CHICAGO (CN) – A juvenile-intake worker in southern Wisconsin does not have a property right to her old pay rate after county officials eliminated her position and created a similarly-tasked but lower-paying position which she took, the 7th Circuit ruled.
Sheila Schulz worked as the chief juvenile-intake worker in Green County from 1997 to 2008. The job, under the supervision of the circuit court, paid $26.99 per hour and included supervising part-time workers.
But in 2008, the Green County Board of Supervisors eliminated the position to save costs. The Board then created a “social worker I/II” position in the Human Services Department which encompassed many of the same responsibilities.
The county sent Schulz an application for the position and encouraged her to apply. She was immediately hired.
Because the social worker I/II position did not include any supervisory responsibilities, however, Schulz’s pay was reduced to $19.28 per hour.
Schulz filed suit, claiming a property interest in her employment entitled her to the old pay rate.
A Wisconsin federal judge granted summary judgment to the county and the 7th Circuit affirmed.
Judge William Bauer wrote, “An employee has a constitutionally protected property interest in a given position-not in her employment or a particular wage-and once the government abolishes the position, the employee has nothing in which she can claim an entitlement.”
The court also rejected Schulz’s argument that she was entitled to due process because similarities between the two posts indicated that her court-attached position was not “abolished in fact.”
“Although Schulz would have us focus on the similarities between the court-attached and social worker I/II positions, this focus is misplaced. The relevant question is whether the governmental reorganization was a pretext for harming Schulz… Here, the evidence before us indicates that the county reorganized to save costs, not to rid itself of Schulz,” Bauer wrote.
Because the decision to eliminate the court-attached position was made for purely budgetary reasons, the county did not deprive Schulz of any property interest, the court found. The county’s desire to hire Schulz for the new positions indicates no intention of damaging her.