CHARLESTON - A locomotive engineers union is asking the state Supreme Court to overturn a Kanawha Circuit Court judge's contention that state lawmakers are immune from being fired from their private jobs because of taking time off to attend legislative sessions.

Brent Boggs, a Democratic member of the House of Delegates representing Braxton County, was fired by Lawyers for the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen from his position of congressional lobbyist, demoting him to locomotive engineer for CSX.

The switch shaved $20,000 off his annual salary.

The union says Boggs was taking both paid and unpaid leave to attend sessions, when he is only permitted to take unpaid leave by state law. The union contends that his duties as a legislator had an adverse effect on his ability perform as a lobbyist and fired him in 2002.

Boggs sued the union on May 3, 2003, in Kanawha Circuit Court, claiming he could not be fired.

Kanawha Circuit Judge James Stucky sided with Boggs when he answered a series of questions during mediation in March, then granted a motion to send the questions to the Supreme Court for final approval.

The justices will consider the union's appeal.

"The Legislature has recognized that the 'public official' asserting retaliation under this provision cannot use this 'sword' to pound on the 'shield' of other protect rights of citizens," the appeal says.

In addition to not devoting enough time to his lobbyist duties, the union says Boggs disobeyed a direct order to not attend a Jay Rockefeller fundraiser in 2002.

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