Unclassified Rights Examined

One of the most misconstrued and misinformed statements heard from state employees is that unclassified employees have no rights or benefits granted to them under the Oklahoma Personnel Act (Title 74 O.S., Section 840-1.1 through Section 840-6.9). Nothing could be farther from the truth. While it may be true that classified employees are vested with certain rights and benefits not afforded to unclassified employees, both classes enjoy many of the same rights and benefits.

What rights and benefits do unclassified employees have and what grants them this right or benefit? Title 74 O.S., Section 840-5.1 states that unless otherwise provided, the Oklahoma Personnel Act does not apply to unclassified employees. With this in mind, each section of the Oklahoma Personnel Act has to be read carefully to determine whether or not that particular section of law does or does not apply to unclassified employees.

Along these same lines, one of the most commonly asked questions is, “as an unclassified employee can I file a grievance with my agency?”

Title 74 O.S., Section 840-6.2 states that the agency grievance procedure applies to classified state employees. The Oklahoma Merit Protection Commission (Commission) has adopted rules for agencies to use in administering the grievance process. One of the rules promulgated by the Commission, Merit Rule 455-10:19-2(b), states that an agency may use the grievance procedure adopted by the Commission, or adopt other procedures, to address disputes of employees not in the classified service. So the answer is “yes”, as an unclassified employee, you may file a grievance with your agency if that agency has adopted a procedure to address disputes of unclassified employees.

If your agency has not adopted such a procedure, you may file an appeal directly with the Commission, if the dispute surrounds an issue over which that agency has jurisdiction. The jurisdiction of the Commission does include the provisions of the Oklahoma Personnel and the Merit System of Personnel Administration Rules.

Here are the provisions of the Oklahoma Personnel Act which do apply to unclassified employees.

Title 74 O.S., Section 840-2.5 – Commonly known and referred to as the “Whistleblower Act”. This section of law prohibits retaliation against state employees for reporting wrongful governmental activities.

Title 74 O.S., Section 840-2.9(A)(E) – Section A prohibits favoritism and discrimination in state service. Section E prohibits payment for any appointment, promotion or any advantage in a position.

Title 74 O.S., Section 840-2.11 – State employee home addresses, home telephone numbers and social security numbers shall not be open to public inspection or disclosure.

Title 74 O.S., Section 840-2.15 – Addresses the payment of overtime and the accrual and usage of compensatory time.

Title 74 O.S., Section 840-2.18 – Covers longevity pay for state employees.

Title 74 O.S., Section 840-2.19 – Addresses underpayments and overpayments of salaries and wages.

Title 74 O.S., Section 840-2.20 – Addresses sick and annual leave accumulations and usage.

Title 74 O.S., Section 840-2.20A – Addresses the status of state employees when an agency is closed because of imminent peril threatening the public health, safety or welfare of state employees or the public.

Title 74 O.S., Section 840-2.20B – Addresses leave of absence for state employees serving as a bone marrow donor or human organ donor.

Title 74 O.S., Section 840-2.21 – Addresses the absence of a state employee because of an illness or injury arising out of and sustained in the course of state employment, and for which workers compensation benefits have been filed.

Title 74 O.S., Section 840-2.21A – Addresses the inability of a member of the Oklahoma Law Enforcement Retirement System, in certain positions, to perform duties.

Title 74 O.S., Section 840-2.22 – Addresses the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

Title 74 O.S., Section 840-2.23 – Addresses the eligibility and usage of the state leave sharing program.

Title 74 O.S., Section 840-2.23A – Addresses the eligibility and usage of leave with pay to a state employee who is affected by a presidentially declared national disaster.

Title 74 O.S., Section 840-2.24 – Addresses the eligibility and usage of leave to participate in specialized disaster relief services.

Title 74 O.S., Section 840-2.25 – Addresses the eligibility and usage of leave to attend meetings of job-related professional organizations.

Title 74 O.S., Section 840-2.26 – Addresses flextime attendance policies and alternative work schedules.

Title 74 O.S., Section 840-2.27A through Section 840-2.28 – Addresses reduction-in-force provisions.

Title 74 O.S., Section 840-3.1 – Addresses training programs for supervisory personnel.

Title 74 O.S., Section 840-4.6(D) – Addresses salary schedules for unclassified employees.

Title 74 O.S., Section 840-4.17 – Addressees the requirements of the performance management system.

Title 74 O.S., Section 840-4.19 – Addresses the designation of place of employment and appeals to the Commission.

This knowledge could be the difference between an unclassified employee knowing and receiving the rights and benefits of his or her state employment.

For questions regarding grievance procedures, call OPEA’s Employee Relations Coordinator, Clyde McLendon.

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