News

Many Arizona state employees become “at will”

by Tammy Binford

Most new state government workers in Arizona soon will be at-will employees thanks to a new law overhauling the state personnel system that goes into effect September 29.

The new law consolidates nine different personnel systems in the executive branch and converts new hires, attorneys, supervisors, and several other high-level employees to at-will status. Certain employees, such as peace officers and employees within the Arizona Department of Public Safety, will be exempt from the changes.

“By implementing the overhaul, Arizona is following the lead of several states that similarly converted government employees to at-will status in recent years, such as Florida, Georgia, Indiana, and Texas,” said Chris McFadden, an attorney with Ford Harrison LLP in Phoenix and a contributor to Arizona Employment Law Letter.

The new at-will employment relationship will give the state more flexibility when it comes to disciplining and terminating employees.

“The governor’s office has stated that its aim is to reward top performers and eliminate frustrations with disciplining and terminating employees,” McFadden said. “Opponents of the change fear that politicians will gain too much control over personnel decisions.”

Most current employees won’t be affected by the change, but new hires as well as current supervisors, attorneys, IT workers, and certain high-level employees will be converted to at-will status.

The state’s executive branch includes 91 state agencies, the Department of Gaming, the Department of Tourism, the Department of Public Safety, the governor’s office, the Arizona State Retirement System, the secretary of state, and the Public Safety Retirement System.

For more information about this new law, see Chris McFadden’s article “Arizona Legislature wraps up its session” in the July 2012 issue of Arizona Employment Law Letter.