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Heading into his last months in office, Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration worked up a few edits to state law that could make it easier for public employees to earn promotions and help disabled state workers retain their jobs.
The changes are in a budget bill sitting on Brown’s desk. They’re part of his so-called civil service improvement project, which aims to modernize government employment by rethinking how government recruits job candidates and slashing some outdated language that slows hiring.
Government Operations Agency Secretary Marybel Batjer has led the project for the past four years. She used a public employment budget bill to strike out a phrase that she considered to be a sexist relic.
Where state regulations once referred to “female-dominated jobs,” they will instead describe “jobs that employ a higher proportion of females than males.”
“We had some really clunky language in the statue that I found offensive,” Batjer said.
Current state workers could benefit from another change the agency placed in the budget bill. It allows workers to be eligible for promotions in multiple job classifications, as long as the positions are similar.
Previously, employees seeking a promotion would have to take an exam for each job they wanted to pursue. Now they’ll be able to transfer their eligibility from one classification to another without retaking an exam.
For instance, someone applying to be an associate government program analyst could also be eligible to be an associate personnel analyst.
The new budget bill also removes what amounted to a second probationary period for disabled state workers who qualify for their jobs through the so-called limited examination and appointment program (LEAP).
Disabled workers who enter civil service through LEAP have a six-month evaluation period in which they must demonstrate they can do their jobs. Afterward, they also had to complete a standard state probation period.
The new budget bill makes those workers permanent state employees upon completion of the six-month evaluation period.
“It’s really an equity issue,” Batjer said, meaning that the disabled employees unfairly had to clear the second evaluation to keep their jobs.
Batjer has led the civil service improvement project since 2013. Its key accomplishments include eliminating hundreds of unused job titles, modernizing job descriptions for information technology employees and creating a more usable state job website.
She thinks the effort will continue in some way after Brown leaves office.
“We’ve come a long way with all of that, and it will not be over at the end of the Brown administration,” she said.
Highway homeless camps
The union that represents Caltrans maintenance workers is escalating a grievance asking the department to give more protection and training to employees tasked with cleaning up homeless camps.
Caltrans in a June 5 letter denied the union's initial complaint. The department wrote that it already offers special hazardous materials training to employees it asks to clean up homeless camps and that it also provides them necessary immunizations.
"Prior to the camp removal, only employees specifically trained to handle hazardous materials and use (protective equipment) are authorized to enter the encampment to begin cleanup operations," the letter reads.
Steve Crouch, director of public employees for the local International Union of Operating Engineers, said the letter does not reflect the hazards union members are finding at homeless camps around the state.
"I’m getting pictures from people all over the state showing they’re going in these camps," he said. "I don’t know if they’re trying to ignore it. I’m not sure. They keep saying safety is our No. 1 priority and they’re ignoring these homeless encampments."
Crouch said the union plans to appeal Caltrans' decision to a higher level, a so-called board of adjustment that includes two management representatives and two labor representatives.
The State Worker newsletter will return July 18. Until then, send story tips to Caitlin Chen at email@example.com.