District Court employees have positions reclassified, get raises

Eight Grays Harbor District Court employees who had topped out their pay ranges will get raises as their jobs were reclassified to reflect their growing workloads and additional duties added over the years.

Judge Thomas A. Copland told the Board of County Commissioners Tuesday that the court’s clerks are doing more work as the caseload has grown, by 27 percent since 2014.

“The court has changed significantly. We are running a bigger ship,” he said. The workload has grown for employees in the court, but the number of clerks has not. “We are able to do more with the same staff,” said Copland, while adding he’s not sure if the District Court is the most efficient in the state, but it’s at least very close to it.

Much of the staff has been with the court “for a long time,” said Copland and their duties have outgrown their current job descriptions.

Employees of the District Court, like other county employees, are members of the AFSCME union and are paid on a 10-step scale. When they reach the top of that scale, there are steps employees can take to “reclassify” their positions, basically update the description with tasks that have been added during their employment.

“Sometimes those are done during contract negotiations, but at any time, per the union contract, an employee can ask for a reclassification,” said Marilyn Lewis, county Human Resources and Budget Director.

The union was included in this reclassification process.

“During the process we revised all the job descriptions to more reflect what their current duties are,” said Lewis. “Any change in a job description needs to be approved by the union rep, and they were involved in the process.”

Commissioner Vickie Raines said she supported the raises, which amount to about $33,000, split between the eight employees between April 1 and the end of the year, plus another 30 percent – just under $10,000 – in benefits.

An approved reclassification means, per the union contract, an employee is entitled to at least a 5 percent increase over their previous salary. Salaries ranged from $3,466 to $6,396 monthly, the raises amend the range to between $3,779 and $7,036 monthly.

Commissioner Wes Cormier said he was “dismayed by the large number of promotions this board has given out.” He called for a more “holistic” approach, saying currently the board is not “looking at the big picture” in terms of raises going to one department of the county over another. He feared morale problems between departments, where some with similar job descriptions may be getting raises while others are not.

Commissioner Randy Ross moved to approve the raises, Raines seconded. The raises passed 2-1 with Cormier voting no, while saying he agreed the court was efficient and well-managed.