By a 7-1 vote, the council OK'd the bill, which institutes a two-tiered system, creating full and partial incapacity categories.
"What this bill would do in addition to establishing a two-tier disability benefit that distinguishes between a bad back and paralysis, it would also say that if an employee has committed misconduct that would get them fired, they would not be eligible for disability retirement," says Council member Phil Andrews.
Andrews started pushing for the changes in 2008, but sought at first to have them implemented through collective bargaining. Tired of the foot-dragging, he started pushing for the council to bypass collective bargaining and approve the changes themselves.
The police union is particularly angered by the decision. The union is already suing the county over another contract matter. Council member Marc Elrich worries Tuesday's move will contribute to further union discord in the county.
"Employees have always said the trade-off for no job actions, no strikes, and other things has been the availability of collective bargaining and binding arbitration," Elrich says.
Elrich abstained during the vote, while Council member George Leventhal voted no. Legal action against the change seems likely, but Andrews is not concerned.
"I'm confident, that because the bill was amended the way it was to have an effective date of July 1, 2012, and to begin its application from that date on, that a legal challenge will not be successful," he says.
School employees, despite making up around two-thirds of county workforce, are not affected by the change, since they are considered state workers.