NAPE/AFSCME member Jessica Collins is a Social Services Lead Worker with DHHS. Jessica works in the Alliance local office along with a handful of other DHHS employees. This office is open for members of the public to obtain information about state economic assistance and other services. Due to short staffing and employees coming and going throughout the day to perform their job duties, it is common for one employee to be left alone in the office.
On average, an employee is left alone in the office once per week for varying amounts of time. In the past few years, Jessica and her colleagues have had multiple experiences of threatening and inappropriate behavior from members of the public when alone in the office. This unsafe situation is exacerbated by the office layout, where the front desk is at the back of a long hallway, leaving employees vulnerable to being cornered with no way to escape or call for help.
Employees have repeatedly reported the unsafe conditions to management and requested safety measures to be taken multiple times, but management has failed to take steps to improve safety in the office. For a short period of time, employees were able to lock the office door when one staff member was left in the office at a time, but recently management told employees that this was no longer allowed. It is clear that despite persistent requests from employees, DHHS did not take any action to investigate or improve the safety of the office environment.
Jessica reached out to NAPE for assistance, and a grievance was soon filed on behalf of Jessica and her colleagues at the office. Our union contract requires management to provide state employees with a safe working environment, and timely and diligently pursue improvements to workplace safety. A hearing officer determined that the Alliance office was an unsafe workplace and that DHHS failed to offer sufficient protections for employees. DHHS was ordered to investigate and remedy the safety issue in the next 30 days.
Whether state employees are working in an office, a medical facility, or on a highway, our union contract requires that they must be provided with a safe working environment. If you have concerns about workplace safety, reach out to NAPE right away for advice on how to address the situation.