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Kansas Proposes Changes to Layoff Policies for State Workers

The Kansas Statehouse. (Photo by Stephen Koranda)

UPDATE: Governor Brownback says his administration is not planning any significant layoffs.

Governor Sam Brownback’s administration is pursing changes to some state employment policies. That includes modifying how Kansas agencies handle layoffs. Stephen Koranda reports.

The proposals would change how Kansas agencies determine who gets laid off first and give agencies discretion to protect certain employees.

Rebecca Proctor, with the Kansas Organization of State Employees, says the changes would reduce the value of experience and years of service while also making the process more subjective.

“A manager, a supervisor, would have the ability to determine who they want to stay without any real objective measure,” says Proctor.

Proctor suspects talk of budget cuts is prompting the changes as a preparation for layoffs.

“It’s very concerning that after agencies have been asked to prepare a budget that would absorb a 5 percent budget cut, we’re now seeing a public hearing on regulation changes that would make it easier to pick and choose who you want to layoff,” says Proctor.

The changes would also restrict the ability of workers to appeal their annual review scores and change the policies giving previously laid off state workers preference for state jobs. The change would allow agencies more opportunities to bypass a policy that says they should consider previously laid off state workers first for any job openings.

A spokesperson for the Department of Administration, John Milburn, says in a statement that the agency has been pursuing the new policies since 2014.

"The changes were developed as a means for modernizing the state’s HR policies and procedures in order to maximize efficiency and allow the state to better compete with both private and public sector employers," says Milburn.

Milburn did not mention the budget when asked about the timing of the regulations. He says they are up for approval now because it has taken this much time to prepare the proposed changes.

"The process is lengthy, technical in nature and requires approval from the attorney general’s office before they are ready to be submitted for public hearing," says Milburn.

Milburn says the proposals would not affect employees of state universities.

There’s a public comment hearing on the proposed changes next month on September 27th.

The full list of proposed changes is available online.

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