November 14, 2017

Fulton County court employees sue government for back pay

Fulton County Court

On November 10, employees of five Fulton County courts filed a lawsuit in Fulton County Superior Court against the Fulton County government claiming that they were unfairly kept out of the county’s new pay and classification system when it debuted in 2015. Notably, about 300 judicial workers would be affected by the lawsuit, and payments could exceed $4 million.

The class action calls for Superior, State, Probate, Magistrate, and Juvenile court employees to be moved to the new pay scale, which was approved after intentional pay disparities cost the county millions of dollars.

According to Attorney Lee Parks, “Judicial department workers were initially given new salary ranges under the plan. But after a political dispute between county leaders and some court employees, those judicial workers were not moved to the new, higher pay scales.”

In this regard, a spokesperson for Fulton County said that the county did not comment on pending litigation. But earlier this year, in a dispute about whether judicial employees should receive a living wage increase that other employees were getting, the then Fulton County Commissioner, Bob Ellis, said that the court had opted out of the county’s payroll system. Ellis said, “I’m empathetic to employees, but it was the court’s decision not to participate.”

Saying that judicial workers should have been included, the suit also cites the living wage increase.

According to Parks, “county rules only allow for one pay and classification system for employees. By keeping judicial workers on the old system and moving other county employees to a new one, the county is violating its own requirements.”

Parks then said, employees are not getting equal pay for equal work. Since the new system was implemented at the end of 2015, Parks estimated that Fulton would owe workers about $2 million a year in back pay, plus interest, until judicial workers were put on the same system.

Parks the quoted, “They’re treating civil servants differently. You can’t.”

Because the new pay system is in place for non-judicial workers, Parks said that he did not anticipate any more disagreements about pay, once this one had been settled. Going forward, he said, would be “smooth sailing” for the county.

Regarding the judicial workers, Parks said, “You can’t not include them. As the county is excused from many services, the courts and the jail system are the biggest thing they do. The justice system is the biggest piece of Fulton County now.”

Fulton County has witnessed several such similar cases earlier as well in 2003, 2014, and 2015.

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