An independent arbitrator will consider next week whether eight Montgomery County government employees were laid off in retaliation for concerns they raised about their manager.
The positions, in Technology Services, are scheduled to be eliminated after June 30 under the fiscal 2012 budget approved Thursday by the County Council.
Employees were notified March 15 that their jobs were being eliminated -- after they complained to upper management and union leaders over a 10-month period, said one of the employees, Nick Myers.
He said an arbitrator is expected to hear from the employees Monday or Tuesday, and could rule on the same day as the hearing.
The employees are represented by the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1994/Municipal and County Government Employees Organization.
County officials say they are unsure how many county government employees will be laid off this year, as efforts are still under way to place workers whose positions are being eliminated in available jobs.
Myers said no such efforts were being made to place the employees from Technology Services in other county government jobs.
Calls to E. Steven Emanuel, chief information officer, who oversees the department, were not returned. Myers’ supervisor, Lucrezia “Jaz” Burris, also could not be reached.
Eight of the 10 employees that Burris manages are scheduled to be laid off. The employees allege in their complaints that they were targeted because they belong to a union.
The employees filed a grievance through their union in which they allege they were not paid for overtime work, were subjected to a new work schedule that was not part of collective bargaining and were given poor performance evaluations after receiving good reviews under a previous supervisor.
One employee claims that Burris told him he gave off an odor and sprayed air freshener near his work station.
The employees also signed a petition of “no confidence” in their manager for what they described as preferential treatment of Burris.
Emanuel said in April that the layoffs were justified.
“Our search for work opportunities found no immediate fit for these employees,” Emanuel said in a May 2 memo to Councilwoman Nancy Navarro (D-Dist. 4) of Silver Spring, who chairs the council’s Government Operations and Fiscal Policy Committee.
Navarro asked during an April committee meeting that officials work to find jobs for the employees.
Council President Valerie Ervin (D-Dist. 5) of Silver Spring said she has concerns about the issue, but that it largely is up to the union to work on behalf of the employees now.
“I was very dismayed when I heard the employees say that people in (Human Resources) were telling those gentlemen laid off that they don’t even qualify to work in the liquor warehouse,” Ervin said.