When small businesses and large companies in Louisiana and elsewhere hire new employees or renew employment with current workers, employers have to take specific steps to protect the rights and interests of both the employer and the employees. Employment contracts provide not only the terms of employment but also certain stipulations for benefits and even termination. Thus, if an employer does not offer an adequate employment contract or one of the parties fails to uphold the conditions of the agreement, it is likely an employment dispute will emerge.

According to reports, the Louisiana state Senate recently approved three bills in a four-bill package that would provide for changes to the pensions of newly hired firefighters in New Orleans. Additionally, these bills would end a feud with the city government that has lasted for decades.

These bills represent a settlement of an employment dispute that has gone on between successive mayors and city firefighters. These disputes revolved around back pay and pension support, which carried on for nearly 40 years. Under the new terms of the agreement, newly hired firefighters will be required to work longer before they can retire and will receive less in benefits.

Specifically, House Bill 56 raises the retirement age from 52 to 57 and lowers the rate retirement benefits are multiplied for to 2.5 percent. House Bill 57 bases the contributions to the retirement system on compensation rather than salary. Finally, House Bill 59 codifies the way sick and annual leave are treated when benefits are calculated.

Based on the administration’s interpretation of this agreement, roughly 60 firefighters were not allowed access to both extra retirement programs following a certain date. However, union leaders countered that interpretation, claiming that refusal amounted to a breach in contract for these 60 firefighters.

When there is a breach in contract or an employment dispute, it is important that both employers and employees understand their rights in the matter. Employment law issues can become complex, making it difficult to reach a workable agreement. Therefore, parties to the dispute should understand the options available to them, helping them come to agreeable terms and a settlement.

Source: The New Orleans Advocate, “Louisiana governor to receive three of four bills that settle New Orleans dispute with firefighters,” Mark Ballard, June 2, 2016