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Lebanon County heads to court over employee firings

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Lebanon County has appealed an arbitrator's ruling that it must rehire dozens of employees it laid off in a cost-cutting move earlier this year.

In a lawsuit filed Aug. 5, Board of Commissioners Chairman William Ames said the county appealed the ruling that nullified the layoff of about 40 people from Cedar Haven nursing home in Lebanon when the county decided to save between $500,000 and $650,000 by privatizing dietery services at the facility it operates.

The county will abide by the arbitrator's decision through the court process and rehire the employees who want to come back, Ames said, but added the county is "very confident" it can win the appeal.

Ames said at last check there are about five former employees still enrolled with state unemployment who likely will take advantage of the offer. Other employees who retired, were assigned elsewhere in the county or took other jobs outside county government are also eligible to return, though Ames said he doesn't expect many of those employees to do so.

Those who do come back will have the same wages and seniority levels as when they left, but they will not receive back pay, Ames said.

"That was not part of the arbitrator's ruling," he said.

The commissioners in December decided to subcontract dietary services at the nursing home to Culinary Services Group of Westminster, Md., and the changes took effect in February.

According to the arbitrator's decision handed down in July, the county acted out of the boundaries of the collective bargaining agreement with the local chapter of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union representing the workers. The decision stated the county must hire back the employees by Sept. 15.

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