Governor Blocks 1.6 Percent Pay Raise for Some State Employees

Departing from long-standing state practice, Gov. Bill Haslam is refusing to grant legislatively mandated pay raises to hundreds of state workers who have been disciplined over the past year, reports Andy Sher.
Tennessee State Employees Association leaders call the move “mean-spirited” and say they are exploring legal action. TSEA officials, however, acknowledge courts might come out with a liberal interpretation and affirm the Republican governor’s ability to deny the raises.
The across-the-board pay increases of 1.6 percent for an estimated 42,000 executive branch workers — their first in four years — went into effect July 1.
Most were implemented, but in a June 28 Cabinet meeting, according to a memo written by state Human Resources Commissioner Rebecca Hunter, the governor and top officials excluded employees who have “been demoted, suspended or received more than one written warning in the past year.”
That was later changed to two written warnings.
“The policy speaks for itself in that the administration believes the increase should be provided to state employees that are adequately doing their jobs,” Haslam spokesman David Smith said when asked about the unannounced policy change.
TSEA Executive Director Robert O’Connell said the new policy changes the rules in the middle of the game and punishes employees twice for the same infraction. He said the group’s survey of seven of the state’s 22 departments indicates 458 employees have been denied a pay increase.

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