published Friday, March 2nd, 2012

Merit should trump seniority in Tennessee's civil service rules

Under current civil service rules for Tennessee government employees, a worker with greater seniority has priority for staying on the job during layoffs.

That means that if there are layoffs, a less-senior employee is removed first, and the more senior worker can be moved into that position.

In many cases, of course, that might be justified. The more experienced worker may well have a better grasp of the job. But that is not a hard-and-fast rule. A worker with, say, six years of experience might be every bit as capable as -- or even more capable than -- one with eight years on the job.

It's for that reason that Gov. Bill Haslam sensibly proposed altering the so-called "bump and retreat" rule that gives more senior workers priority. Along with some other civil service protections, the existing rule protects workers who may not be the best qualified for the jobs they hold.

That is something Tennessee's taxpayers can ill afford in a time of tight budgets -- or any other time.

A bill now making its way through the General Assembly would allow seniority to be considered -- but would make merit a key consideration.

That is a wiser approach than focusing so heavily on seniority.

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