PHOENIX — Gov. Doug Ducey’s administration is stepping up the firing of state workers, many of whom can be let go without explanation under a law enacted during his predecessor’s administration that revamped the state’s personnel system.
More than 1,500 state employees have been involuntarily terminated since January 2015, when Ducey took office, The Arizona Republic reported (http://bit.ly/2dVRdwE). Under Ducey’s predecessor, Gov. Jan Brewer, there were 551 terminations in 2013 and 547 in 2014 for a total of 1098 in an equal time period.
The Republic found that 64 percent of those terminated were 40 or older, a protected class of employee under federal labor laws because they are nearing retirement age.
Ducey’s spokesman Daniel Scarpinato said high turnover at state agencies is expected with a change in governors and that when he took office, Ducey asked directors to “make decisions on how to best use available resources.”
He said the administration has not targeted any class of employees and that the percentage of workers 40 or older who have been released mirrors the state labor pool.
Other workers who appear to have been let go at a higher rate are “at will” workers. A 2012 law changed what workers were considered “at will,” meaning they aren’t covered and can be fired without cause.
In 2012, 79 percent of the state workforce was covered. That figure has dropped to 25 percent.
Of all the departments affected, the State Department of Economic Security has had the most firings. Nearly one third of the 1,500 state employees terminated since January 2015 have come from DES, 71 percent of them 50 or older.
DES Director Tim Jeffries declined to comment.
Ducey declined to be interviewed for this story.
Information from: The Arizona Republic, http://www.azcentral.com