, the state's highest court ruled yesterday.
Instead, government agencies must reclassify deserving employees and go through the state budget process if they need more money to pay them. Citing a state fiscal crisis and hiring freeze is no reason to freeze promotions, the judges wrote in upholding a lower court ruling.
Though the decision is limited to three employees of the comptroller, it puts the state on notice that it has to follow its own regulations in dealing with its workers, said Janet M. Anderson, spokeswoman for the Maryland Classified Employees Association, which represents 13,000 workers.
It is the second such notice. This spring, the Court of Appeals declined to rule in a similar case. It let stand a Court of Special Appeals opinion that said about 34 administrative law judges were entitled to promotions despite the state's contention that it could not pay them higher wages. They could be eligible for about $500,000 in back pay.
But the three auditors in the comptroller's office will share only about $6,000 for one year of back pay, from April 1992 to April 1993,said the lawyer, Barry C. Steel. Only employees who filed grievances are eligible.
He took a swipe at the administration of then-Gov. William Donald Schaefer, who in 1990 directed all agencies to cut budgets to cover a shortfall. He said the administration allowed agencies to try to circumvent state regulations and several delayed reclassifying workers.
Gerald Langbaum, assistant attorney general for the comptroller, said that if the agency does not have money for the back pay, it would seek a supplemental budget appropriation.
Pub Date: 6/07/97