The New Orleans Civil Service Commission voted Aug. 25 to overhaul the city's employment system and to raise the city employee minimum wage to $10.10 (subject to the New Orleans City Council's approval). The wage increase will affect more than 200 employees and increase personnel costs by $600,000 a year.
The civil service changes were championed by Mayor Mitch Landrieu as part of his Great Place to Work initiative and initially was developed with the consulting firm Public Strategies Group in 2012. The massive changes include giving more power to managers in hiring and payment decisions and using performance evaluations to assess pay raises and employment.
The Police Association of New Orleans, the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) and the New Orleans Fire Fighters Association, among others, opposed several of the changes, the most controversial of which was removing the "rule of three" — which requires city managers to consider only the top three candidates for an open position based on civil service exam scores. Critics of the changes suggested that removing the rule-of-three provision allows for favoritism rather than job performance to decide who gets those jobs.
The commission voted 3-1 in favor of the package, and the FOP filed a lawsuit later that day to prevent the city from returning to what it called the "spoils system." The FOP suit also alleged that the "rule of three" changes violate the state constitution's civil service provisions.