Haslam, TSEA Letters on Civil Service Reform Deal

Gov. Bill Haslam and the Tennessee State Employees Association both emails letters to state employees today on their negotiated changes to Haslam’s civil service reform bill, (HB2384) known as the TEAM act.
First, here’s the Haslam letter:
April 2, 2012
Dear State Employees,
I want to update you on recent developments regarding the TEAM Act, our administration’s proposal to update our employment system so that we are able to recruit, retain and reward dedicated and hard-working state employees.
State government’s job is to provide services that Tennesseans can’t get on their own and to do so in the most customer-focused, effective and efficient way. That’s what Tennessee taxpayers expect, and that’s what they deserve.
Beginning last fall, we held listening sessions with state employees across the state to learn about issues impacting you, our employees, and what we heard about most were challenges created by our employment system.
We also have been listening to and working very closely with state employee groups, especially the Tennessee State Employees Association in recent months on the TEAM Act. Early on in the process, we all agreed that our current system is broken, so it has mostly been a matter of working out some details.
Those discussions have been beneficial and have improved our bill through the legislative process. As I said back in January during the State of the State, this administration is most interested in getting to the right answer, not just our own answer, and I appreciate TSEA’s efforts to work with us on behalf of their membership.
Late last week, the TSEA came to us with their recommendations for final changes to our bill as it nears the finish line. As a result of that cooperation, the TSEA supports our legislation that preserves the key components to fundamentally updating our employment system.
I look forward to working with TSEA and members of the General Assembly on final passage of this bill to put you, our workforce, in a position to better serve Tennesseans. I appreciate the strong support we’ve received from the Legislature on this effort to date and appreciate their continued support in these final weeks of session.
Sincerely,
Bill Haslam
The more comprehensive TSEA letter is below:


Email to membership of TSEA:
After an intense week of negotiations on a few final key provisions of the TEAM Act, TSEA and Governor Haslam have agreed in principle on a final version of the bill. The administration has agreed to compromise on a number of TSEA’s key concerns with the TEAM bill and we now feel we are able to cooperate with the legislation in its new form. Navigating negotiations for this bill has been a slow, gradual process while both parties sorted out common ground versus areas of compromise. There were many complicated issues to work out, and significant progress has been made to shape this legislation into a bill that continues to offer state employees important protections, therefore TSEA can now cooperate moving forward.
The bill is still in the Legislature’s hands. The House Finance Committee will vote on the bill tomorrow April 3rd at 3:00 pm, and we expect passage of the bill in its new and improved form within the coming days.
State Employees, your efforts have allowed us to be where we are today. You have been engaged and supportive members during this process, and you’re efforts have paid off. Thanks to bipartisan compromise by the administration and legislators, we can work with the TEAM Act in its current form. This process has been a great example of democracy in action, and we are proud to represent such a fine group of professionals.
So what has changed?
The essence of Civil Service Protections has always been the right not to be fired, except for cause, and not at will, and the right to grieve and appeal terminations, suspensions, and demotions. These foundational protections are ALL still intact. The items listed below resulted from our negotiation process.
Improvements negotiated this week:
Pay – The Governor’s 2.5% raise for all state employees will be set up in the budget as a true across-the-board raise with no exceptions.
Salary Classification Upgrades – present law says when an employee is affected by a salary classification upgrade, that employee has their salary adjusted. The TEAM bill removed that language from the statute. An improvement negotiated into the bill establishes that anyone who falls below the minimum range of a new classification upgrade will have their salary adjusted/raised to the minimum level of the new classification.
Performance Evaluation system development/working group – The legislation includes an agreement that state employees and state employee groups will have a formal input process regarding the implantation of the Performance Evaluation system. TSEA as well as state employees will be members of this group. The administration has also promised to work with TSEA and all state employees on any issues that arise from the TEAM Act, which includes all areas of the bill.
Recall list – The bill now creates a system to where when an employee is laid off, that employee will be notified if a new position with their classification opens in any department anywhere in the state, and they will be guaranteed an interview for that position.
Layoff procedure – All reductions-in-force will now be based first on performance scores. Then, seniority, discipline, and abilities shall also be factored in. Seniority was saved as a key metric to be considered during a RIF.
New Layoff notice timeline – RIF Notices will continue to be 90 days through Oct 1st, 2012. The notice period will then go to 60 days for RIF’s through Dec 31st, 2013 and from January 1, 2014 onward, it will be a 30 day RIF notice.
Below is the complete list of all improvements to the original bill made through negotiations between TSEA, the Governor’s Administration, and various Legislators:
*All items in italics have been agreed upon by TSEA and the administration; however these items still await final approval by the House Finance Committee and the entire legislature.
Pay​​​​​​​​​​​
All employees will be eligible to be considered for merit pay, with specific criteria established in the Department of Human Resources rule making process.
2.5% Across-the-Board raise promised in the Governor’s budget for July 2012 will be truly across-the-board – no one will be denied the raise based on performance or discipline. The Administration has agreed to add this language to the Governor’s budget amendment.*
Any salary classification upgrade will result in a pay adjustment for existing employees who fall below the minimum range and not just for new hires.*

Hiring Process
Restored veteran’s preference in hiring.
Added veterans’ spouses to list guaranteed an interview.​
Promotion list, as defined in code, is reestablished. Criteria for establishment of promotion list will be in Department of Human Resources rules.
Performance Evaluations
Report on new Performance Evaluation system must be made to the State & Local committees of the House and Senate.
All rules regarding the performance evaluation system and any other provision of the TEAM Act will go back to the Government Operations Committee’s of both the House and Senate for approval.
Agreement that state employees and state employee groups will have a formal input process regarding the implementation of the Performance Evaluation system and any adverse effects. .*
Reduction-In-Force
Language was changed to ensure that seniority must also be considered even though performance would be the primary factor of consideration in a layoff.​
​Retained career counseling and job placement during RIF process.​
Extended the minimum notice period of RIF’s when the Rainy Day Fund falls below $200 million from 10 days to 14 days.
​​Any positions re-established after a RIF will retain preferred service protections and not be reclassified as executive service.
Restoration of a Recall List, where all laid off employees will be given the opportunity to interview for any opening in the same classification within any department.*
RIF Notices will continue to be 90 days until October 1, 2012. The notice period will then go to 60 days until December 31st, 2013 and from January 1, 2014 onward, it will be a 30 day RIF notice.*

Grievance Process
​The appeals process will have concrete deadlines for both the employee and the state at each step.
The final step must be completed within 120 days.
“Face-to-Face” meeting established in Step 1 of the 3-Step appeals process
Grievant is able to appeal suspensions of 3 days or more to all 3 levels of the grievance process.
Any suspension less than 3 days is appealable to level 2.
The burden of proof has been placed back on the state/agency and not on the employee.
A mediation process will be added to the grievance system and be clearly defined in the Department of Human Resources rules.​
Requirement for progressive discipline will be established in Department of Human Resources rules.​
​​​​Board of Appeals
The reappointment of some Civil Service Commission members to the new Board of Appeals.
The new Board has 9 members, like the present Civil Service Commission, rather than 7 as proposed in the original TEAM Act.
Governor’s right to remove Board of Appeals members must be “for cause” and not “at will.”​
Board of Appeals sunset date of 2016, at which time the Board will be re-evaluated for abuses and issues.
Other​
Changed effective dates of the bill:
§ The new effective date for the bill’s provisions is October 1, 2012.
§ The effective date for performance evaluations to be used as criteria for merit pay or the RIF process is July 1, 2013.
Please continue to check our website www.tseaonline.org for updates on this bill and other important legislative items that impact state employees. For a complete history of the TEAM Act, please check our dedicated TEAM Act website www.tncivilservice.com.

Chris Dauphin
TSEA Communications Director

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