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Update – Worker home-assignments bill gets lukewarm support in hearing; won’t pass at cutoff

Post by Brad Shannon / The Olympian on Feb. 19, 2013 at 11:48 am with No Comments »
February 19, 2013 4:16 pm

The Washington Federation of State Employees and the governor’s policy advisers were pretty much neutral today on a bill that would let state agencies give tasks to workers sent home due to allegations of wrongdoing, avoiding the waste of paying workers doing nothing. The bill sponsored by Republican Rep. Matt Manweller of Ellensburg got a hearing in the House Government Operations and Elections Committee. Manweller testified that the goal was to allow employees on home reassignment to help out in some way by doing part of their jobs without “being in the environment where the conflict had arisen. But we’re not paying someone a salary to play Xbox at home or play Wii. … It’s kind of Lean management. You get the same bang for the buck, or more bang for the buck.’’ A KING-5 television report last year found the state had paid more than 1,000 employees to stay home during investigations, costing $17.2 million for salaries and benefits during the time off. And 50 workers were kept off the job at home for a year. TVW’s coverage of the hearing on House Bill 1460 /b> is here:

Julie Murray of the state budget office said that former governor Chris Gregoire put out an order last year in response to the problem after learning that some agencies did not have policies for this. She said one problem in having workers do tasks is when there are fitness for duties issues – say when a person is arrested or no longer able to perform job functions. Murray suggested changes to the bill to push the issue to a review by an agency’s human resources division and agency director or the head of a board or commission that oversees the agency. Murray said that at last count there were 13 employees home on assignment and that the Department of Corrections and State Patrol used home assignment most often during investigations of misconduct. “We’re going to err on the side of caution and use home assignment when doing that investigation,” Murray testified. But she signaled support for the bill, saying she thinks the state already has a good practice in place but that “offering some kind of continuity would be a good thing.’’ Matt Zuvich of the Washington Federation of State Employees said the union was neutral on the bill. But he said members “kind of like the goal of the bill which is to expedite the process.’’ Zuvich said home assignments are rare for members of the union and that when such cases do arise they are for the most serious situations. He also said there may be areas where having workers do work at home could be problematic. House Government Operations Committee chair Sam Hunt, D-Olympia, did not say whether he intends to move the bill to a vote before Friday’s cutoff.

Update on original 11:48 am post: I just heard from Rep. Hunt. He said he won’t be bringing HB 1460 up for a committee vote. “There is a companion bill in Senate Rules, and Rep. Manweller asked we defer and see if that one comes over,” Hunt said in an email. 


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