Six researchers who lost their jobs at Roswell Park Cancer Institute during a state budget crisis 10 years ago should be reinstated and receive full back pay with interest, a judge ruled Tuesday.
State Supreme Court Justice John A. Michalek faulted former Roswell Park administrators for doing "a poor job in presenting the situations and opportunities" available to eight of its senior researchers under the 1991 reclassification of staff jobs. One of the eight subsequently rejoined the staff; another has died.
The judge faulted former Roswell Park administrators for showing a lack of "good faith" at times in dealing with senior research staffers.
Josephine A. Greco, attorney for the eight, said she expects further consultations with the judge in calculating the monetary payments to the seven surviving researchers and the family of her late client.
Ann C. Williams, the assistant state attorney general who represented Roswell Park and the State Health Department in the jobs dispute, did not return several calls to her Buffalo office.
Marc Violette, a spokesman for state Attorney General Eliot L. Spitzer, said the state Law Department just received Michalek's ruling and is analyzing it for a possible appeal.
Michalek credited the Roswell Park administration with making "real and substantial" new job offers to the eight researchers, but chided it for what he found to be the emotional "trauma" inflicted on the veteran researchers.
The still-uncalculated decision could cost the state several million dollars in payments to the seven living researchers, now in their 60s or older, and the family of the deceased scientist, court officials said.
Michalek began overseeing the case after it was reinstated by the Appellate Division of State Supreme Court in Rochester. It had been dismissed in 1992 by now-retired State Supreme Court Justice Edward A. Rath Jr. of Amherst.
The Roswell 8, as they were called, were among the hundreds of state employees laid off in 1991 because statewide budget cutbacks stemming from a state budget deficit. They sued, alleging their terminations violated union seniority rights.
Setting the stage for possible further court hearings on specific financial damages owed the plaintiffs and their families, Michalek also ruled that the scientists "will have to repay the New York State Retirement System" for any retirement benefits they have received over the past decade.
The judge also ruled Greco's clients will have deducted from their back-pay awards any unemployment insurance benefits they may have received over the past decade.