READ Special Master Report to Federal Court *plus* AFSCME battles over HSD illegal quota policy

READ the Special Master’s Report to U.S. District Court on State's efforts to comply with the HSD/ISD Federal Consent Decree.

CLICK HERE for a PDF file of this story for PRINTING AND POSTING

On Thursday, March 1st, the Human Service Department appeared before U.S. District Judge Kenneth Gonzales in the decades-old Debra Hatten-Gonzales case concerning mismanagement at New Mexico's HSD Income Support Division.

Judge Gonzales ordered over a dozen County Line and Regional Managers to be present during the hearing.

Judge Gonzales will decide in a matter of weeks whether or not to accept, in whole or part, Special Master Lawrence Parker's report and recommendations for overhauling New Mexico's underperforming income support system. Ultimately, HSD Cabinet Secretary Brent Earnest, will be the one responsible for following through with implementing those recommendations.

Significant details of the report and information emerging during the hearing include:

  • HSD/ISD will restore and integrate into ASPEN an auto-denial and auto-closure system
  • HSD/ISD has entered into a contract to create a global employee-procedures, or "desktop reference", manual (eta 12/2018)
  • Report recommends termination of several top ISD managers due to lack of knowledge and skills necessary to implement necessary improvements 
  • Management's response to orders being handed down by the court has created an atmosphere of fear and retaliation that must change

Both Judge Gonzales and Special Master Parker took time during the hearing to recognize the heavy lift that income support division Family Assistance Analysts do every day to deliver support services in spite of the deck being stacked against us.

Throughout the hearing, testimony painted a picture which AFSCME members know all too well - communications and directives from upper management to the frontline employees is in chaos and causes the agency mission to suffer. Employees are being denied necessary trainings and other opportunities to advance their careers. Equally dysfunctional has been the flow of vital information from the frontline employees to HSD decision makers.

All parties agree that HSD/ISD has made significant progress in delivering food and medical assistance to citizens in need. Little evidence emerged that management deserves any credit for the improvements. Instead, frontline staff are the ones doing the work necessary to improve performance and it is coming at great cost as FAAs, under immense pressure to fly through their caseloads, are denied vacation and even discouraged from taking medical leave.

AFSCME has learned that HSD / Income Support Division Employees are being told by management that AFSCME has agreed to a quota system. This is false. AFSCME continues to demand bargaining over this substantial change in your protected terms and conditions of employment.

AFSCME Council 18 has filed a prohibited practice complaint with the New Mexico Public Employees Labor Board over the attempted implementation of quotas on behalf of all HSD Income Support Division - Family Assistance Analysts. Our complaint demands that New Mexico's Human Services Department rescind these unilateral changes, bargain with the Union over those, and any future changes to terms and conditions of employment of bargaining unit members prior to implementation in accordance with Article 18, § 2 of the CBA.

Read the prohibited practice complaint / SIGN the HSD/ISD petition HERE.

The Board will hear arguments on the merits on the case on April 10, 2018. We still need to hear from HSD/ISD members NOW. If you are being subjected to illegal quotas or being transferred to different work locations, please contact us with details and your personal contact number at: [email protected]

Please share examples of how HSD has retaliated, intimidated, or disciplined employees using this illegally imposed 'quota policy'. Share your story in the comment section. Include examples of HSD using your annual performance appraisal, EDA, to load on quota requirements.

For decades, the New Mexico Human Services Department has faced criticism for failing to properly process applications for Medicaid and food assistance, or SNAP benefits. AFSCME members know that challenges in recent years stem from severe understaffing, an error prone ASPEN computer system, lack of training, and the lack of global policy and practices, or “desktop reference” manual.