state employees

Work from home extended for state employees

The doors of the state Capitol were closed to the public on March 16, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

The about 23,000 state employees who have been working from home because of the coronavirus pandemic will be doing so for another month.

According to a memo from the state Department of Human Resources, the work from home arrangement has been extended until at least May 26. Meanwhile, Gov. Bill Lee this week began reopening segments of the economy like restaurants and retail stores.

About 18,000 state employees, or 44% of the total full-time workforce, have still been required to come to work during COVID-19. Changes are being made to account for the new workplace realities.

“Not only will this help the State of Tennessee reboot from the current crisis, it will also prepare our workforce for the future,” according to the memo.

Here’s the full memorandum:

Dear State Employees,

Thank you once again for your commitment to maintain services to  support the health, welfare, and safety of Tennesseans during the pandemic. As we strive to continue business in the safest, most responsible way possible, please review the following announcements regarding work from home, state facilities, workforce recalibration, and mission critical hiring.

Work From Home Extension
To support efforts to maintain social distancing, the directive for employees who are able to work from home is being extended to at least Tuesday, May 26. While work from home will continue where possible, the state is developing plans for a phased approach to return to state offices where needed. The plans will support site-critical employees in returning to their worksites safely. At the same time, work from home may continue for employees who are fully virtually enabled as a means to support social distancing.

State Facilities Update
Efforts are underway to ensure workspaces are ready to support safe employee return. The State of Tennessee will continue to follow the guidance of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Department of Health (DOH) for the cleaning and disinfecting of state facilities and usage of personal protective equipment (PPE).

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Lee signs order granting 12-week paid family leave for state workers

Gov. Bill Lee speaks at a groundbreaking event in Nashville on Dec. 13, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Gov. Bill Lee announced Tuesday that state workers will be eligible for 12 weeks of paid leave to care for a new child or an ill family member. That will make Tennessee the first state in the nation to offer the full package of coverage under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act, Lee said.

Here’s the release from the governor’s office:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Today, Gov. Bill Lee announced that Tennessee will provide paid family leave for state employees. The Governor signed an Executive Order today directing the Tennessee Department of Human Resources to issue the new policy effective March 1.  

“Strong families make for strong communities, and I am proud that Tennessee will lead the nation in supporting our employees,” said Gov. Bill Lee. “This is an impactful investment in the state workforce and will allow us to continue to attract and retain the best workforce possible.”

While 69% of full-time working Americans believe that receiving paid parental leave is important when looking for a job, only 17% of employees across the U.S. have access to it. One additional month of paid family leave is associated with a 13% drop in infant mortality.

“Paid family leave will improve quality of life for state employees both at work and at home. I am grateful to Governor Lee and Senator Dickerson for making this a priority,” said Lt. Governor Randy McNally.

“I appreciate Governor Lee’s desire to support our state employees through this initiative, and I support the idea of allowing new mothers and fathers opportunities to spend more quality time with their newly adopted or newborn children. I look forward to working with the Governor, the House and Senate, Rep. Helton and our Fiscal Review Committee to determine the best ways we can continue to strengthen our Tennessee families,” said Speaker Cameron Sexton.

“Paid family leave for state employees builds upon our recent efforts creating safe, nurturing environments for our children, while strengthening bonds between parents and their newly adopted or newborn sons and daughters. This important benefit levels the playing field for our state departments, agencies, and the General Assembly so we can attract and retain the best and brightest employees. I applaud Governor Lee for this pro-family initiative because it supports those who work tirelessly on behalf of this state to make it the best in the entire nation,” said House Majority Leader William Lamberth.

“I am pleased to sponsor this bill so our state government can continue to retain the finest employees possible,” said Chairman Steve Dickerson.

“Tennessee is proud to be a pro-family state, and this initiative strengthens our commitment to families and is a step in the right direction. We have all experienced scenarios where we have had to choose between work and family. This initiative ensures our state employees will no longer have to make that difficult choice, and I am honored to serve as co-prime sponsor of this legislation in the House,” said Representative Esther Helton.

This new policy confirms Tennessee state government’s position as a pro-family employer while also improving its ability to effectively serve taxpayers by reducing turnover rates for high performing employees and reducing long-term state health care costs.

The expanded paid family leave will apply to all state executive branch employees subject to the TEAM Act and will not include a mandate on private business. Included in this policy is parental leave, making Tennessee the tenth state employer to offer benefits to parents in addition to the federal government. Qualifying events will be consistent with the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The new policy will go into effect on March 1 to provide sufficient time for the Department of Human Resources to draft policy guidance, train managers, and ensure accurate tracking of time and leave.

Here are Gov. Lee’s proposed raises for state employees

Gov. Bill Lee delivers his first State of the State address in Nashville on March 4, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Here’s a look at the $157 million in state employee raises Republican Gov. Bill Lee is proposing for the upcoming budget year:

1. State Employees Salary Pool:

a. 2% Salary Pool – Pay for performance – TEAM Act agencies: $28.8 million (effective 1/1/2020).
b. 2% Salary Pool – Across the board – Non-TEAM Act agencies: $6.7 million (effective 7/1/2019).
c. Market rate adjustment: $18.5 million. 

2. Higher Education Included in Funding Formula:

a. 2% Salary Pool – Formula Units: $22 million. 
b. 2% Salary Pool – Non-Formula Units: $8.5 million

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JLL now pitching privatization to community college campuses

A year after its massive state contract was finalized, Jones Lang LaSalle is doubling down on efforts to get individual university and college campuses to sign on to outsourcing their custodial, landscaping and maintenance services, reports Nashville Post Politics.

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TSEA endorses Harwell for GOP gubernatorial nomination, Fitzhugh for Democratic nod

Press release from Tennessee State Employees Association

NASHVILLE – The Tennessee Employees Action Movement (TEAM-PAC) the official PAC of TSEA, today voted to endorse Beth Harwell in the Republican Primary and Craig Fitzhugh in the Democratic Primary in the race for Governor in Tennessee.  Continue reading

Legislator’s relative, others lose jobs in shutdown of Fall Creek Falls State Park Inn

Fewer than half the state employees who lost their jobs when the Fall Creek Falls State Park’s Inn and Conference Center was closed — months before its scheduled demolition to make way for building a new $30 million facility  – got new state jobs and some of those who did are paid less and face a much longer drive, reports Sam Stockard. Some are blaming state officials for poor planning.

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Eight state prison employees fired in contraband smuggling probe

Eight employees at the Morgan County Regional Correctional Complex have been fired in an ongoing probe started after an inmate breached the state prison’s perimeter, only to return in an apparent effort to smuggle contraband into the prison, reports the Times Free Press.

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22 state employees recognized for ‘outstanding service’

Press release from the governor’s office

NASHVILLE – Governor Bill Haslam and First Lady Crissy Haslam today recognized 22 state employees for providing outstanding service to the state and their fellow Tennesseans at a luncheon at the Tennessee Residence. The Governor’s Excellence in Service Awards was launched in 2016 to honor outstanding state employees who are helping Tennessee lead by providing efficient and effective state services every day. 

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TBI reported ignoring state law giving hiring preference to veterans

Two state legislators say they want to change state law giving military veterans a preference in hiring for state jobs because the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation has been ignoring the statute, reports WTVF-TV.

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Haslam closes state offices in West and Middle TN

Press release from the governor’s office

NASHVILLE – Due to hazardous weather and travel conditions, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam has closed state offices on Friday, January 12, 2018 in West and Middle Tennessee, to include the following counties:

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