The trial in a class action lawsuit challenging the State of Iowa’s hiring practices began today and Republican Terry Branstad is touting changes he’s made since he took over in January for his fifth term as governor.
“We’ve hired new directors of the departments and agencies and indicated we want people to be treated in a fair and non-discriminatory way,” Branstad says.
The class action lawsuit alleges that since “at least 1995” — when Branstad was beginning his fourth term as governor — the state of Iowa engaged in racial discrimination in hiring, firing and promotion policies. The lawsuit was originally filed by just over a dozen blacks, but now alleges thousands of blacks were illegally passed over for promotions, unlawfully fired or weren’t even hired in the first place because of discriminatory practices. Branstad lays some blame on Democrat Governor Chet Culver, his predecessor.
“We’re trying to get more uniformity and consistency and fairness in terms of the way things are managed in state government, including hiring and also accountability in terms of the employees that are working for the departments and agencies of state government,” Branstad says. “We want to end favoritism and make sure that people are treated in a fair and non-discriminatory way.”
Branstad praises his new Department of Civil Rights director for firing three employees who were using their work computers to send snarky emails about their coworkers.
“(She) found out there were some investigators that were handling a significant number of cases and others that were getting virtually nothing done,” Branstad says, “and so she put a matrix of expectations in place and six people quit because they didn’t want to work that hard.”
Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds suggests the previous Culver Administration also decentralized hiring,
“We’ve moved it back to a centralized process so we can have more consistency in the practices instead of each one of the agencies doing their own things,” Reynolds says.
According to Reynolds, all hiring decisions in state government now flow through the Department of Administrative Services and the Department of Management, which is headed by Branstad’s budget director. The state universities, however, are part of a separate system.
Branstad and Reynolds made their comments during their weekly news conference. AUDIO of Sept 12 news conference runs 25 min.