The Kansas Department for Children and Families has offered some state workers a 2.5 percent pay raise if they give up employment protections to quell frustration over a pay plan passed by the Legislature.

DCF has offered 118 classified employees the option and plans to offer it to 598 classified and unclassified employees, pending approval by the Department of Administration, DCF Secretary Phyllis Gilmore said in a statement. The plan comes after some state workers were left out of an across-the-board pay increase passed this spring by lawmakers.

Gilmore said of the 118 employees who have received the offer so far, 49 have accepted and 69 have declined.

Robert Choromanski, executive director of the Kansas Organization of State Employees union, said he thought the most recent raise was offered so the administration could strip employee protections and more easily fire workers.

Gilmore said the department identified employees who deserved raises but didn’t get them under a bill passed by the Legislature and signed by Republican Gov. Sam Brownback.

“While many employees appreciated the well-deserved raises, the measure overlooked others who were equally deserving of salary increases,” Gilmore said.

To get the raise, employees would have to give up their “classified” status, which allows them to appeal disciplinary decisions. According to the Department of Administration website, unclassified employees are considered “at will” workers. Gilmore said DCF and other agencies can’t independently raise pay for non-classified workers. That has to be done by lawmakers.

Choromanski said the move divided state employees by classification status. Employees that give up their classified status, he said, can “become arbitrarily terminated for no reason.”

“By retaining your classified status, you can appeal your termination or your demotion or your suspension without pay,” Choromanski said.

The administration has previously offered pay increases to employees who give up classification. In a release earlier this year, Choromanski said employees who previously had given up that status in exchange for a raise were left out of the Legislature’s pay increase this summer.

Some already unclassified employees will get offered the new 2.5 percent raise DCF is implementing.

Earlier this year, lawmakers passed a 2.5 percent pay raise for employees with fewer than five years of experience and a 5 percent raise for those who hadn’t gotten a raise in five years.

Democratic Sen. Laura Kelly, of Topeka, said she thought the administration was taking advantage of the Legislature’s inability to raise pay for all workers because of budget shortfalls. She said she thought the goal was to unravel employment protections for state employees to make it easier to reduce the state workforce.

“The Brownback administration wants to treat state employees like private sector employees,” Choromanski said.