"Layoffs of state employees would be determined primarily by job performance, which would be evaluated annually, under a proposed bill released Monday that would overhaul the state’s civil service system, making it quicker and easier to hire and fire state employees.
Employees also could be immediately fired for a number of offenses under a bill drafted by Sen. Roger Roth, R-Appleton, and Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke, R-Kaukauna, that was circulated on Monday for co-sponsorship by Thursday.
Gov. Scott Walker said last week that he backed the proposal to overhaul the century-old civil service system in order to attract better candidates for state jobs.
In a memo to legislators, Roth and Steineke said the system “was born during a time where there was a need to professionalize government work and insulate workers from political pressure. This is still the case, however, it is also time to update a system based on a 19th century mentality in favor of one that takes advantages of 21st century opportunities through common sense reforms.”
The bill comes four years after Walker all but eliminated collective bargaining for most public-sector employees. At the time, he said while employees’ ability to bargain would be greatly diminished, the state’s civil service system is “the protection that workers have that’s the most important in the state of Wisconsin. ... It was there long before collective bargaining, it’ll be there long after.”
Opponents of the bill, including Democratic lawmakers and the Wisconsin State Employees Union, say removing objective hiring practices — like the state exams — would weaken protections from cronyism.
About 30,000 state employees are part of the civil service system, including almost all state workers with the exception of legislative staff, University of Wisconsin System faculty and academic appointments and political appointees.
Under the proposed bill, state employees would be subject to a progressive method of discipline but could be fired immediately for certain conduct including harassing a person at work, intentionally inflicting physical harm on another employee, being under the influence of alcohol or drugs at work, falsifying agency records, stealing agency property or services or viewing pornography at work.
It’s unclear whether such firings could happen only after a finding of fact, or if an allegation of misconduct is sufficient.
Layoffs would be determined primarily by employees’ performance, after which the agency may consider seniority, discipline records and the employees’ abilities. Under current law, “the order of layoff may be determined by seniority, performance, any combination of seniority and performance, or by other factors,” according to a Legislative Reference Bureau analysis of the proposed bill.
The bill also would introduce a shortened time frame during which the state could fill open positions and would eliminate the use of state exams to measure an applicant’s knowledge and skills. Instead, the state’s hiring process would be resume-based.
The bill also extends the state’s current six-month probationary period for new hires to two years, and directs the Department of Administration, which would oversee employment matters, to create a fund to allow state agencies to give bonuses to employees whose performance exceed agency expectations."