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    New California Law Wants to Help Minority State Workers Get Promoted. Here’s How It Works

    By Wes Venteicher

    New California law wants to help minority state workers get promoted. Here’s how it works

    An ambitious bill that aimed to make promotions more accessible for minorities and women in California state government was winnowed down to just a few provisions by the time Gov. Gavin Newsom signed it last month. In its original form, Assembly Bill 1604 would have required state boards and commissions to include minority members. Independent arbitrators, rather than managers, would have overseen hearings that can lead to employee discipline. Interviews would have been recorded to create a record for candidates to challenge hiring decisions. Those provisions were all removed in a long legislative process. But Assemblyman Chris Holden, D-Pasadena, said in an emailed statement that the legislation will still help underrepresented state employees get promotions. “This not only empowers current and aspiring public servants but it also provides insight and knowledge, and helps Californians see people that look like us in leadership,” said Holden, who is Black. But Michelle Allen, who teaches a course on getting state jobs at Sierra College in Rocklin, said she saw few substantive changes to the hiring process in the legislation, with one possible exception related to the “statements of qualification” that are required when applying to state jobs.

    Holden’s proposal was first introduced in December 2020. He said at the time that it was driven by the death of George Floyd — a Black man who died May 25 of that year after a Minneapolis police officer kneeled on his neck for nearly nine minutes — and by written calls for equity from Black employees at two California state agencies. In his early push, Holden cited data showing the state’s workforce for entry-level jobs is diverse, but few minorities or women hold high-level posts. The first version of the bill was vetoed by Gov. Gavin Newsom in 2021.

    Newsom expressed concerns in a veto message that “elements of the bill conflict with existing constitutional requirements, labor agreements, and current data collection efforts.” A requirement for corporate boards to include minorities in California was struck down in court this year. The Pacific Legal Foundation, a libertarian law firm headquartered in Sacramento, argued Holden’s bill improperly subjected candidates to evaluation based on race or sexual orientation. CHANGES TO STATE HIRING The version of AB 1604 that became law focuses on two key elements, both of which are scheduled to take effect in January 2024. First, it calls on the Human Resources Department to standardize applications across the state’s roughly 150 departments. Most significantly, said Allen, it instructs CalHR to standardize statements of qualification across departments. The statements, used to match candidates’ experience and education to job requirements, can vary in minute ways from department to department. One might require 12-point font while another requires 11; one limit the statement’s length to three pages while another asks for two. As a result, employees can’t use the same statement across job openings. “It can be esoteric in nature — I can understand why it might be a good idea to make them more uniform,” Allen said. The bill includes language about “core competencies,” which can be used in some cases as a substitute for state experience or educational requirements. Core competencies are already included in state job postings, and it’s unclear how much they’ll change under the new law. Second, the legislation tweaks how departments must report their progress in the state’s Upward Mobility program, which aims to usher entry-level workers such as custodians, gardeners and construction workers into higher-paying office and administrative jobs.

    Click here to read the full article at the Sacramento Bee


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