The state Appellate Court Monday dismissed an appeal the town filed after a Superior Court judge ordered the rehiring of four laid off Public Works employees.
Monday's ruling means that the town is now responsible for back pay for the employees, which could be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, a union official said.
In July 2010 the five employees were laid off as part of budget cuts. But union officials said that was illegally done because of a stipulation in a 1992 Public Works agreement with the town that said no PW employees could be laid off as long as the town has an outside contractor handling the town's recyclables.
The union filed a grievance with the state Board of Mediation and Arbitration after the 2010 layoffs and was successful. The town then filed an appeal in Superior Court and lost that, and then filed an appeal with the Appellate Court.
That appeal was dismissed Monday. The town's only option now is to file an appeal with the state Supreme Court.
Chief Administrative Officer Curt Balzano Leng said the town will be issuing a statement on the decision today.
"This is great victory for four guys who got laid off two years ago," United Public Service Employees Union regional director Wayne Gilbert said.
"We told the town council several years ago when they took this action that they would lose and they didn't listen," said Gilbert. "We submitted a grievance and won the grievance, then they said they would appeal to the state Superior Court and we told them they would lose that too, and they did.
"The town then decided to go to the state Appellate Court and they just lost that," he said. "Where do they stop spending taxpayers money foolishly and sit down with the union and do the right thing?"
Before the 1992 stipulation, the Public Works Department was responsible for the handling of recyclables. When the town then decided to hire an outside contractor to take care of those duties, the union agreed, with the stipulation that no Public Works employee could then ever be laid off.
But in the spring of 2010, as the town grappled with the continuing economic downturn, the mayor and the Legislative Council approved a budget that eliminated the four positions.
The union immediately objected but couldn't come to terms with the town, Gilbert said.
"We were willing to make concessions then and they didn't," he said, and now the town will have to pay.
"My guess is it will conservatively cost a few hundred thousand dollars plus attorney's fees," Gilbert said. "If they don't comply, we will go to the state Superior Court and get double damages -- now that we have an Appellate Court decision, if they don't appeal, then that's exactly what we can do."
But a source close to the situation disputed that figure, saying that three of the employees continued working for the town at the Board of Education.