Reports › BGR Comments on Proposed Amendment to Layoff Rule

Jun 28, 2011

In this letter to the members of the Civil Service Commission, BGR supports the concept proposed by the administration to amend the Civil Service rule related to layoffs, but raises concerns about certain aspects of the amendment.

Filed under: Civil Service, Orleans Parish

June 28, 2011

Civil Service Commission
1300 Perdido Street
Rm 7W03
New Orleans, LA 70112

Re: Proposed Change to ‘Bumping’ Rules

Dear Commissioners:

In May, BGR was provided with the administration’s Proposal to Amend Civil Service Rule XII. The proposed amendments target the practice of interdepartmental “bumping,” wherein layoffs can result in transfers throughout the entire Civil Service, including the City, the Sewerage & Water Board and the Aviation Board. It would limit the scope of bumping to the “organization unit” in which the lay-offs occur.

In the 2004 report, System Upgrade: Retooling New Orleans’ Civil Service,
BGR found that bumping can wreak havoc with the City’s work force. Employees who have developed expertise and rapport in one department may be forced out by someone without either. Employees without appropriate skills can claim jobs from incumbents who have those skills. And each bump sets off the potential for another.

In short, the current system sacrifices the maintenance of an effective work force to job protection. It is in serious need of an overhaul.

BGR has previously recommended limiting bumping to clearly related job classifications within an employee’s current department. It strongly supports the concept proposed by the administration, but has concerns with the definition of “organization unit.”

Sec. 10.1 of the proposed amendments defines an “organization unit” as a department, board, commission or office established in the charter or any group of employees within one of them that the mayor designates as an “organization unit.” While this definition would allow for refinements so that bumping applies only to employees with clearly related jobs within a department, it is written quite broadly. It would allow the mayor to designate organization units in entities that are not under his direct control, such as the Sewerage & Water Board. More importantly, it gives a mayor too much discretion in defining those units.

We suggest that the authority to define an “organization unit” within a department, board, commission or office for purposes of layoffs should rest with the Civil Service Commission. The Commission should be guided by objective criteria, such as whether the designated “organization unit” is composed of all employees with clearly related functions.

In addition, it is worth noting that the Civil Service’s bumping system theoretically takes into account the performance of employees, bumping those with low performance ratings before those with higher ones. However, BGR’s 2004 report found that, because of weaknesses in the evaluation system, seniority – rather than employee performance – is the principal determinant in bumping. The weaknesses remain. According to a summary of service ratings for 2010 provided by Civil Service staff, only 31 out of 4,315 employees (less than one percent) were rated as needing improvement. Only one employee was rated as unsatisfactory.

Ensuring that evaluations are meaningful and useful in the event of layoffs requires more than a rule change. It demands the leadership of the administration and its managers, coordination with the Civil Service Department and a sustained commitment of energy and resources. We urge the administration and the Civil Service Commission to make a concerted effort to correct this serious weakness in the City’s human resource management.

In closing, BGR applauds the administration for prioritizing the effectiveness of the workforce over job protection.

Sincerely yours,

Janet R. Howard
President & CEO