Female state workers sue over change to...


Female state workers sue over change to 40-hour week

Two female state employees have filed a complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging that a plan to lengthen the state workweek from 35.5 hours to 40 hours discriminates against women.

Meanwhile, state workers yesterday lost their last chance for a legislative reversal of the longer workweek order by the governor.

The longer workweek would hurt more women than men because women make up a larger percentage of the affected work force, said William Bolander, executive director of Council 92 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. The two women who filed the complain are AFSCME members.

"It creates special hardships on women, many of whom are single parents," Bolander said. Many women will have to make additional day-care arrangements because of the longer workweek, he said.

Bolander identified the women who filed the complaint as Gloria Chawla, a University of Maryland College Park employee, and Connie Powell, a State Highway Administration employee.

Gov. William Donald Schaefer has signed an executive order to increase the standard workweek for state employees to 40 hours. Currently, about two-thirds of the 65,000 state workers are scheduled for 35.5-hour weeks.

A bill by Del. Clarence Davis, D-City, originally mandated a 35.5-hour week. But a heavily amended version, which was given tentative approval yesterday in the House, requests that the governor study alternative methods of implementing the longer workweek.


The Senate, without debate, yesterday narrowly approved a heavily lobbied insurance bill that would penalize companies that delay paying claims.

In other action, the Senate turned back an attempt to force a bill out of committee that would allow legislative auditors to look at the books of private foundations affiliated with Maryland universities and colleges.

The Senate also continued yesterday what has become one of the 1991 session's most heated debates over a campaign bill.

The insurance bill was sent to the House of Delegates on a 24-22 vote. The measure was strongly supported by the state's trial lawyers and just as vigorously opposed by the insurance industry.

The bill would allow consumers to seek punitive damages in court against insurers that balk at paying off claims. Supporters insist that the measure is necessary to make insurers comply with their obligations.

The industry argued that the measure would undercut efforts to fight fraud. The bill would send a signal to insurers to pay all claims, even if they are of a suspicious nature, opponents argued. They also complained that the bill would eventually result in higher premiums and could threaten the solvency of many smaller insurance companies.

Meanwhile, the Senate rejected a rare attempt to overturn an action of one of its committees.

Last week, the Economic and Environmental Affairs Committee killed a bill by Sen. Julian Lapides, D-City, that would allow legislative audits of foundations associated with public institutions, primarily universities and colleges.

Lapides moved to reverse the committee's action but was rebuffed on a 20-26 vote.

Supporting Lapides' move was Sen. John A. Cade, R-Anne Arundel, who said, "If these foundations don't have anything to hide, then I don't understand why they are so opposed."

He said recent scandals involving foundations connected to Frostburg State University and the State Games program were evidence of a need for independent examinations of such foundations.

Opposing the reconsideration move was Sen. Clarence W. Blount, chairman of the committee that killed the bill. He said sufficient safeguards exist to prevent abuse of foundation funds and warned that passage of the bill could have a chilling effect on foundation fund-raising efforts.

The Senate also continued its heated debate over a bill that would forbid lawmakers to raise campaign money during the 90-day session. The measure essentially would write into state law an unwritten legislative rule imposed by General Assembly leaders three years ago.

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