Laid-off workers sue for jobs, back pay pTC Suit says Baltimore County broke rules


Forty-four of the 392 Baltimore County workers laid off in February are seeking reinstatement and back pay through a suit to be filed today.

The suit charges that County Executive Roger B. Hayden did not follow proper procedures in making the layoffs and other job cuts Feb. 11 and 12.

People whose jobs were eliminated were told to leave their offices immediately, though they were given severance pay and help in finding new jobs.

The suit also charges breach of contract, said Towson attorney J. Carroll Holzer, who is representing the group. He said the former high-ranking merit system workers were fired without notice, a violation of their status in the county's civil service system. That lack of notice for workers with an average of 18 years' experience left them no chance to find other jobs in county government.

Mr. Holzer also said the suit raises relatively simple, straightforward legal issues that can be used to give his clients back their jobs and pay. Other suits may be filed later by workers alleging they were fired because of their age, race, sex or political affiliations.

"This is almost a preliminary suit," Mr. Holzer said. "This is the quickest and shortest way to resolve this problem. Forty-four homes, families and children are affected."

Mr. Holzer said he and attorneys Michael P. Tanczyn, Paul Snyder, Jack Sturgill and Howard Kurman would try to consolidate their suit with one the Maryland Classified Employees Association filed last March on behalf of all laid-off workers. A hearing on that suit is scheduled in Circuit Court for Nov. 9.

Janice B. Outen, a former division chief in the county's Department of Environment and Resource Management and one of the complainants, said the combined annual salary of the 44 complainants roughly equals $1.9 million.

She also said 86.5 percent of the supervisors laid off were over 40 -- the average age was 49 -- and 75 percent of the supervisors laid off came from public works and her former unit.

Mr. Hayden repeated his position that his actions were justified and within legal procedures. "People received two to nine weeks' worth of notice, which fits within the charter."

The county's personnel board criticized the layoffs in May and found the Hayden administration violated the county code by not giving workers advance notice they were being laid off. Mr. Hayden has maintained the two to nine weeks of severance pay served as a notice.

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