A federal judge has ruled that Prince George's County violated the U.S. Constitution when it furloughed 5,900 workers to save $17 million.
U.S. District Judge Alexander Williams Jr. ruled Tuesday that the county violated the contract clause, which bars states from passing laws "impairing the obligation of contracts."
Williams wrote that county officials could have used "more moderate alternatives" to trim the budget in the last fiscal year.
Williams ordered the two sides to discuss how the employees will be repaid. County officials say the ruling will mean "massive layoffs" and they plan to appeal.
"President Obama has said we are in the midst of a deep economic crisis," said James Keary, communications director for Prince George’s County. "As a result of this crisis, the county made a difficult decision to furlough its employees for 10 days, saving $17 million. Our decision, which was not taken lightly, was made to implement the furlough plan rather than lay off hundreds of employees.
"The court has substituted its judgment without acknowledging the economic challenges facing the country. To comply with the court’s opinion, we will have massive layoffs. In order to protect their jobs and the lives of employees and their families we will be filing an appeal to remedy this irresponsible decision."
Last month, the county council approved a second round of 10-day furloughs for the new fiscal year.