Bill would protect AWOL state workers - Brian W. Jones

Bill would protect AWOL state workers

Sacramento — State workers would be given more due-process rights if they get fired after taking off work without permission under a bill OK’d by a Senate panel on Monday. The Senate Employment and...

and Retirement Committee on a 3-2 party-line vote advanced the measure that would allow state employees who are absent from work without leave to demonstrate they’re able to resume their duties by submitting verification from a licensed health care provider.

Opponents have cast the proposal as a gift to labor unions that would ultimately make it more difficult to terminate state workers with unexcused absences.

The measure, sponsored by the Service Employees International Union Local 1000, would require state human resources officials to reinstate the worker if the state triggers “automatic resignation” procedures before the employee is absent from work without permission for five consecutive work days.

Supporters say the bill would strengthen due process provisions for AWOL workers by allowing an administrative law judge to determine whether the state properly applied the termination law. They further contend the measure could save the state money by reducing litigation costs associated with improper invocations of the AWOL statute.

“I understand that there may be an employee that’s just a pain, but a manager should not go through with these proceedings before taking the proper disciplinary actions against the employee,” said the author, Assemblywoman Cheryl Brown, D-San Bernardino, at the hearing on Monday. “The absence-without-leave statute should only be used if the employee is absent for five days consecutively.”

Brown added that the bill does not prevent any state departments from ultimately firing an employee.

Representatives from the sponsoring labor union stressed the bill applies to all state workers — from managers to confidential employees — not just those represented by a bargaining unit.

Assemblyman Brian Jones, R-Santee, was among those to oppose the measure on the floor of the Assembly. He said an employee who fails to show up for work five days in a row without any sort of notice to their employer shows a blatant lack of respect for authority.

“In the private sector, someone who routinely doesn’t show up for work would be, and should be, fired,” Jones said Monday. “The same should go for the public sector; this is not the type of behavior the state should promote.”