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Published March 14, 2013, 10:55 AM

Crystal Sugar contests worker benefits ruling

Attorneys for American Crystal Sugar Co. are asking the North Dakota Supreme Court to reconsider a ruling granting locked-out workers unemployment benefits.

FARGO, N.D. ā€” Attorneys for American Crystal Sugar Co. are asking the North Dakota Supreme Court to reconsider a ruling granting locked-out workers unemployment benefits.

A petition for rehearing was filed with the Supreme Court this week by an American Crystal attorney.

Union workers for the Moorhead, Minn.-based sugar processor have been out of work since being locked out Aug. 1, 2011, over a contract dispute.

Job Service North Dakota, which manages the unemployment program, had ruled that a state law barring collection of benefits in cases of work stoppages applied to lockouts. The Feb. 26 ruling by the Supreme Court overruled that interpretation and could bring up to $4 million in back benefits to union workers for Crystal Sugar.

Fargo attorney Dan Phillips, who represented the locked-out workers, said petitions to ask the court to change its mind and rehear the case are unusual.

ā€œIā€™d expect a quick decision from the Supreme Court,ā€ Phillips says.

Meanwhile, state senators on Wednesday added a provision to a Job Service bill that would change state law to explicitly deny unemployment to workers out of a job due to a lockout.

The bill would not affect benefits for the Crystal workers, but would affect future cases.

The Senate is expected to vote on the bill today.

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