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Published February 26, 2013, 04:23 PM

ND Supreme Court: Locked-Out Workers Eligible for Benefits

North Dakota’s Supreme Court says American Crystal Sugar Co. workers who were locked out of their jobs almost two years ago are eligible for jobless benefits. The court’s ruling says because American Crystal prevented the workers from reporting to their jobs, they aren’t barred from collecting unemployment.

North Dakota’s Supreme Court says American Crystal Sugar Co. workers who were locked out of their jobs almost two years ago are eligible for jobless benefits. The court’s ruling says because American Crystal prevented the workers from reporting to their jobs, they aren’t barred from collecting unemployment.

They could get up to $4 million in benefits. Job Service North Dakota says about 400 North Dakota workers are affected by the case. The company operates sugar beet processing plants in Drayton and Hillsboro in the Red River Valley. A district judge had ruled the Crystal employees weren’t eligible for jobless benefits. More than 230 of the workers appealed the decision to the North Dakota Supreme Court. On Tuesday, the court ruled they were eligible for benefits. Portland Sen. Phil Murphy has pushed legislation that explicitly says locked-out workers are eligible for jobless benefits. He says the Supreme Court’s ruling is a “just result.”

North Dakota law bars workers from getting unemployment if they’re not working because of a labor dispute. However, the Supreme Court’s ruling says the law applies if workers go out on strike. The American Crystal workers wanted to work, but were locked out of their jobs.

The lockout began in August 2011 after American Crystal workers rejected what the company called its final contract offer. The lockout affected about 1,300 union-represented workers in North Dakota, Minnesota and Iowa.

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