Minnesota judge: Firing of Hennepin County employees 'disconcerting,' orders reinstatement of 1 worker

June 24, 2019 09:52 AM

Minnesota Administrative Law Judge Barbara Case ordered a Hennepin County employee reinstated to her job, with back pay, and called the firing of the employee's co-workers "disconcerting" in her ruling May 10.

In her ruling, Judge Case stated, "it's disconcerting that the county accused approximately 10% of its child support workers of falsifying timecards based on a metric that had never been used before and was not disclosed as a measure of accounting for hours worked."

Twenty-four Hennepin County workers in the Child Support Services Division were accused of falsifying their timecards last fall, and some of them chose resignation over termination.

However, dismissed employee Tracy Schutt appealed her September 2018 firing to Judge Case's courtroom and prevailed when the judge ordered the county to put her back on the job with back pay and benefits reinstated as well.

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"It was beyond words—miserable," Schutt said. "But, in the end, I was so thankful. I mean, it is just that I was right and we were all wrongfully terminated, and it just proved that I was right and Hennepin County was wrong."

Schutt's attorney, Sarah Jewell, told KSTP the judge's ruling sent a very clear message to leaders at the Hennepin County Government Center. Now, other fired employees have contacted her.

"I have more than a half-dozen of the terminated employees who talked to me," Jewell said. "I think the reason the county fired them 'with cause' is because it's cheaper than laying them off because they lose benefits, even unemployment, and if you're terminated for gross misconduct, you're done."

Hennepin County declined an on-camera interview request but did send an email statement to KSTP which said:

"Hennepin County takes its responsibility as an employer very seriously. We pride ourselves on conducting thorough and fair investigations related to allegations of employee misconduct. Our decision in this case was based on evidence we had collected. The Administrative Law Judge disagreed with our decision in this one case.  We respect the appeal process afforded to all employees and do not plan to appeal this decision."

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Jay Kolls

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