Maryland's highest court has upheld a Circuit Court ruling that four Baltimore County social services workers were properly classified as part-time despite their claims that they were essentially full-time employees.
The workers argued in a November 2002 lawsuit that the county was circumventing its merit system -- and the county charter -- by labeling them part-time even though they worked just one hour less per week than their full-time counterparts. At the time of the suit, part-timers received fewer benefits than full-time employees.
Baltimore County Circuit Judge Dana M. Levitz dismissed the lawsuit last July, and on Monday, the Maryland Court of Appeals upheld that decision and gave credence to the way the county uses part-time employees.
"There is nothing in the relevant portions of the Charter to suggest that in order to classify someone as a non-merit employee, their job function must be different from the job function of those classified as merit employees," Judge Clayton Greene Jr. wrote in the court's unanimous decision.
Theresa Hill, director of the Office of Human Resources, said the county tries to make sure employees -- whether part-time or merit -- understand their conditions of employment before accepting a job.
"We're pleased that the court agrees that the policies and procedures we have are in keeping with county code and employment laws," she said.
Robert L. Pierson, the lawyer for the four employees, said yesterday that he was "disappointed with the outcome." One of the litigants, Julianne O'Connor, no longer works for the county. The other three, Julianne Uehlinger, Janice Zimmerman and Gail Jett, are still employed there, Pierson said.
Ken Allen, chairman of the Baltimore County Supervisory, Management and Confidential Employees -- a group that advises part-time employees -- said the workers showed "exceptional courage" in filing their lawsuit.
"They really had not much to gain beyond the principle," he said.