What avenues are available to government licensed professionals who feel that their job classification is inadequate for their responsibilities and job functions?
Article 33.02 of the GLP Master Agreement provides a means for pursuing classification complaints, and having them resolved by a third party if disputes cannot be sorted out with the employer. The classification appeal procedure set out in the master agreement is available to all GLPs — LSOs and others alike. What are the factors members need to consider before initiating a classification appeal?
The first important point to understand is that classification is dictated by positions, not incumbents. Classification is determined by the responsibilities assigned to a job, rather than the personal qualifications an incumbent of that position may happen to bring to that job. Employees have a case for reclassification in only one circumstance — when the functions they are required to perform match those prescribed in a higher classification standard. The challenge in any classification appeal is to succeed at demonstrating that one is functioning at the level described in the target classification standard, rather than one’s present classification. To meet this challenge, it is essential that would-be appellants accomplish three things:
- Make themselves familiar with the applicable classification standards;
- Understand the key differences between the standards, and
- Find a way to convince a neutral third party that they are actually functioning at the higher level.
Classification standards are not the same as job descriptions. Job descriptions set out the particular functions and responsibilities assigned to individual positions in government.
Classification standards differentiate and rank categories of work, each level more responsible or onerous than the level below it. A job description exists (or is supposed to exist) for every public service position, and every position is assessed and ranked under a classification standard. The Licensed Science Officer (LSO) Plan is a classification standard; it distinguishes five different responsibility levels, LSO 1 to 5. Different classification standards apply to psychologists, physiotherapists and pharmacists. Copies of the applicable classification standards are available from the PEA.
When it is clear that one is in a position to pursue a classification appeal, here are the prescribed steps of the appeal procedure, one by one.
Step One: Getting a Current Job Description
Ask the "employer's designate" for a written statement of your job duties and responsibilities, i.e., a job description. Ask your supervisor or personnel officer for the name of the employer's designate. The request need not be written, and the designate is required to provide the description within forty (40) days of your request.
If the designate fails to provide the job description within forty (40) days, or if the description does not accurately reflect the duties and responsibilities the employer requires you to perform, or if the description is accurate but warrants a higher classification in the employee's view, go to Step Two.
Step Two: Submit Appeal Form
Complete a "Classification Appeal Form", copies of which are available from the PEA, and forward it through your supervisor, to the BC Public Service Agency. This form provides your opportunity to set out the particulars of your appeal and describe your case for reclassification. Using this appeal form, identify the specific classification or detailed LSO breakdown you feel is most appropriate to your duties and responsibilities. Indicate why and how your duties equate to the desired classification level, and list any LSO "benchmarks" or other government licensed professional positions that are comparable to your own.
For appeals of LSO classifications you should refer to the LSO evaluation system and rating guide. Under the LSO system, jobs are classified under four factors. Briefly, they are knowledge, judgement, role and supervision. For each factor that is disputed you must identify the error in the existing LSO rating and specify what the appropriate rating is, noting those of your duties that justify the higher rating.
If you occupy a non-LSO classification, support your case for reclassification by referring to the relevant classification standards. Again, you should identify the job duties that dictate the higher classification. If the Agency representative fails to reply within forty-five (45) days of receiving your Classification Appeal Form, or if you do not agree with the results of the review you may go to Step Three.
Step Three: Review By BCPSA
At Step Three, The PEA must forward your Classification Appeal Form to the employer's bargaining agent (the BC Public Service Agency) within fourteen (14) days of your being notified of the employer's decision at Step Two.
It is imperative that the 14-day deadline be complied with, as the appeal will otherwise be nullified. At Step Three the PEA, after confirming that the appeal is well-founded, will supplement your Classification Appeal Form with any further information that may be relevant in light of the employer's reply at Step Two.
BCPSA has sixty (60) days to carry out its review of the appeal. If BCPSA fails to respond within sixty (60) days of the request, or if we do not agree with the results of the BCPSA review, the PEA can go to Step Four.
Step Four: Adjudication By Referee
Once the Association receives the BCPSA's reply at Step Three of the appeal, a PEA labour relations officer will discuss the circumstances with you before the union decides whether or not the appeal will be presented to the Classification Referee at Step Four of the appeal procedure. The Association must present the appeal at this step within thirty (30) days of receipt of BCPSA's Step Three reply.
Where an appeal is filed at Step Four, the Classification Referee conducts a hearing in which evidence is presented by the BCPSA and the PEA. The Referee's decision is final and binding. In the event that the Referee's decision is favourable, the resulting classification change is retroactive to the first day of the pay period following the BC Public Service Agency's receipt of the Classification Appeal Form, at Step Two.