Against their will

Proposed HR changes create uncertainty for employees

Laramie County Community College is redefining what it means to be an employee of LCCC with 23 proposed new employment policies and procedures.

The policies, which span more than 65 pages, were first presented at a LCCC Board of Trustees’ retreat Jan. 24 in Laramie, Wyo. Since then, word of the changes spread across the campus like wildfire and ignited faculty and staff’s grave concerns for the future of the college’s employees and students.

The LCCC administration had originally given employees just more than three weeks to read through the policies and provide feedback, but an uproar from employees prompted administrators to extend the deadline.

So why should students care?

One attorney has called these proposals the biggest rollback of employee rights of any organization he has ever seen.
These policies and procedures will strip away employee job security, will spark a culture of fear, and will divide employees hired before and after 2014.

The policies affect all future employees of LCCC and categorize them as administrators, professional staff, classified staff, non-adjunct faculty and adjunct faculty. The different categories will have specific rights and expectations.      

Previously, faculty had a three-year probationary period before being given a continuing contract. They then had an expectation for continued employment at LCCC, unless notified otherwise. If the trustees pass these new policies, faculty would be classified as instructors, assistant professors, associate professors, professors or trustee professors.

Each classification is tied to a specific number of years of employment. An instructor’s contract would generally run one academic year; an assistant professor could expect three academic years; an associate professor, five years, and a professor, seven years. A trustee professor would have an indefinite duration.

Faculty would receive a contract at the time of hiring detailing length of employment, compensation, expectations, etc. At the end of the contract, faculty would have no expectation for continued employment.

A faculty member would be notified five months before the end of his contract if his employment at the college would continue. The administration would send the employee a new contract, and if it were not signed and returned by the end of the month, the administration would assume the faculty member did not wish to continue his employment at LCCC.

Policies classify staff as at-will employees

In addition, the new policies would specify classified staff as at-will employees. This means any staff member who falls within the areas of technical, paraprofessional, service, maintenance, skilled crafts, clerical, or secretarial could be fired at any time without cause.

Another proposed procedure would specify employees who can be fired only for cause, such as faculty and professional staff, could be fired for “actions or behavior which result in injury to LCCC or its reputation.”

In November, the administration conducted a campus climate survey in which employees expressed fear of speaking out, and all of this came before the news of the proposed policies and procedures were announced. We believe the anonymous comments were so damaging that the administration refused to release them until Wingspan filed a public records request.  

Although these policies would not affect those already employed at LCCC, we at Wingspan are concerned for what they would mean for the future of the college.

At a time when employees have voiced a growing fear for their jobs, these changes seem not only unnecessary but also unwise.

What was the intent behind these changes?

The previous policies might not have been what were best for the college, but we are concerned the proposed policies and procedures in their current state will do nothing more than create a system in which it is easier to dismiss staff, control faculty and widen divisions between LCCC’s administration and its employees.

We believe taking away an employee’s expectation of continued employment would hinder his ability to serve the students of LCCC to the fullest extent as well as to create an atmosphere of fear and distrust, instead of growth and empowerment.

The switch from “for cause” to “at-will” employment for classified staff is also disturbing. This tells employees it doesn’t matter whether they perform their jobs well. They are easily replaceable, and office politics and erratic supervisors could dictate whether they are fired on a whim. 

How can the administration expect an employee to perform well when he is robbed of his job security?

For example, if a student has a problem and seeks help from an at-will employee, how can we expect that employee to act if he is afraid of his supervisor and has no assurance his job is safe?

Then moral questions arise with these changes. Why would we give supervisors the power to fire employees without cause? What can possibly be gained from this? If an employee is fulfilling his job requirements and has no grievances filed against him, why should his supervisor be given the power to fire him regardless? We can see no situation in which an employee should be fired without reason, and this is what the administration would be promoting by changing employees from cause to at-will.

We believe these changes would further lower morale and divide the college at a time when employees are already concerned for the security of their jobs.   

It is also disconcerting to consider what kind of employees these new policies would attract. It is our opinion that LCCC hires highly qualified and passionate employees. These kinds of policies do not attract those kinds of people. It is entirely possible if these policies and procedures are approved in their current state, LCCC might lose the quality employees it currently has and would be unable to replace them with quality candidates.

We applaud that the promises made by the administration assuring current employees they would be safe from the changes have not been enough to quiet the outcry from employees who believe these policies would be damaging to future hires.

A public hearing of the new policies and procedures is set for Wednesday, March 5. We at Wingspan urge the Student Government Association as well as all students at LCCC to show their support for our faculty and staff by attending this meeting and standing by them.

We cannot allow those who have affected our lives so greatly to be disenfranchised against their will.  


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