TOPEKA, Kan. — The Kansas Department for Children and Families is offering some workers a 2.5 percent pay raise if they give up the right to appeal disciplinary decisions.

To receive the raise, employees will have to give up their status as classified workers, which allows them to appeal personnel decisions such as firings, demotions or suspensions. Unclassified employees are considered “at will” workers.

The agency has offered the increased pay to 118 workers who currently have such appeal rights, and plans to make a similar offer to 598 classified and unclassified employees if the Department of Administration approves, Secretary Phyllis Gilmore said. Of those offered the raise so far, 49 accepted and 69 declined, The Topeka Capital-Journal reported.

Robert Choromanski, executive director of the Kansas Organization of State Employees union, said the offer simply makes it easier to fire workers.

State employee pay is becoming a contentious issue for the cash-strapped state.

Earlier this year, lawmakers passed a 2.5 percent pay increase for employees with fewer than five years of experience and a 5 percent raise for those who hadn’t received a raise in five years.

Brownback earlier this month announced raises of about 5 percent for uniformed officers at prisons statewide and roughly 10 percent for those at El Dorado Correctional Facility after inmate disturbances there. Those raises increased pressure on lawmakers to consider raises for all state employees, but budget director Shawn Sullivan told lawmakers last week that revenues must grow more quickly than currently to sustain the spending lawmakers already have approved.

The Brownback administration has in previous years offered pay increases to employees who give up their classification. Choromanski said employees who previously gave up that status to receive a raise didn’t receive the pay raise approved this summer.

Democratic Sen. Laura Kelly, of Topeka, said she believed the Brownback administration is using the Legislature’s inability to raise pay for all workers because of budget shortfalls to unravel employment protections for state employees.

Brownback’s interim spokeswoman, Rachel Whitten, said the governor is encouraging agency heads to use financial and legal means to address employee concerns over the Legislature’s plan.

Gilmore said her agency is always interested in “identifying efficiencies.”

“However, this effort is strictly about using the tools we have to ensure equitable distribution of raises for our hard-working staff members,” she said.

John Milburn, a spokesman for the Department of Administration, said in a statement the administration was “in the process of developing a plan to address some of the inequalities created by the pay plan passed by the Legislature.”


Information from: The Topeka (Kan.) Capital-Journal, http://www.cjonline.com