Almanac

News - February 27, 2013

Lawsuit over Atherton layoffs is dismissed

by Renee Batti

At the request of the Teamsters union, the town of Atherton and the union have agreed to dismiss the lawsuit filed against the town in July 2011 over the layoffs of 11 employees in the building and public works departments.

In filing the lawsuit, the union had argued that because the town was going to outsource the work being performed by the permanent employees targeted for layoff, the action was illegal under California law. The town maintained that its actions were allowed under the employees' contract.

A San Mateo County Superior Court judge in August 2011 denied the union's request for an injunction halting the planned layoffs, and nearly all of the town's represented employees were then sent on their way with pink slips. But the union continued the legal battle against the town, citing provisions in Government Code 37103 and 53060.

Explaining the union's decision to move for a dismissal, which the town had to agree to, Peter Finn of Teamsters Local 856 told the Almanac: "We stand by the merits of the suit, and would not hesitate to pursue similar legal action against another city that chose to outsource city services. When the judge failed to grant the injunction to stop the layoffs, the town employees subject to the layoffs moved on with their lives, making pursuing the case a moot point."

Mr. Finn talked to the Almanac during a quick break in a negotiation session, and had to rush off before he could explain why the union decided to drop the lawsuit at this time rather than earlier.

In a prepared statement, Atherton Mayor Elizabeth Lewis said: "The decision to lay off town employees was difficult, but one that was necessary to balance the town's financial picture. We are grateful that the lawsuit is now concluded and that the town can focus on continuing to provide quality services to our residents in a cost-effective manner."

Town attorney Bill Conners and his assistant worked on the town's defense, and City Manager George Rodericks said the work was covered by Mr. Conners' retainer fee, so was done at no additional cost to the town.

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