Category Archives: Public Sector

President Obama’s First Budget Proposal

Source: Citizens for Tax Justice, March 12, 2009

On February 26, President Obama sent to Congress the blueprint for what could be one of the most progressive federal budgets in generations. The budget calls for national health care reform, expanded education funding, a program to reduce global warming, and several improvements in human needs programs. As a new report from Citizens for Tax Justice explains, it would make the tax code considerably more progressive, and close a number of egregious tax loopholes.

There is, however, a flaw in the budget proposal: It does not raise enough revenue to pay for public services. Instead, its net effect is to cut taxes dramatically.

The Structure of State and Local Government Retirement Benefits, 2008

Source: William J. Wiatrowski, Bureau of Labor Statistics, February 25, 2009

New data from the National Compensation Survey show that 92 percent of government workers have access to one or more types of retirement benefits; 84 percent have access to a traditional defined benefit plan, and two-thirds of those with any retirement benefits have access to more than one plan.

Sustaining the State Workforce: Strategies for Effective Pandemic Planning

Source: National Governors Association, NGA Center for Best Practices, Issue Brief, February 2009

From the press release:
A new NGA Center Issue Brief highlights strategies to safeguard the state workforce during a pandemic outbreak, such as avian influenza. A pandemic has the potential to keep up to 30 percent of a workforce home due to illness, school closings and caring for relatives. States are developing strategies such as telecommuting, extended leave and benefits and cross-training employees for essential tasks to mitigate a pandemic illness outbreak.

Implications of the Family and Medical Leave Act for Local Governments: Helping Administrators Understand the Law

Source: P. Edward French, Review of Public Personnel Administration, Vol. 29 no. 1, March 2009
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) was enacted in 1993 to help full-time employees balance the conflicting demands of their work and personal lives. Private employers with 50 or more employees (at a single work site) and all federal, state, and local government employers are required to comply with the act. Since its inception, many local governments have been sued for violations of its guidelines. This research provides case examples from across the United States to illustrate why many local governments have faced litigation under this act. Several cases filed against cities and counties over the past 7 years are discussed. The intent of this analysis is to highlight many of the legal rights and protections that the FMLA affords to local government employees, to provide a practical understanding and guide for compliance with the requirements of this employment legislation.

State Government “Little Hatch Acts” in an Era of Civil Service Reform: The State of the Nation

Source: James S. Bowman and Jonathan P. West, Review of Public Personnel Administration, Vol. 29 no. 1, March 2009
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
The defining characteristic of modern public service–insulation of civil servants from political manipulation and protection of the public from partisan administration of the law–is undergoing change as a result of contemporary civil service reform. It is in this context that “little” state Hatch Acts, laws modeled after the 1939 federal statute, are examined. This exploratory analysis reports survey and interview data from officials charged with implementing their state’s law to gauge its effectiveness in today’s reform era. After a review of the literature and a description of the methodology, the findings are presented, followed by a discussion of their implications for the future.

The Supreme Court and the Continuing Deconstitutionalization of Public Personnel Management

Source: Robert Roberts, Review of Public Personnel Administration, Vol. 29 no. 1, March 2009
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
In Engquist v. Oregon Department of Agriculture, the Supreme Court held that public employees may not use the so-called equal protection clause of class-of-one doctrine to challenge the constitutionality of arguably arbitrary adverse personnel actions. In the 2000 case of Village of Willowbrook v. Olech, the high court had authorized citizens to bring class-of-one equal protection lawsuits to challenge arguably arbitrary discretionary decisions by government officials. The decision provides further evidence of the ongoing effort by a majority of the Roberts Court to limit the constitutional rights of public employees. The article argues that the ongoing deconstitutionalization of public personnel management has significant implications for the management of public organizations. If the trend continues, public employees, much like their private sector counterparts, will become much more dependent on statutory protections and collective bargaining agreements to protect them from arbitrary personnel decisions.

A Contract Campaign Across Unions

Source: Doug Swanson, Labor Notes, February 20, 2009

As Wisconsin faces a nearly $6 billion budget deficit, state employee unions are determined to make sure the crisis isn’t “solved” on our backs. All union contracts with the state will expire June 30. As we strategize, we’re remembering our successful campaign–“A Deal’s a Deal”–from 2003.

Blogging While (Publicly) Employed: Some First Amendment Implications

Source: Paul Secunda, University of Louisville Law Review, Vol. 47, No. 4, 2009

From the abstract:


While private-sector employees do not have First Amendment free speech protection for their blogging activities relating to the workplace, public employees may enjoy some measure of protection depending on the nature of their blogging activity. The essential difference between these types of employment stems from the presence of state action in the public employment context. Although a government employee does not have the same protection from governmental speech infringement as citizens do under the First Amendment, a long line of cases under Pickering v. Bd. of Education have established a modicum of protection, especially when the public employee blogging is off-duty and the blog post does not concern work-related matters.

Describing the legal protection for such public employee bloggers is an important project as many employers recently have ratcheted up their efforts to limit or ban employee blogging activities while blogging by employees simultaneously continues to expand. It should therefore not be surprising that the act of being fired for blogging about one’s employer has even led to a term being coined: “dooced.” So the specific question that this essay addresses is: do dooced employees have any First Amendment protection in the workplace? But the larger issue examined by implication, and the one addressed by this Symposium, is the continuing impact of technology on First Amendment free speech rights at the beginning of the 21st Century.

This contribution to the Symposium proceeds in three parts. It first examines the predicament of private-sector employees who choose to blog about their workplaces. The second section then lays out the potential First Amendment free speech implications for public employees who engage in the same types of activities. Finally, the third section briefly considers a potential future trend in this context from Kentucky involving government employers banning employee access to all blogs while at work.