Report: CSUS workforce complaints reflect 'state worker environment'

Published: Wednesday, Jul. 25, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 3B
Last Modified: Wednesday, Jul. 25, 2012 - 9:00 am

An inordinately high number of workplace complaints at California State University, Sacramento, reflects the "state worker environment" on the capital campus, according to a report commissioned by officials and obtained this week by The Bee.

Interim Vice President for Human Resources at Sacramento State, Christine Lovely, took office earlier this year and asked university HR consulting firm McKnight Associates Inc. to follow up on a 2006 examination of the school's Office of Human Resources.

The Westlake Village-based firm began its review in March and produced an April report that depicts a department weighed down by so many workplace complaints that it had to bring in outside help to handle them all.

"It is clear that HR employee relations and employment equity staff are overwhelmed with workload demands resulting from grievances and claims of harassment or retaliation," the April 3 McKnight report said.

The consultants looked at the school's 2011 human resources workload and in March interviewed many school executives and managers.

Sacramento State spokeswoman Kim Nava said that since receiving the report, the human resources unit has prioritized team-building and improving how it communicates its work to staff.

"We took the report seriously," Nava said, "and appreciated the assessments in order to thoughtfully improve office operations, employee services and employee relations."

The report notes that Sacramento State's caseload of formal grievances totaled 114 at the time of the March review, two to three times that of several other CSU campuses surveyed for comparison purposes.

Long Beach had the second-most with 52 grievances and Fullerton had the least, 32. In between were San Jose (46), San Francisco (38) and Northridge (37).

Sacramento State's Office of Employment Equity last year fielded 77 formal complaints of discrimination, harassment, retaliation and other types of civil rights issues, McKnight reported. California State University Employees Union complaints accounted for about two-thirds of the total grievances.

The labor organization represents approximately 15,000 administrative and support staff at the system's 23 campuses and the chancellor's office.

Sacramento State's grievance caseload was so severe that it spent $83,885 in 2010-11 for outside help to investigate employment issues.

The same problems existed six years ago, McKnight's consultants said, noting that a passage from the 2006 report still applies:

"There was a consensus among those interviewed that the campus culture presents a challenging work force to manage. It was most frequently described as a 'state worker' environment greatly influenced by its close proximity to the bureaucratic attitudes of State offices."

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