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California Considers “Public Employee Bill of Rights”

The California State Assembly is considering sweeping legislation aimed at protecting the “rights” of state employees. According to its sponsor, Assemblyman Roger Dickinson (D-Sacramento), the bill will “ensure that essential working conditions are met, enhance and clarify the expectations of employees and management alike, and improve the working relationship between rank and file workers and state managers. In turn, these changes will result in improved worker productivity and more harmonious personnel relations.” Of course, the notion that a bill that would bar California from imposing work quotas on public employees, would keep supervisors from “unreasonably prevent[ing] the employee from using his or her daily rest and lunch periods,” and says “an employee shall not be compelled to perform extra work” will improve productivity is dubious at best. What does the bill define as “extra work?" Anything that is not described in the “current, detailed, and accurate job description” that the state would be required to provide “at the onset of employment” and at “regular intervals” to employees. The content of that job description, and all performance reviews, would be required to take “significant input” from “peer review committees” that will be “authorized to have regular input regarding the operation of the workplace.” In the “harmonious” workplace that Assemblyman Dickinson envisions, workers will be afforded every possible legal advantage over the state. If the state misses any deadline in responding to any complaint filed by any employee, the grievance “shall be considered to have been resolved in favor of the employee.” Additionally, if signed into law, the legislation would unabashedly swell the rolls of SEIU Local 1000 (the union for California public employees) by stipulating that full-time employees “enjoy priority in filling permanent, overtime, and on-call positions over excluded employees and contractors.” But the most dangerous part of the bill is the section that constricts the statute of limitations covering public employees. The bill states, “No adverse action shall be valid against any state employee for any cause for discipline based on any civil service law of this state, unless notice of the action is served and the investigation is completed within one year after the cause for discipline” and strikes the exemption for “action based on fraud, embezzlement, or the falsification of records.” Currently, the state has three years from the date of the alleged malfeasance to serve notice of the action or, in the case of fraud, embezzlement, or falsification of records, three years from the date the fraud was discovered. This change would leave California exposed to massive potential benefits and pension fraud, as employees would enjoy immunity from prosecution from one year after the fraud is committed. Was this bill to become law, it would make it incredibly difficult to prosecute fraud by state employees, swell the size and scope of California’s already bloated government, further politicize the employee evaluation process, and actually make it illegal for a supervisor to ask an employee to finish a task on time. Then again, if “creating a sense of stability” for public employees is more important than effective and efficient government, maybe this is a good bill.