Darrell V. McGraw, Jr., Esq.
Jan L. Fox, Esq.
Special Assistant Attorney General
Steptoe & Johnson
Charleston, West Virginia
Attorneys for the Division of Personnel
Kathryn Reed Bayless, Esq.
Princeton, West Virginia
Attorney for Appellee
The Opinion of the Court was delivered PER CURIAM.
SYLLABUS BY THE COURT
1. "A final order of the hearing examiner for the West
Virginia Educational Employees Grievance Board, made pursuant to
W. Va. Code, 18-29-1, et seq. (1985), and based upon findings of
fact, should not be reversed unless clearly wrong." Syllabus Point
1, Randolph County Bd. of Ed. v. Scalia, 182 W. Va. 289, 387 S.E.2d
2. "'Interpretations of statutes by bodies charged with
their administration are given great weight unless clearly
erroneous.' Syllabus Point 4, Security National Bank & Trust Co.
v. First W. Va. Bancorp., Inc., W. Va., 277 S.E.2d 613 (1981),
appeal dismissed, 454 U.S. 1131, 102 S.Ct. 986, 71 L.Ed.2d 284."
Syllabus Point 1, Dillon v. Bd. of Ed. of County of Mingo, 171
W. Va. 631, 301 S.E.2d 588 (1983).
This dispute concerns the civil service classification of
Jeannie Blankenship who is employed by the West Virginia Department
of Health and Human Resources at Welsh Emergency Hospital. Ms.
Blankenship, who was classified as a computer operator II, pay
grade 14, maintains that she should be classified as a data
processing manager I, pay grade 22. After the Circuit Court of
McDowell County upheld the level IV decision of the West Virginia
Education and State Employees Grievance Board ordering Ms.
Blankenship's reclassification to a data processing manager I, with
back pay from January 13, 1987, the Division of Personnel appealed
to this Court. Because the record shows that Ms. Blankenship did
not prove her misclassification, we find that Ms. Blankenship
should be classified as a computer operator II and, therefore, we
reverse the decision of the circuit court.
Ms. Blankenship, a high school graduate with some
additional training in computer science, has been employed in
various positions at Welsh Emergency Hospital since 1978. In
January 1987, Ms. Blankenship, who had been patient accounts
supervisor, was reassigned to the hospital's newly established data
processing unit. Although a January 12, 1987 memorandum from Earl
S. Whiteley, the Administrator at Welsh Emergency Hospital, said
Ms. Blankenship was to "assume the duties of Data Processing
Manager," her civil service title of section chief II and her rate
of pay remained unchanged. The January 12, 1987 memorandum also
appointed a new patient accounts manager and his civil service
title and rate of pay also remained unchanged.See footnote 1
Because her reassignment to data processing did not
change her civil service title, Ms. Blankenship filed a grievance
alleging that her job should be classified as a data processing
manager I. The hearing examiner at level II noted that Ms.
Blankenship's job did not fit easily into the various civil service
classifications and found that a supervisor I classification, pay
grade 12, was the best fit. Ms. Blankenship appealed to level III,
but the level III hearing examiner agreed with the Division of
Personnel that Ms. Blankenship's job best fit into the computer
operator II classification, pay grade 14. The Division
reclassified Ms. Blankenship's position as a computer operator II
during the grievance process.See footnote 2 At level IV, the hearing examiner
agreed with Ms. Blankenship that her position should be classified
as a data processing manager I, pay grade 22. After the circuit
court upheld the level IV decision, the Division appealed to this
In the present case, we are asked to classify Ms. Blankenship's position as either a computer operator II or a data processing manager I. The individual job specifications issued by the Division for the two positions have four major sections: nature of the work; examples of the work performed; required knowledge, skills and abilities; and, minimum training and experience. The computer operator II and the data processing manager I specifications applicable to this case were last revised on August 5, 1980 and June 26, 1980, respectively. The nature of the work section provides the following descriptions:
Nature of Work: An employee in this class performs as a lead operator in the operation of a variety of electronic data processing equipment such as computer consoles, card readers, card punches, printers, tape and disk drives and remote job entry stations. Positions in this class are distinguished from those in Computer Operator I by the higher responsibility for error identification and resolution and equipment malfunctions and for training new operators. The incumbent may serve as a shift supervisor. Within established procedures and detailed instructions, the incumbent determines the priority of job runs, loads or mounts the equipment with cards, paper, tapes or disks; monitors error messages and output, takes corrective actions to resolve processing problems and checks and verifies completed runs for compliance with user specifications. Significant problems involving programming and job control errors or equipment malfunctions are referred to a shift supervisor, assigned programmer, user agency or vendor representative for assistance in resolution. Shiftwork and an irregular work schedule is required of the position.
Nature of Work: Under direction, an employee in this class manages the operation of a data processing unit responsible for one or more of the following functions: operations, data entry, or other areas related to the agency data processing installation. Through unit and shift supervisors, the incumbent is responsible for scheduling of production work for the most efficient utilization of equipment and personnel. The incumbent evaluates the operation through output audits, evaluates and resolves operational and equipment problems, develops operation standards, coordinates new systems installations with related data processing units and users, conducts cost analyses of equipment and directs training of subordinates. The incumbent is responsible for providing recommendations to management concerning the operational effectiveness of the operating unit and implementing the resulting policy. The individual is required to work irregular hours.
The examples of work performed include the following:
Operates a computer console, . . . printers, tape and disk drives and remote job entry stations to process a variety of computer programs and data.
Assists in job scheduling and aligning production commitments with programs, hardware and software resources.
May supervise operators on an assigned shift.
Trains new operators; assists operators in the identification and resolution of program and equipment problems.
Notifies superviser [sic], programmer/analyst, user or vendor representative of program or equipment problems. . . .
Plans and directs the activities of a large data entry unit; schedules production jobs; determines job priorities; revises production schedule to meet user needs.
Evaluates and resolves production problems;
advises technical staff and vendor of
Directs the start up and recovery of equipment from power outages and equipment failures; develops preventive maintenance schedule; maintains procedures for equipment and file security.
Evaluates equipment utilization and recommends changes in equipment configuration and the acquisition of new equipment; evaluates equipment acquisition proposals; coordinates new equipment installation with the user community.
Supervises the operations, data entry, job submission and distribution functions of a large user agency. . . .
The required knowledge, skills and abilities include the following:
Knowledge of the techniques and procedures used in the operation of computer equipment, including computer consoles, card reader, card punch, printers, tape and disk drives and remote job entry stations.
Knowledge of job scheduling procedures and operating procedures of a production-oriented data processing unit.
Ability to schedule jobs in a production-oriented data processing unit.
Ability to follow detailed oral and written instructions.
Ability to develop effective working relationships with operations personnel, hardware and software support personnel, user agency and vendor representatives.
Knowledge of data processing concepts and the use and limitations of data processing equipment.
Ability to schedule data processing production work to meet user needs.
Ability to evaluate equipment and operational problems and recommend solutions.
Ability to work effectively with users, data
processing personnel and vendor
representatives in resolving equipment and
Ability to plan and direct the work of data processing personnel.
Ability to prepare written reports on equipment utilization and individual and group performance characteristics.
The training and experience sections require a computer operator II to be a high school graduate with two years experience as a computer operator and a data processing manager I to be a college graduate with "[t]hree years of data processing experience including one year of supervisory capacity"; however, for the manager position, data processing or supervisory experience can be substituted for the required degree.
Ms. Blankenship maintains that her position is more
accurately described by the data processing manger I specifications
and that she used the data processing manager I specifications as
a guide for her position. Ms. Blankenship argues that because
Welsh Hospital provides acute care, it has departments and services
not found in other state hospitals and, therefore, the hospital's
data processing requirements are different and greater than other
state hospitals. Ms. Blankenship maintains that her position
entails meeting the hospital's requirements and that unlike a
computer operator she spends most of her time in monitoring,
coordinating and planning and little time "keying"-- less than 25
In order to show her misclassification during the
grievance process, Ms. Blankenship produced examples of her work
and the testimony of her co-workers. According to the record, Ms.
Blankenship's current position began in January 1987, when Welsh
Hospital shifted to computerized billing. Ms. Blankenship, as the
hospital's data processing manager, coordinated the shift and acted
as a liaison between the hospital's departments and the
computer/software vendor. As the contact person, Ms. Blankenship
notified the vendor when system problems occurred or when a disk
failed; she arranged for the hospital's maintenance department to
install wire labels, check anti-static pads and fix electrical
lines; and, the vendor informed her when new equipment or software
became available. Ms. Blankenship instructed other hospital
departments on the data and codes necessary for computer billing,
monitored the billings, corrected errors, ordered computer
supplies, adjusted the billing codes to conform with federal
requirements, and supervised and trained her department's data
entry operators and several temporary workers.
The hospital's data processing department began operation
with Ms. Blankenship and one full-time data entry operator. One
additional full-time operator was subsequently employed. After the
computer billing system was installed, Ms. Blankenship's work
included more monthly reports for such things as trial balances,
incentive billings, errors, accounts receivable, processing hours,
patient billings, and bad debts. Ms. Blankenship also adapts
procedures for new charges, requirements or procedures and notifies
the hospital's departments of the computer's peak hours to avoid
overloading the system. Indeed, Ms. Blankenship is the hospital's
pivotal person for addressing data processing problems and assuring
effective utilization of the computer system.
The Division argues that a computer operator II is the
best classification for Ms. Blankenship's position. The Division
maintains that according to the specifications a data processing
manager I manages of a large computer operation and is not working
supervisor. The Division notes that all the data processing
manager positions are located in Charleston and all positions
involve managing central data processing for an agency, such as the
Department of Health.See footnote 3 A data processing manager works with a
staff of professionals such as programmers and office automation
consultants in order to provide an agency with such services as
cost analysis of equipment, operational standards, problem
resolution, recovery after power outages and long range planning.
The Division notes that this level of responsibility is described
in the data processing manager I specifications, which state that
the employee "manages the operation of a data processing unit
responsible for . . . agency data processing. . . [t]hrough unit
and shift supervisors. . . ."
The Division argues that Welsh Hospital is not a data
processing installation but rather is a user of the agency's
installation. The Division notes that Welsh Hospital's data
processing unit is a small operation consisting of three full-time
employees and that although the hospital is the only acute care
state facility, it's billing processes are not unique, but rather,
are similar to billing processes of other health facilities.
The Division maintains that when the classification
system is considered as a whole, Ms. Blankenship's position comes
closer to the computer operator II classification because she is a
working supervisor of a small operation. In support of their
position at level III, the Division conducted a field audit of Ms.
Blankenship's position.See footnote 4 Pam Heining, the personnel specialist who
conducted the audit, said that Ms. Blankenship's position was "a
combination of data job coordinator, something called user
coordinator, computer operations and technical assistant," and
concluded that the best fit for Ms. Blankenship's position was as
a computer operator II. The Division also provided a list of the
employees in the data processing manager I, II, and III positions
and their agency assignments.
During the level IV hearing, Lowell D. Basford, Assistant
Director of the Classification and Compensation Section of the
Division, testified that the computer operator II classification is
intended to include working supervisors who are responsible for
resolving major error and equipment malfunctions, for determining
work priority, for monitoring output and error messages and for
acting as a liaison with user groups, vendors and programmers to
resolve problems. Mr. Basford also testified that data processing
managers work on large main frame computers for "large data entry
unit[s]" and that the level of production, responsibility,
sophistication of work described by the data processing manager I
specifications exceeds the level found in Ms. Blankenship's
In Syllabus Point 1, Randolph County Bd. of Ed. v.
Scalia, 182 W. Va. 289, 387 S.E.2d 524 (1989), we said:
A final order of the hearing examiner for
the West Virginia Educational Employees
Grievance Board, made pursuant to W. Va. Code,
18-29-1, et seq. (1985), and based upon
findings of fact, should not be reversed
unless clearly wrong.
See Syl., Billings v. Civil Service Comm'n, 154 W. Va. 688, 178 S.E.2d 801 (1971) (holding that a finding of a civil service commission will not be reversed "unless it is clearly wrong"); Syl. pt. 3, Pockl v. Ohio County Bd. of Ed., 185 W. Va. 256, 406 S.E.2d 687 (1991).
In the present case, the record shows that Ms.
Blankenship's position does not require the level of production,
responsibility and sophistication of work necessary for
classification as a data processing manager I position. The data
processing department at Welsh Hospital consists of three full-time
employees, one of whom is a working supervisor. At Welsh Hospital,
the data processing supervisor does not work "[t]hrough unit and
shift supervisors," does not "coordinate. . .installations with
related data processing units and users," does not conduct "costs
analyses of equipment" and is not responsible "for one or more
functions. . . related to the agency data processing. . . ." Ms.
Blankenship's appointment by the hospital administrator as manager
of the hospital's data processing department was an in-house devise
to clarify who was supervising a department because civil service
classifications, such as section chief II, supervisor I and
medicare reimbursement specialist, do not.
In Syllabus Point 1, Dillon v. Bd. of Ed. of County of
Mingo, 171 W. Va. 631, 301 S.E.2d 588 (1983), we said:
"Interpretations of statutes by bodies charged with their administration are given great weight unless clearly erroneous." Syllabus Point 4, Security National Bank & Trust Co. v. First W. Va. Bancorp., Inc., W. Va., 277 S.E.2d 613 (1981), appeal dismissed, 454 U.S. 1131, 102 S.Ct. 986, 71 L.Ed.2d 284.
See W.Va. Nonintoxicating Beer Comm'n v. A & H Tavern, 181 W. Va.
364, 382 S.E.2d 558 (1989); State By Davis v. Hix, 141 W. Va. 385,
389, 90 S.E.2d 357, 359-60 (1955) (holding that "[w]here the
language of the statute is of doubtful meaning or ambiguous, rules
of construction may be resorted to and the construction of such
statute by the person charged with the duty of executing the same
is accorded great weight.")
In the present case, Ms. Blankenship's evidence consisted
of work samples and the testimony of her co-workers. Ms.
Blankenship did not present evidence on the complexity of her
position compared to other positions that were classified as data
processing manager I positions. The Division presented witnesses
and evidence to show the relative degrees of responsibility for
both classifications. The Division's interpretation and
explanation of the classifications should have been "given great
weight unless clearly erroneous."See footnote 5 Given the evidence, we find
that the Division's interpretation was not clearly erroneous. We
also note that unlike the Division's witnesses, Ms. Blankenship's
co-workers had no experience in classification and that the samples
of Ms. Blankenship's work showed that she was a user coordinator,
which under the outdated classification system best fits into the
computer operator I classification.
For the above stated reasons, the judgment of the Circuit
Court of McDowell County is reversed and the order of the level III
hearing examiner is reinstated.
Footnote: 1The record indicates that Ms. Blankenship filed a sexual discrimination suit before the Civil Service Commission because the reassignments. Although this suit was mentioned at Ms. Blankenship's level III grievance hearing, when the hearing examiner said that the suit "has been continued pending the outcome of the (. . .not audible)," the suit's status is unclear.
Footnote: 2During the Division's civil service reclassification project, Ms. Blankenship's position was again reclassified, but not to a data processing manager I classification.
Footnote: 3W. Va. Code 29-6-2 (b) , the Civil Service System's definition section, states:
"Agency" means any administrative unit of state government, including any authority, board, bureau, commission, committee, council, division, section or office.
Footnote: 4Ms. Blankenship maintains that the field audit was conducted fifteen to twenty minutes before the level III hearing and consisted of asking her a few questions about the position description she had completed earlier.
Footnote: 5For a discussion of the Division's argument that they have "the exclusive authority to classify state employees" under the code, see Parsons v. W.Va. Bureau of Emp. Programs, ___ W. Va. ___, 428 S.E.2d 528, 531 (1993) finding that "there is nothing in W. Va. Code, 29-6-10(1)  which indicates that the Division of Personnel has more than general classification powers."