My name is Dixie Jackson. In my past life, I was the Head of Security at Griffin Memorial Hospital for the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, a founding member of OPEA, Past OPEA President, Etc, Etc! Today, I am the Legal/Grievance Specialist for the Oklahoma Public Employees Association. I have been advocating for Oklahoma state employees at the capitol and in their workplace for nearly half a century. I have represented hundreds if not thousands of Oklahoma State employees through the old merit protection system, and now I have represented just under a hundred members in the new modernized merit protection system. I occasionally do columns in our Advocate newsletter when changes come about so I can inform the membership of the new changes happening around them. If you have questions about the content of the column or questions about your rights as a state employee give us a call at 405-524-6764.
Are you planning on retiring soon?
We always encourage state employees looking to retire to donate excess leave to the shared leave pool. About a decade ago OPEA passed legislation to create the shared leave pool called “leave of last resort”. The shared leave pool allows state employees who are out of sick and vacation days to tap into it. This leave pool is for people who qualify for FMLA and have exhausted every other leave option. This leave pool is statewide and across agencies.
I know you’re saying to yourself “why would I donate leave? I’m about to retire”. You should donate your leave because whatever you can’t get paid out for just up and disappears back into the agency’s budget if you choose to not donate it. By donating your unused leave you make sure that our dedicated state employees who are facing a tragedy and need extra leave don’t get fired because they have exhausted all of their personal leave and FMLA.
If you have questions about donating to the shared leave pool just give us a call and we can help you!
State employees can no longer be disciplined at work for unresolved tax issues!
The second topic I wanted to cover in this column is a less newsworthy piece of legislation that we passed but very important to state employees who find themselves in tax trouble. Previously, if an Oklahoma state employee got into tax trouble they could face the usual collection techniques. However, as a state employee, you could also face discipline at work solely because of your delinquent tax standing. It was as unorthodox as it sounds. I have represented state employees who are already having their wages garnished and then are fired because of the progressive discipline they received from their agency due to tax delinquency. So the employee who is already paying back taxes and fines through the wage garnishment is fired, meaning they no longer can pay back what they owe to the IRS until they find another source of income. Now that just doesn’t make any sense!
After I had represented a handful of employees on these cases I suggested it was time to change this outrageous policy. So if you are delinquent on your taxes you can still have your wage garnished, but you can no longer be disciplined due to your tax standing. Some supervisors who enforced this policy before our legislation changed it may still be under the impression that they can discipline employees for tax delinquency. So if you hear anything about this kind of discipline taking place give us a call.