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Hiring mistake could cost California state workers their jobs months after they started

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Almost two dozen new Cal OSHA safety investigators received notices last week indicating they might be dismissed because of an error in a civil service exam they took to qualify for a job in state government.

The associate safety engineers have carried out hundreds of investigations and workplace inspections over the past year.

They were tripped up by a hiring audit conducted by the State Personnel Board. It found an irregularity in how their civil service exam was administered, which could lead the state to rescind their job offers and promotions even though state officials do not believe the employees did anything wrong.

“None of the employees involved here is at fault of anything, and we’re exploring every option we have” to keep them in their jobs, state Human Resources Department spokesman Andrew LaMar said.

The State Personnel Board carries out occasional audits of different departments to ensure they’re adhering to laws that govern how employees are hired.

The 22 employees who received letters last week cleared their exams and were eligible to be hired between March 21, 2017, and May 22, 2018. They can be dismissed because of an irregularity in their exams for up to a year after the close of that window, according to the letter they received.

One of the workers who spoke to The Sacramento Bee on condition of anonymity believed one of the questions was asked incorrectly.

They’re working with their union, the Professional Engineers in California Government, to hold on to their jobs.

“If they lose their jobs, what does that mean to the work they performed, the inspections they performed? That has a public consequence,” said Jon Ortiz, the union’s research director.

Erika Monterroza, spokeswoman for the department that oversees Cal OSHA, said officials are working to ensure that the 22 safety engineers will have no break in pay or service and that their critical work to enforce health and safety standards remains uninterrupted.

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