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W.Va. higher education personnel bill advances

By JOSELYN KING

The Weirton Daily Times

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A bill allowing West Virginia’s colleges and universities the option of establishing their own hiring policies not based on seniority is now on its way to a full vote in the West Virginia Senate.

Senate Education Committee members on Thursday advanced House Bill 2542, sending it to a vote on the Senate floor with a recommendation that it pass. The vote by the committee was by voice vote, but was not unanimous.

The measures allow West Virginia University, Marshall University and the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine flexibility to develop rules for employee classification and compensation. This would permit the schools to remove employment criteria based on seniority and employee “bumping rights.”

Under the bill, other state colleges could remain under the current system, or apply to the state Higher Education Policy Commission or Community and Technical College Council to request the same right. Officials would also have to be trained in areas such as employee evaluation.

Colleges and universities seeking to establish their own hiring system would have to establish policies pertaining to employee classification and compensation, as well as performance evaluations.

Sen. Robert Plymale, D-Wayne, questioned what “basics” would have to be included in the hiring policies. Patricia Clay, a representative of the HEPC, said she didn’t have an exact answer, but speculated the policy would encompass such matters as employee leave, disciplinary actions and the creation of an employee handbook.

Rob Alsop, vice president for legal, government and entrepreneurial engagement at WVU, addressed the committee and said the university needed flexibility in its hiring if it is to stay financially competitive while still serving the best interests of the public. He said WVU received $35.35 million less in state funding last year as West Virginia’s leaders have encouraged state agencies to be more cost-conscious.

Alsop said the university doesn’t want to lay off employees, but reductions in force are always possible. And under current policy, the elimination of an employee could mean that an employee could go on to bump another with less seniority out of his or her position.

The second employee, in turn, could then bump a third employee, who also would seek to get another position. The end result is instability, according to Alsop. He said the university would like to use other factors such as employee evaluations to determine which employees are most beneficial in the workplace.

See more from The Weirton Daily Times

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