Career Service Update – State Employment Amendments

Throughout the 2021 Legislative Session UPEA followed House Bill 280, State Employment Amendments, sponsored by Representative Kay Christofferson (R-Lehi).   The purpose of HB280 was to exempt state employees in supervisor positions from the safeguards of career service status.  UPEA began a series of conversations and meetings with Representative Christofferson about HB280, which eventually did not pass during the session.

The Legislative Session concluded in March 2021, and Representative Christofferson formed a workgroup to discuss the vision of Governor Cox to modernize the state employee workforce.  The workgroup included representatives from the governor’s office, DHRM, the State Auditor’s office, Legislative Research and General Counsel, and UPEA.

The workgroup began meeting in April to discuss career service, performance management, supervisor training, compensation, and streamlining the current grievance process.

During this same time UPEA also convened an internal task force to study these same items from an employee perspective.  The task force included the UPEA officers and members representing the Departments of Corrections, Health, Workforce Services, Natural Resources, Transportation, and Human Services.

For an in-depth overview of the UPEA internal task force and their recommendations, please click here.

Communication with Governor Cox

Based upon the recommendations from the UPEA task force, the UPEA State Board made a motion to formally support a performance-based compensation model, mandatory training for managers and supervisors, and streamlining the current grievance process.  The State Board endorses these recommendations centered on the fact they will have an empowering and positive affect on state employees.

However, UPEA continues to express concern about eliminating career service protections for supervisors.  On September 15, 2021, the State Board sent a letter to Governor Cox asking for his position regarding “at will” and career service employment.  The letter to Governor Cox also stated, “These protections are in place to protect against political influence, safeguard fair hiring and termination practices, and preserve an employee’s ability to grieve an adverse job action.”

The governor’s office replied to the letter, stating that Governor Cox “understands that these discussions are central in the lives of many thousands of employees working on behalf of Team Utah and wants to communicate that our administration will continue to work alongside [UPEA] collaboratively and in good faith.  We know that the work being done is helping to modernize our workforce and deliver a strong employee value proposition to our workforce. As this bill develops and the conversation continues, our senior representatives will carry forth the governor’s collaborative spirit, making sure to keep us apprised of developments continuously.

Current Status

On September 21, 2021, the workgroup met and one of the discussion items was a review of UPEA’s letter to Governor Cox.  Representative Christofferson and members of the workgroup offered to meet with the State Board.  This meeting took place at the UPEA offices on October 7, 2021, and included the following participants:

  • Representative Kay Christofferson
  • Jenney Rees, Executive Director, Department of Government Operations
  • John Dougall, Utah State Auditor
  • Nate Talley, Deputy Director, Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget

The State Board believes the in-depth meeting with representatives from the workgroup was positive and UPEA’s participation is essential in providing valuable input as the representative for state employees.

The conversation with the State Board included a discussion of “at-will” employees.  Representative Christofferson stated he would like to run legislation for supervisors to have the option of moving from Schedule B (career service) to Schedule A (at-will).  The option will be a voluntary election for current supervisors – new supervisors will be hired solely as Schedule A employees.

The State Board provided input regarding the lack of funding, pay increases, and training for employees, high turnover, and the difficulty of competing with other government agencies and public employers relative to pay.

Representative Christofferson will provide an overview of the workgroup and his bill during legislative interim meetings on October 20, 2021.  UPEA will testify and provide comments on behalf of the State Board after his presentation.

The State Board will continue to discuss this matter and will meet prior to the November legislative interim meetings to provide additional input to Representative Christofferson and representatives from the governor’s office.

Action and Updates

UPEA will provide updates and communicate further developments, which may include additional recommendations from the State Board to Representative Christofferson and the workgroup.  Any potential legislation is a work in progress and UPEA will continue to be part of the process.  Utah’s greatest resource is its public employees and UPEA remains committed to work on your behalf.