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Employee Suggestion Program

​The Employee Suggestion Program is a formal system for rewarding employees who submit ideas that reduce or eliminate state expenditures or improve the safety or operation of state government. Thousands of suggestions have been adopted since the program began in 1950, resulting in millions of dollars in savings to the state.  Participation in the program is easy and the awards range from $50 to $50,000.

Who can participate?

All part-time, seasonal, full time or retired employees in agencies/departments are eligible to participate except:

  • Officers and employees of the Universities of California and California State Universities.
  • Student assistants hired through University Enterprises, Inc.

Employees designated Career Executive Assignments or Exempt classifications are not eligible for cash awards, but may still submit their suggestions.

How do I submit a suggestion?

Submitting a suggestion is easy!

  1. Complete the Employee Suggestion Program Form (Std. 645)
  2. Describe the specific problem and provide a workable solution. Supply as much detail as possible and include examples or attachments to validate your idea. Provide the name of the department or control agency that has the authority to implement your suggestion statewide.
  3. Sign and date the form. If your suggestion has more than one suggester, each must sign the form.

If your suggestion affects one department:

  • Submit the completed form or package to your departmental Merit Award Administrator.

If your suggestion affects multiple state departments:

  • List each department, and include a copy of your suggestion for each. Do not write “All State Departments”. NOTE: Submissions listing “All State Departments” will be referred to your employing department for evaluation.
  • Submit completed form or package to or mail to:

California Department of Human Resources

Employee Engagement Program

1515 S Street, North Building, Suite 500

Sacramento, CA 95811-7243

What suggestions are eligible?

Employee suggestions range in topics from engineering, security, information technology, accounting, clerical support and many more.

Eligible suggestions create a cost savings for the state and one or more of the following:

  • Improve state operations
  • Increase state revenue
  • Eliminate safety hazards
  • Improve procedures

To qualify for review, each suggestion must meet the following criteria:

  • Describe a specific problem
  • Offer a workable solution
  • Benefit the State of California.
What suggestions are ineligible?

Suggestions not eligible include those that are:

  • Currently being evaluated or have been evaluated within the last year through the Employee Suggestion Program (ESP).
  • Recommending new or increased taxes or fees.
  • Recommending additional revenues at the expense of a segment of taxpayers and which can be classified as unjust or inequitable.
  • Recommending a change in the pay or classification of a position or class, or the establishment of new positions (This area is held to be the continuing responsibility of the agency and CalHR).
  • Recommending a study, survey or review with the course of action to be taken in accordance with the findings.
  • Involving a personal grievance.
  • Involving terms and conditions of employment, which are subject to the collective bargaining process under the Ralph C. Dills Act.
  • Recommending corrections in spelling, punctuation, grammar, or mathematical calculations (These changes should be communicated through established channels).
How long will it take before I hear if my suggestion has been adopted?

Evaluation and award timeframes vary depending on the complexity of your idea. The average turnaround for a suggestion is approximately six to seven months.

If my suggestion is adopted, when will I receive my award? How long before I hear back? Will my award be taxed?

It depends on the type of suggestion and award you receive.  Some awards can be paid immediately, while others must wait until the first year of net savings can be calculated.  Every circumstance is different.  The following is a general time frame for award payment:

Cash Awards

In most cases, cash awards are issued after the first year of net savings have been calculated.

One-Time Awards

One-time awards are the same as cash awards.  These awards are calculated at five percent of the net savings or revenues.

Improved Procedures/Improved Safety awards

These awards are issued after the suggestion is implemented.

How much can I earn from my suggestion?

​​Award amounts range from $50 up to $50,000 per adopted suggestion. Departments may authorize awards up to $5,000. Awards over $5,000 require approval of the State’s Merit Award Board, California Department of Human Resources, and the Legislature.

Cash Awards

Whenever possible, cash awards are based on the net savings or earnings realized by the state in the first year following the date the suggestion is placed in effect. The award is based on twenty percent of the net savings or revenues, although if the first year is not representative of net savings or revenue, a different period of time may be substituted.

Note: Suggestions requiring substantial refinement or modification for implementation will be calculated at five percent of the net savings or increased earnings received during the first year following adoption of the suggestion. Significant implementation costs will also be deducted from the benefits received during the first year.

Where annual net savings or increased revenue are calculated as at least $500, but not more than $1,000, the recommended cash award is $100.


One-Time Awards

When an adopted suggestion results in a one-time savings or earnings, the award will be calculated at five percent of the net savings or revenues.

Improved Procedures Awards

Where the annual net savings or increased revenue cannot be determined or are calculated to be less than $500, a cash award may be recommended according to the Award Amounts for Improved Procedures scale.

Award amounts for improved procedures

Narrow Application, Frequency and Value of Improvement

Narrow Application, Frequency and Value of Improvement
​Narrow Application ​Minor Value of Improvement ​Moderate Value of Improvement ​Marked Value of Improvement
​Low frequency ​$50 ​$70 $95
​High frequency ​$65 ​$85 ​$110


Broad Application, Frequency and Value of Improvement

Broad Application
Minor Value of improvement
Moderate Value of improvement
Marked Value of improvement
Low frequency $75 $95 $125
High frequency? $85 $105 ​$150


Add $25 for suggestions which improve service to the public.


Value of improvement

  • Minor – Slightly improves methods, form, facilities, equipment, and so on.
  • Moderate – Provides an average improvement.
  • Marked – An exceptional change.


  • Narrow – Limited to the program, function, or policy and procedures of units in a division, branch, region, or district.
  • Broad – Wide change, affecting one or more divisions, branches, regions, or districts.


  • Low – Occurs seldom or occasionally.
  • High – Frequent, greater than usual or normal amount.


Improved Safety Awards

Improved safety suggestions propose improvements in practices or facilities to eliminate or reduce injury to state employees or to the public.


Examples include suggestions relating to equipment modification, maintenance that isn’t routinely expected, and items not specified in building codes. The evaluator or Merit Award Administrator must refer to the Award Amounts for Improved Safety scale to calculate the award amount for an implemented suggestion.


Improved Safety Scale

The evaluator or Merit Award Administrator uses the table below to assign a number of points to the safety suggestion. The greater the number of points, the higher the award, with a maximum of $1,000.


Points for safety improvements

Points for safety improvements
Point value
Point value
Point value
Point value
Point value
Point value
Point value
Point value
Point value
Number of people exposed to the hazard at any one time 1 to 2 3 to 4 5 to 6 7 to 10 11 to 15 16 to 20 21 to 25 26 to 30 31 or more
Frequency with which people are exposed to the hazard Less than 1 per month 1 per month 1 per 2 weeks 1 per week 1 per 2 days 1 per day 1 per 2 hours 1 per hour More than 1 per hour
Extent of the potential injury or illness most likely to occur Discomfort   Minor injury     Serious injury     Death
Rate of death or serious injury     Less than 1 per year     1 per year     2 or more per year
Severity of hazard     Minor     Moderate     Serious
Effectiveness of improvement     Slightly reduces hazard     Appreciably reduces hazard     Eliminates hazard
Cost of adoption Large   Moderate   Small or none    

Value of award by points

  • 13 points or less: $50
  • 14 points or more: $50 plus $25 per point over 13, to a maximum of $1,000
Will I be taxed on my cash award?

Yes. Cash awards are considered income and subject to tax.  

What happens to my suggestion once it's submitted?

Once your department’s Merit Award Administrator receives your suggestion:

The Merit Award Administrator

  • Assigns an ID number and reviews your suggestion for completeness.
  • Sends you a letter acknowledging receipt of your suggestion.
  • Assigns your suggestion to an evaluator familiar with your suggestion’s program area.

The Evaluator

  • Reviews your suggestion.
  • Analyzes the problem and the feasibility of the proposed change.
  • Determines if the suggestion will be adopted.
  • Determines the appropriate type of award.
  • Calculates the cost savings.
  • Determines your eligibility to receive a cash award.
  • Prepares a Suggestion Evaluation Report.
  • Returns the Suggestion Evaluation Report to the Merit Award Administrator.
  • The Merit Award Administrator notifies you whether your suggestion has been denied or will receive an award.