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Wednesday, October 21, 2009 - 6:08pm

State Worker Sues Georgia Over Pay

In Georgia, a lawsuit has been filed on behalf of a state employee. William Estill, who filed the complaint, claims state workers were promised raises, but never got them.

In 2008, the Georgia legislature approved a 2.5 percent pay raise for thousands of state workers. But a couple of months after those increases were to have taken effect, the legislature and Governor Sonny Perdue agreed to defer them.

Bert Brantley, the governors spokesperson, says shrinking revenues and a worsening economy made it impossible for the salary increases to go forward as planned.

"We just could not afford the raises that had been approved back when the economy was better," says Brantley.

Brantley says the legislature and the governor have full authority to amend the budget via an amended budget later in the year.

"The budget act it is not in any way meant to be the final spending act of the year. There is always changes made to the budget depending on what the economy is doing and what revenues are doing.”

But Wilber Owens, who is representing Estill, disagrees. He says the state made a contract with state employees, and it cannot amend the contract once it has already been approved.

"Under the state's analysis, you could work for them all year and instead of taking off 2.5 percent from your salary, they take off 99 percent. They are saying they have a unilateral right to change your salary whenever they want. ”

Owens is seeking class action status in the Estill case.

Similar suits have been filed around the country.

In Maine, the State Employees Association is suing the state over frozen pay.

In New Jersey, unions representing about 100,000 public employees are suing to stop state furloughs.

A similar lawsuit has also been filed in California.

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