AZ House Committee Votes to Limit Employee Protections

Feb 17, 2012

A House panel voted late Thursday to start stripping away personnel protections from some state workers and get others to give them up voluntarily. 

The plan by Gov. Jan Brewer would make all supervisors, attorneys and those in upper level positions exempt from the merit system that now gives them some rights to appeal discipline and firing. Anyone hired after Sept. 29 also would be uncovered. And current workers would be encouraged to give up their rights, with the governor promising a 5 percent raise for those who do. Scott Smith, a deputy chief of staff for the governor, said the change is necessary.

"This reform is about cutting bureaucracy and red tape so the state can hire the best candidates for the job more quickly so that we can hold management and employees more accountable," he said.

Smith told lawmakers it can be demoralizing to good workers when the state personnel board overturns a legitimate decision to fire a poorly performing employee and that person is reinstated. But Representative Daniel Patterson said he sees the issue differently.

"What's demoralizing is putting all employees at risk of being axed with no due process," he said. "Does this governor support any due process for employees?"

Smith said workers would retain their right to bring charges of discrimination or harassment. And whistleblower protections would remain. But Smith said the plan could mean that a worker is gone the moment his or her boss says you're fired.