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Island County deputies’ guild goes to court, twice

The Island County Deputy Sheriff’s Guild has filed a second lawsuit against the county, this time over workers’ compensation and sick pay.

Oak Harbor attorney Chris Skinner filed the complaint for improperly withheld wages, declaratory judgment and permanent injunction in Skagit County Superior Court Nov. 19. The lawsuit names the guild and four deputies as plaintiffs.

This is the second lawsuit the guild filed against the county in November. The guild’s attorney filed a complaint for contempt, declaratory and injunctive relief and damages in Snohomish County Superior Court Nov. 16. The lawsuit alleges that the county violated the Open Public Records Act and blocked arbitration.

The deputies have been working without a contract since December of 2008. The guild and county have gone through dispute resolution over the contract and may end up in arbitration soon.

The recent lawsuit states that the four deputies have each been injured in the line of duty during the last two years. The deputies applied for and received time-loss compensation from the state Department of Labor and Industries. In addition, they each received sick-leave compensation from the county.

In each case, the county notified the deputy that he can’t receive both time-loss and sick leave compensation when it amounts to more than 100 percent of their regular wages. The deputies objected. Nonetheless, the county unilaterally withheld wages from two of the deputies’ paychecks; the county claims the other deputies owe money, according to the lawsuit.

“The deputies’ position is that the L & I time loss benefit paid to an injured deputy is a separate benefit similar to insurance. They should not have to pay it back as the county insists, simply because they also choose to take the sick leave that they have earned and accrued through their service to the County,” Skinner said.

Melanie Bacon, the county human resources director, said the county’s policy is that employees cannot earn more than their regular pay when they are on sick leave.

In general, the Department of Labor and Industries pays approximately 60 percent of regular salaries for people who are injured in the job.

The lawsuit asks for an injunction to prevent the county from requiring employees who take sick leave while receiving time-loss compensation to forfeit compensation; prohibit the county from unilaterally reducing paid leave of employees who receive time-loss; direct the county to restore “sick leave banks” of all employees.

In addition, the lawsuit asks that the county pay double damages for wages improperly withheld from the deputies, as well as interest and attorneys’ fees.

Community Events, April 2014

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