HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) _ Connecticut has withdrawn an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court challenging a ruling that former Gov. John Rowland’s administration violated the constitutional rights of 2,800 state employees it laid off in 2003, state Attorney General George Jepsen said Monday.
Jepsen said he withdrew the appeal — but preserved the right to refile it in the future– based on a request for settlement talks by the State Employee Bargaining Agent Coalition, which filed the 2003 lawsuit that led to the appeal. The suit claimed the workers were laid off based on their union membership.
The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York City ruled in May that the Rowland administration violated the 2,800 state workers’ right to freedom of association and ordered a lower federal court, which had found in the administration’s favor, to decide on an award for the employees. Jepsen then asked the nation’s highest court to review the 2nd Circuit ruling.
The appeals court also ruled that the unions and plaintiff employees could pursue civil penalties against Rowland and his then-budget director, Marc Ryan, individually.
Rowland and his lawyers have said the case could have national implications because it would have a chilling effect on governors and local officials during labor negotiations. (WTIC note: Rowland is currently a talk show host on WTIC NewsTalk 1080)
Jepsen and David Golub, a lawyer for SEBAC, said there have been no real settlement talks in the case over the past decade. They also said there could be several more years of litigation if the Supreme Court refused to hear the state’s appeal and the case went back to U.S. District Court to determine an award for the laid-off employees.
“Given the potential fiscal stakes involved here, it would be particularly irresponsible not to explore the possibility of an equitable resolution,” Jepsen said in a statement.
Golub said the affected workers have been waiting 10 years for a resolution to the case, and it makes sense to see if a settlement can be reached to avoid more years of waiting.
Many of the 2,800 laid-off workers were later rehired when other employees left state jobs. But many of the rehired workers didn’t get their old jobs back and received less pay.
Union officials claimed the layoffs were retaliation for refusing to bow to the administration’s demands.
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