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Workers claim layoffs based on age

Ben Godar

Ten of the 12 city employees whose positions are expected to be

eliminated as part of next year’s budget cuts are of retirement age,

and some of them say they’re being forced out for that reason.

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The cuts are part of a move by city officials to make up an

anticipated $9.5-million deficit in the 2003-04 budget. Each

department head was instructed to cut 10% from their respective

budgets, and Management Services Director John Nicoll said the

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resulting recommendations eliminated a total of 62 full-time

positions.

Fifty of those positions were vacant, and all but two of the

remaining positions were staffed by employees above the minimum

retirement age of 50, Nicoll said.

The positions were eliminated based on how department heads

thought they could best provide services, but Nicoll said some might

have been looking to eliminate higher salaries.

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“It wasn’t set out to do it by age, it just ended up that way,” he

said. “If you have to cut 10%, do you cut 20 entry-level people or

four management people?”

Ellen Tanner, 60, a library services manager for the Burbank

Library, said she and other employees are being singled out because

of their age.

“If these were true layoffs, they would be done based on

seniority,” Tanner said.

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Those older than 50 are being offered a retirement package equal

to the retirement benefits from two additional years of service,

Nicoll said. Employees being laid off generally only receive two

weeks of pay, he said. Last week, however, the City Council opted to

fund the positions of the two employees not being offered a

retirement package for an additional six months.

Tanner said she has not decided whether to accept the retirement

offer because she would waive her right to file a claim against the

city.

While Tanner and other employees, who asked not to be named, said

they think their dismissals are being misrepresented as voluntary

retirements, Nicoll acknowledged the personnel cuts are all layoffs.

Several of those who are losing their jobs said they feel like

they are being carelessly and unjustifiably brushed aside.

Tanner, who has worked for the Burbank Library for more than 17

years, said the elimination of her position was announced at the May

6 council meeting -- the day before Library Service Director Sharon

Cohen told her about it.

“I think that was pretty shabby,” Tanner said. “We’re all

scrambling to do the things you do when you retire and have less than

60 days notice, but they all knew about this months ago.”


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