HB 280 Threatened Merit System Protections 

UPEA successfully lobbied to protect the state’s career service system during the 2021 Legislative Session. Utah’s career service system, also known as the merit system, protects the jobs of nearly two-thirds of state employees by guaranteeing rights of due process and equality in the workplace. Dismantling or altering the career service system changes employment status to at-will. At-will status means an agency can dismiss an employee without warning as long as the termination did not violate state or federal law.

House Bill 280, State Employee Amendments, sponsored by Representative Kay Christofferson, would have eliminated the career service status for certain state employees.

In its original form, HB 280 would have changed the status of Schedule B employees who supervise one or more employees. Supervisory employees would choose to either keep their career service status (Schedule B) or convert to career service exempt status (Schedule AX). If the employee was promoted or transferred to a different supervisory position, the employee would become Schedule AX career service exempt, or at-will.

UPEA lobbyists discussed HB 280 with representatives from the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget and with the governor’s staff. During these meetings, UPEA expressed its opposition to HB 280 and emphasized the importance of merit protections in state employment.

The association also communicated its strong opposition to HB 280 with Rep Christofferson. During discussions, the sponsor agreed to substitute the bill and create a task force of stakeholders to discuss state employee issues, including career service, performance evaluations, merit pay, employee turnover, and employee retention. UPEA was included in this task force along with members of the legislature, the governor’s staff, and other interested parties.

HB 280 2nd Sub died during the last days of the session. Although the task force was not approved, during the interim UPEA will continue its discussions with Rep Christofferson. UPEA will also create an internal task force of members to address the protection of the career service system.