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Some state employees face salary inequity

March 19, 2001

Some state employees face salary inequity



Annapolis

By LAURA ERNDE

laurae@herald-mail.com

If Julia Shank left her job as a clerical office supervisor at Roxbury Correctional Institution, her replacement would most likely draw a higher salary.

A recent change in the promotion policy for state employees allows newer employees to leapfrog over those with tenure.

"They don't care about older people who have experience," said Shank, 48, who has worked for the state since she was 20.

The Maryland Classified Employees Association is lobbying the Maryland General Assembly about what some say is an inequity that has damaged morale.

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"People who've worked hard to get where they are, they really feel the rug's been pulled out from under them," said association President Ruth Ann Ogle, who lives in Smithsburg.

Ogle said the problem stems from a change in the state's promotion policy, negotiated last year by the Association of Federal, State, County and Municipal Employees.

The change allows state employees to get raises of up to a 12 percent when they are promoted. Raises before were capped at 6 percent, even if the employee should have received more under the state's grade and step salary system.

No one foresaw a problem in making the change, which was supposed to help state employees by allowing them to get equitable raises, said Andrea Fulton, executive director of the Office of Personnel Services and Benefits.

But the change has produced its own injustices, say people like Kim Weaver, 47, of Hagerstown.

When Weaver was promoted to a lieutenant at Roxbury Correctional Institution south of Hagerstown about 14 years ago, his raise was capped and he had to work his way back up the pay scale. Now that the cap is gone, newly promoted correctional officers are making the same as he is right off the bat.

Shank thought she would benefit from the policy change when her job was reclassified along with all state clerical jobs.

Then she found out the cap still applied in her case. Not only did she get a smaller-than-expected raise, but she now realizes that someone promoted into the same job probably would make more.

Shank doesn't plan to leave state government after so many years, but she's miffed that the policy will prevent her from ever reaching the top of her pay scale - $38,500.

The Classified Employees Association has proposed formation of a task force to investigate the problem and make recommendations to the Maryland General Assembly. A hearing on the issue is scheduled for 1 p.m. today in the Senate Finance Committee.

No one knows how many of the state's 30,000 employees have been affected. Several state prison employees are the only ones who have complained so far, Fulton said.

There is no way to fix the problem other than eliminating the change. Making it retroactive won't work because the state changed its entire pay scale two years ago, she said.

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