Topeka Kansas' largest state employee union urged legislators on Tuesday to reject a move by Kansas Secretary of Labor Karin Brownlee to have total authority over who can work for the agency.
“This amendment is simply an attack on Kansas worker protections and is completely unnecessary,” said Rebecca Proctor, legal counsel for the Kansas Organization of State Employees.
“Fundamentally, this amendment does nothing except allow Secretary Brownlee to discharge and discipline employees without cause,” Proctor told the Senate Commerce Committee.
Brownlee said she wants to improve the agency through better management and a merit-based employee system.
“We are not trying to deprive anyone of continued employment; just be a good worker,” she said.
Her proposal would make all employees at the Labor Department unclassified workers without Civil Service protection who serve at the pleasure of the secretary. The move would affect 383 classified workers, or about two thirds of the agency.
Brownlee said the current Civil Service system is too constraining and takes too long to remove a bad employee.
Proctor, however, said the Civil Service system has procedures to reward employees based on merit, and get rid of workers who are doing a bad job.
Sen. Tom Holland, D-Baldwin City, said Brownlee's proposal could arbitrarily take away workers' rights and lead to hiring based on political pressure.
But Chairwoman Susan Wagle, R-Wichita, said Brownlee was trying to work on “huge problems within our Civil Service system.”
The committee took no action on the bill.