November 7, 2006
Thomas H. Wright
State Personnel Director
Office of State Personnel
1331 Mail Service Center
116 West Jones Street
Raleigh, NC 27699-1331
Re: Advisory Opinion: G.S. 126-1, 126-4; Authority of State Personnel Commission to Implement Career Banding, Revisions to Pay Plan, etc.
Dear Mr. Wright:
Thank you for your letter of August 28, 2006. You request an opinion regarding the authority of the State Personnel Commission to approve the Career Banding Program developed by the Office of State Personnel. You describe Career Banding as “a system in which jobs are combined into broader classes with wider pay ranges in order to more accurately describe the jobs actually performed by State employees.” In addition, you state that “a banded system would group similar job duties into fewer classes . . . .”
As your letter correctly notes with its attachment, the authority of the State Personnel Commission as granted by the General Assembly is contained in G.S. 126-4. Specifically, G.S. 126-4 provides that the State Personnel Commission has the authority, subject to the approval by the Governor, to adopt rules pertaining to:
- (1) Position classification plans which shall provide for the classification and reclassification of all positions subject to this Chapter according to the duties and responsibilities of the positions.
- (2) Compensation plans which shall provide for minimum, maximum, and intermediate rates of pay for all employees subject to the provisions of this Chapter.
- (3) For each class of positions, reasonable qualifications as to education, experience, specialized training, licenses, certifications, and other job-related requirements pertinent to the work to be performed.
G.S. 126-4. As the courts have recognized, the legislature created the State Personnel Commission with a specific purpose in mind:
The purpose of Chapter 126 is "to establish for the government of the State a system of personnel administration under the Governor, based on accepted principles of personnel administration and applying the best methods as evolved in government and industry." G.S. 126-1. In addition to the power to promulgate policies and rules regarding the "separation" of employees, the Commission has the same policy and rule making power over "[t]he appointment, promotion, transfer, demotion, and suspension" of employees under G.S. 126-4(6) and "programs and procedures as may be necessary to promote efficiency of administration and provide for a fair and reasonable system of personnel administration" under G.S. 126-4(10). Chapter 126 clearly gives the State Personnel Commission the power to establish rules and policies governing personnel matters.
N.C. Dep’t of Justice v. Eaker, 90 N.C. App. 30, 33-34, 367 S.E.2d 392, 395, disc. rev. denied, 322 N.C. 836, 371 S.E.2d 279 (1988). Moreover, such policies adopted by the Commission have the force and effect of law. Id. at 38, 367 S.E.2d at 398.
The Commission therefore has clear authority to conclude that fewer and broader classes with wider pay ranges are examples of the “best methods” of personnel administration and to implement changes in the job classification system which would result in broader and fewer classes of jobs which more accurately describe the work being done by the occupants of the jobs. The power delegated to the Commission is the power to adopt rules to “provide for the classification and reclassification of all positions subject to this Chapter according to the duties and responsibilities of the positions.” G.S. 126-4(1). In addition to its plenary authority over job classification (G.S. 126-4(1)), the Commission also has plenary authority under G.S. 126-4(2) over compensation, or pay, plans. Likewise, the project of revising the pay plans falls well within the Commission’s statutory authority granted by the legislature in G.S. 126-4(2).
In addition to the specific authority granted by the legislature over classification and compensation systems, the Commission also has been granted authority over the development of qualifications for each position in the classification system. See G.S. 126-4(3) (“For each class of positions, reasonable qualifications as to education, experience, specialized training, licenses, certifications, and other job-related requirements pertinent to the work to be performed.”) Together, the delegation of authority to the Commission over classification matters, compensation matters, and the determination of the necessary qualifications for each position classified all support the conclusion that the Commission had the requisite authority to approve the career banding project begun in 2002 by the Office of State Personnel.
Finally, in SL 2006-66, § 22.15A.(a), amended by SL 2006-221, § 21A.(a), the Legislature suspended all career banded classifications not approved by June 15, 2006, and fully implemented by February 1, 2007, and permitted already banded classifications to be incorporated into the Payroll (BEACON) program. Such legislation is additional authority for the proposition that the State Personnel Commission had the requisite authority under then-existing law to approve the career banding classifications. I trust that this responds to your questions. Should you need additional information, please do not hesitate to let us know.
Senior Deputy Attorney General
Lars F. Nance
Special Deputy Attorney General
Valerie L. Bateman
Special Deputy Attorney General