Some state employees who received a letter reclassifying their employment status from merit to non-merit may have some recourse.
“It was clear, as you can see from the document, they were trying to downgrade me, get rid of me.”
The document originally drafted by the Department of Administrative Services informed state employees that their positions would now be excluded from merit-system provisions.
This former Department of Aging employee, who we`ll call Chris, received the letter from her boss early last year.
“I said, `I’m very uncomfortable with this.’ I said, `what does this mean?` he said, `well you`re still contract covered.` I said, `well what if I don`t sign this?` he said, `well there`ll be consequences.’ That was it.”
Chris feels those “consequences” are implied in the second paragraph where it reads, “If you do not consent to the change in coverage, a reduction in force may be initiated.”
“I felt under duress I had to sign it. I didn`t want my job to be in jeopardy.”
“There was never any intention to make it seem compulsory,” Department of Administration Services spokesperson Caleb Hunter explains.
DAS drafted the letter in late 2012. Hunter says DAS attorney Ryan Lamb reviewed the letter but the Attorney General`s Office did not.
In fact, when the AG`s office became aware of the letter, it asked DAS to change it. It`s since been revised three times.
The current letter clearly states that “the determination that your position is excluded from the merit system does not in any way affect the terms and conditions of your employment.”
“And that was one of the pieces we felt could be improved on and subsequently was,” Hunter adds.
Hunter says of the 230 state employees shifted from merit to merit exempt, two were laid off.
Chris, who had worked for the state for more than 13-years, felt bullied not just because of the letter, but because of alleged intimidation.
That’s ultimately why Chris resigned.
A “violence in the workplace” grievance was filed but Chris says it was never investigated.