Clark County officials used favoritism and other improper reasons in laying off 19 Development Services employees last year and must reinstate them with back pay and benefits, according to a state labor board ruling released Monday.
In a 16-page statement, the Local Government Employee-Management Relations Board chastised county managers, saying they misused the exemption that lets them keep some of the less-senior workers in a department.
The labor contract generally calls for the most junior employees to be laid off first and the most senior ones last.
The county must re-hire the workers at the same level of seniority and give them back pay and benefits covering the period of the layoff, from June 2009 until today . Jobless benefits and other earnings that workers received in that time would be deducted from the sum, the order states.
"The evidence and testimony presented at the hearing indicated that the entire layoff process was tainted when the county did not follow the proper layoff procedure," the board stated. "The County considered favoritism of certain employees."
Commissioner Steve Sisolak said the ruling was "lose-lose" for both sides because the county must lay off more than 19 workers to recoup the back wages and benefits it will pay out.
"Those workers get their jobs back, and others lose their jobs," Sisolak said.
County and union leaders wouldn't comment Monday on the board's written order, nor would they estimate the lump sum the county might pay.
"We're certainly eager to see the county's plan and how they plan to remedy the situation," said Nick DiArchangel, spokesman for the Service Employees International Union Local 1107.
The county could appeal the labor board's decision to a judiciary body, though officials haven't indicated that they will.
Last year, as layoffs loomed in the Development Services' civil division, the county and union agreed that a portion of less-senior workers could be exempt from layoffs if they had crucial knowledge, training and certifications.
Robert Thompson, the agency's assistant director, oversaw exemptions. Thompson refused to exempt an experienced employee who challenged his opinions and another whom he described as "easily excitable" and another who was at the top of the wage scale, the labor board wrote.
None of those reasons complied with the agreed-upon guidelines, the board wrote. Thompson also appeared to know little about workers' certifications and seemed more concerned about who to get rid of rather than who to keep. Sisolak said the system for laying off and exempting workers is complex and probably tripped up supervisors.
"It's too complicated," he said.