Local Politics

Layoff notice to state workers could create problems

Posted February 2, 2011 5:13 p.m. EST
Updated February 2, 2011 7:23 p.m. EST

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— State lawmakers grappling with a projected $3.7 billion deficit say layoffs are inevitable as services are cut to reduce spending.

Managers are legally required to give state workers at least 30 days' written notice of a layoff, and a human resources expert said Wednesday that could cause trouble in state offices.

"It's a gut-wrenching situation. So, employers need to do everything they can to take the pain out of this," said George Ports, a consultant with Capital Associated Industries. "There are always situations where an employee can be very vengeful and can do something that they shouldn't do."

In most private-sector businesses, people are quietly shown the door when they have been laid off, although companies that lay off large numbers of workers during a plant closing are required to provide 60 days' notice.

"Whether you have experience doing it or no experience, it's never an easy process," Ports said.

The State Office of Personnel has already started preparing for the worst, creating a Reduction in Force Team to provide information and transitional resources for state workers.

The Administrative Office of the Courts sent correspondence throughout the state court system Wednesday afternoon calling for a voluntary reduction in force. If the voluntary plan doesn't work to meet budget restrictions, a mandatory reduction could follow.

"I think all state employees are very concerned about what's going to be happening during this budget cycle," said Doranna Anderson, a public health educator with the state Department of Health and Human Services.

Anderson said lawmakers need to consider reforming the state tax code and closing corporate loopholes before cutting jobs.

"State employees can be an easy target, but I think we need to look at the whole picture," she said.

Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger said lawmakers also are looking at cutting pay across state government and requiring state workers to pay premiums for their own health insurance.

State employees took a 0.5 percent pay cut in mid-2009 as part of Gov. Beverly Perdue's executive order requiring mandatory furloughs to help close a previous budget gap.

"There's no way we get there (to a balanced budget) without salary reductions, layoffs (and a) reduction of certain services," Berger said.