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Hazardous Duty

August 6, 2011 permalink

Child protection workers in Louisiana will be getting $2 per hour hazardous-duty pay to supplement their income.

The duty of social workers would not be hazardous if they provided real help to their clients instead of family destruction.



$2-an-hour hazardous duty pay OK'd for state workers investigating child abuse and neglect

BATON ROUGE -- The state Civil Service Commission on Wednesday approved a hazardous duty pay supplement of up to $2 an hour for state employees who investigate cases of child abuse and neglect, which sometimes lead to the removal of children from their homes in confrontational circumstances.

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The commission approved the request by officials of the Department of Children and Family Services, who said turnover in the ranks of investigators has been 25 percent to 30 percent in recent years.

Department officials said 198 positions are set aside for investigative slots, but they could not say late Wednesday how many are filled.

Agency Human Resources Director Wanda Raber said starting salaries for the caseworkers range from $27,000 to $29,000. The $2-and-hour bump for full-time investigators will mean about $5,000 a year, Civil Service officials said . If an agency employee is detailed part time as an investigator, the $2-an-hour increase will be pro-rated to the time spent investigating cases.

Civil Service Director Shannon Templet and her staff recommended the "premium pay" to the commission for approval.

"It is our hope the $2 an hour will keep existing workers and encourage others to join the agency as investigators," Denise Fair, deputy secretary for operations of the agency, told the commission.

"The (department's) clients see the worker as an intrusion into their private lives and have the authority to take their child away if need be," Raber said. "They get in the middle of domestic violence. They go into neighborhoods where crime is high. We can't get the qualified employees we need."

In a letter to Templet, Children and Family Services Secretary Ruth Johnson said more than 70 percent of "front-line CPI (child protection investigation) workers reported they have been the victims of violence or threats of violence in the line of duty."

Some investigators, Johnson said, have been stalked, intimidated and have had their lives and their relatives' lives threatened. In some cases, she said, workers have been "shot at while removing an infant from harm" and others have been in danger while investigating homes that have been turned into meth labs.

The added pay, she said, is necessary "to retain experienced CPI workers."

On another issue, Templet said her staff is starting to look at a new performance-evaluation system for state workers to get raises when the ongoing pay and hiring freeze is lifted. The state has not given what had become a routine 4 percent "merit pay" increase to state workers in the past two years.

The last time merit pay was awarded, more than 98 percent of state workers qualified for the full 4 percent. Templet said one version of an evaluation plan being studied would reduce the present five-tier system to a three-tier system.

The state now rates an employee poor, needing improvement, having a solid standard performance, exceeding requirements or outstanding. Only those graded poor or needing improvement do not get a raise, Templet said.

In the three-tier plan, workers would be graded unsatisfactory, satisfactory or exceptional with only the unsatisfactory not getting the raise.

Templet said her office hopes to come up with a plan for presentation to the commission at its November meeting and vote on it in December. Two previous plans approved by the commission, which contained raises of 3 percent to 6 percent depending on job evaluations, have been vetoed by Gov. Bobby Jindal.

Source: Times-Picayune