Archive for Thursday, February 12, 2015

Kansas considers changes to policies for state workers

February 12, 2015

— A day after Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback rescinded an executive order protecting state employees from discrimination tied to sexual orientation and gender identity, his administration announced plans to revise hiring, layoff and termination policies for government workers.

Among the proposals announced Wednesday was the possibility of eliminating longevity bonuses for 17,500 executive branch employees. Administration Secretary Jim Clark said the proposals are part of an effort to modernize the state's human resources system.

The changes would be aimed at rewarding quality workers and give state agencies broader authority to hire employees into unclassified positions — which can be fired at will — rather than maintain them as part of the classified, or civil service, system, The Topeka Capital-Journal (http://bit.ly/1E4pK0C ) reported.

"Kansas deserves human resource policies that are commensurate of the quality of services that state employees provided on a daily basis," Clark said.

A bill will be put forward to require the Legislature to pay the longevity bonuses for classified employees or remove that piece from Kansas law, he said.

Another measure would limit use of shared leave among state workers to those with "life-threatening" illnesses, rather than "extreme" or "severe" conditions, Clark said.

Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, a Topeka Democrat, and a group of other senators introduced a bill Wednesday that would require Clark to perform a study to assess whether wage disparities based on gender had emerged in state government.

"It's like the commanding officer at Fort Riley declared war on his own troops," Hensley said. "If the morale of our state workers gets much worse than it is, we're going to see a mass exodus from our workforce."

Clark said reforms would emphasize performance rather than seniority in selection of employees who are laid off and when rehiring occurs. Another goal is to amend the "bumping" process in which veteran state employees squeezed out of a specific job can take the position of someone with less experience, he said.

Policies also would be developed to reduce options for employees to appeal job evaluations, he said, and merge separate systems for paid time off for vacation and sick leave into a single block of paid time off regardless of how it was used.

The administration also would be sending notices to unions representing state workers of an intention to seek changes to labor agreements.

"I'm not surprised the administration continues to disrespect state employees," said House Minority Leader Tom Burroughs, a Kansas City Democrat. "What concerns me the most is that they are attempting to do so under the guise of reform."

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