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Laid-Off Programmers Sue for Aid

January 29, 2004|From Dow Jones/Associated Press

Laid-off programmers have filed a lawsuit accusing the Labor Department of illegally denying them job-training benefits available to workers in industries in which jobs have moved overseas.

The suit, which seeks class-action status, was filed this month in the U.S. Court of International Trade in New York, said Michael G. Smith, attorney for the plaintiffs.

They want a judge to order the department to make laid-off software workers eligible for weekly cash payments and other benefits under the Trade Adjustment Assistance program.

Representatives from the Labor Department declined to comment on the pending litigation.

In recent years, U.S. companies have laid off thousands of software workers and other technology employees while adding technology staff in India and other developing countries where labor is inexpensive.

Begun in the 1960s, the Trade Adjustment Assistance program was designed to help U.S. workers by softening the blow of increased imports or transfers of jobs to other countries.

In the last two years, the Labor Department has ruled many software workers ineligible for the benefits. It has said software and information technology services didn't qualify as products under the program's guidelines. Only workers who made more tangible products, such as clothing and furniture, can get the benefits.

The lawsuit claims that about 10,000 software workers should be eligible for the benefits but would be ruled ineligible under current Labor Department practices.

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