Cuyahoga County may be forced to pay millions of dollars to dozens, perhaps hundreds of employees, based on a civil lawsuit claiming employee salaries were unfairly cut while Ed Fitzgerald was county executive in 2011 and 2012.
Attorney Joshua Cohen is representing county employees in the case, and told newsnet5.com Fitzgerald played a role in unfairly cutting pay to salaried workers through reclassification, and increased the work week from 35 to 40 hours without any additional compensation.
Cohen said the initial class action lawsuit was filed on behalf of 23 employees, but he said the suit could be expanded to 150 workers who were employed in the offices of the county auditor, clerk of courts, recorder and the department of information services.
Cohen told newsnet5.com Cuyahoga County Judge Robert McClelland ruled in favor of employees on both counts.
"It was just a blatant violation of their rights," said Cohen.
"A Cuyahoga Judge ruled in favor of the employees on both aspects. Both with respect to the reduction in compensation, and the failure to compensate for the extension of the work week."
Cuyahoga County would not comment on the on-going case, and only said the judge's ruling is now in the court of appeals.
Cohen said this case could extend to as many as 700 county employees, and could trigger a settlement that could cause the county to pay-out tens of millions of dollars in a massive settlement.
"We're trying to do that as a class action, said Cohen. "We're trying to bring another class action on behalf of all the workers, saying it's the same issue, everybody is effected the same way "
"Everybody could look back at our good friend Ed Fitzgerald and thank him for his willingness to ignore the law and to do what he wanted to do by fiat, instead of honoring people's rights."
Cohen said it would be hard to tell what impact a multi-million dollar payout would have on the county budget.
It's a case he expects will take more than a year to finally settle as it make it's way through the courts.