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Like all state agencies, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice was required to submit options for budget reductions totaling 5 percent in the current biennial budget. But according to Executive Director Brad Livingston, TDCJ employees should not assume all the possible cuts in spending identified in the agency's February 15 response will be implemented.
"I don't want to suggest that I know what decisions the state's leadership will ultimately make regarding the budget, because I don't," said Livingston. "But at the same time I want to emphasize the process of reviewing the impact of various reductions is just beginning, and that elected officials understand our staff and our programs make vital contributions to public safety."
The agency's response identified budget options totaling $293.4 million, of which $50.4 million could be achieved by means that would have a more limited impact on direct services, such as utilizing unexpended balances from various sources, a hiring freeze (excluding correctional and parole staff) and the deferral of many capital expenditures.
"Certainly, hiring freezes on many positions and reductions in capital expenditures for important needs like vehicle replacement impact the agency," Livingston said. "And unexpended balances from one source may ultimately be needed to offset rising costs in other areas such as utilities, but their impact differs greatly from those items for which we are seeking exemptions."
TDCJ is requesting an exemption from the remainder of the options identified in the agency's February 15 response to the state leadership because they would significantly impact direct services and public safety. Implementation of these
options would require eliminating positions and reducing funding for treatment and diversion programs.
Livingston emphasized that any rumors or speculation about a reduction-in-force or similar measures being imminent were just that, rumors and speculation.
"At this point in time no decisions have been made, so I urge staff not to overreact to media reports or the rumor mill," Livingston said. "I can't make any guarantees, but I don't believe we will see budget reductions totaling 5 percent. All that's happened so far is the leadership requested information regarding a 5 percent reduction, and we have responded."
TDCJ's zero tolerance policy for all forms of discrimination is intended to prevent the creation of a hostile work environment, which is defined as a work environment where offensive speech or conduct based on gender, race, color, religion, national origin, age, disability or genetic information is sufficiently severe or pervasive as to alter the complainant's employment conditions and create an abusive working environment.
Agency policy defines sexual harassment as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature. Discourteous conduct of sexual nature is defined as words of a sexual nature or actions toward another agency employee or other individual that a reasonable person would find offensive or is not welcomed by the person to whom the conduct is directed after that person has made it clear to the offending employee that the conduct is unwanted. Retaliation, on the other hand, is defined as an adverse employment action by any employee against an employee or other individual because the person subject to the adverse employment action opposed discrimination in employment or discourteous conduct of a sexual nature, made a complaint alleging discrimination or discourteous conduct of a sexual nature or testified, assisted or participated in an internal or external EEO investigation, hearing or court proceeding concerning such an allegation.
Sexual harassment, discourteous conduct of a sexual nature and retaliation by one TDCJ employee toward another are all, in fact, explicitly prohibited by agency policy. There are no exceptions to this policy. Allegations of sexual harassment will be investigated and violators will be subject to strict disciplinary action, including possible termination and, if appropriate, the filing of criminal charges.
"It is vital that TDCJ policies of Equal Employment Opportunity and zero tolerance for discrimination, including sexual harassment, be adhered to by every employee and enforced by every manager and supervisor in the agency," said TDCJ Executive Director Brad Livingston. "Anything less is unacceptable."
Employees are encouraged to report allegations of discrimination, sexual harassment or retaliation promptly to their immediate supervisor. If the allegations are against the employee's supervisor, the report should be made to a higher authority or outside the normal chain of command. Complaints can be filed with the Human Resources Division's Employee Relations Intake Section, the employee's second level supervisor or higher authority, if the person complained of is the employee's immediate supervisor or in the employee's chain of supervision, the agency's executive director, the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or the Civil Rights Division of the Texas Workforce Commission.
Complaints filed with the Human Resources Division are investigated by its EEO Section, which is separate from the EEOC. Allegations of sexual harassment or discourteous conduct of a sexual nature should be reported to the Employee Relations Intake section at 936-437-4240. Employees may also contact the Office of the Inspector General at 512-671-2480 to report alleged criminal violations of the agency's harassment policy.