Conflict to Blame for Work Environment at Cal State Sacramento

A recent study of the employees of the California State University at Sacramento found that the unique managing issues facing the school are due to “state worker environment,” according to the Sacramento Bee. The study, conducted by the McKnight Associates Inc. at the request of the school’s Interim Vice President for Human Resources Christine Lovely, also found that the number of grievances filed by the CSU Sacramento employees was nearly triple that of any other university in the system.

Last year alone, the Sacramento State’s Office of Employment Equity spent more than $80,000 contracting with private companies to investigate complaints of harassment, discrimination, retaliation and several other civil rights-related issues — over two-thirds of which originated from members of the CSUEU employee union. McKnight, whose job was to research a follow-up to the 2006 examination of the university’s Office of Human Resources, found that these numbers haven’t changed much over the last six years. As a result, McKnight concluded that the conditions observed in the 2006 still prevail today.

“There was a consensus among those interviewed that the campus culture presents a challenging workforce to manage. It was most frequently described as a ‘state worker’ environment greatly influenced by its close proximity to the bureaucratic attitudes of State offices. It was made clear by mid-level administrators that a high level of ‘management fatigue’ in dealing with this environment has historically been present.”

The McKnight study found that the number of human resources and employee relations staff dedicated to resolving workplace disputes, and to helping administrators deal with their staff-management difficulties, was vastly inadequate in light of the grievance activity reported by the campus to the company. In addition to the civil rights claims, over last year the office also handled 79 Workers Compensation complaints, which was out of proportion for a school of Sacramento’s size.

Among its recommendations, the report called for an immediate creation of a position that would exclusively tackle employment matters that were considered serious — in particular the grievances dealing with civil rights and protected classes violations. The person hired will also deal with Labor Relations and Compliance claims to investigate their merits and drawe up conclusions.

McKnight noted that the creation of this position first appeared in the 2006 report, but while there has been no movement on this recommendation, the workload on the HR Office staff has only increased in the meantime.

The report also pointed to the difficult relationship between university administrators and the Human Resources Office, which was mainly a function of the continuing conflict between the school management and the employee unions.