City employee holiday and off time provisions raise definition questions

Published 4:37 pm Thursday, June 5, 2014

The Pelham Personnel Board discussed Rule 7 of the Civil Service Law, covering attendance and leaves, during a June 4 meeting. (File)

The Pelham Personnel Board discussed Rule 7 of the Civil Service Law, covering attendance and leaves, during a June 4 meeting. (File)

By MOLLY DAVIDSON / Staff Writer

PELHAM—The Pelham Personnel Board started their review of Rule 7 of the Civil Service Law, covering attendance and leaves during a June 4 meeting. The Board reviewed sections 7.1 through 7.8 and 7.12, discussing current practices with the many city employees and department heads present at the meeting.

The Personnel Board opened the meeting by addressing rumors circulating about plans to cut the vacation time and sick days of city employees.

“I have no intention of doing that,” Personnel Board member Bobby Hayes said of the rumors. Pelham Mayor Gary Waters added the “rumors abounding” are entirely untrue.

“I don’t know that we’ll end up changing anything,” Waters said, explaining the review of Rule 7 is part of a larger project to thoroughly examine the entire Civil Service Law.

The discussion during the June 4 meeting largely focused on the handling of holiday time and time off, especially for city employees who do not work a “typical” 40-hour, Monday through Friday workweek.

“There are types of leave that we use but don’t exist in the Civil Service Law,” Waters said.

The current version of the Civil Service Law does not cover the common practice of “swap time” used by the Police and Fire Departments, an “agreement between two employees that one will work for the other, approved by the employer,” Fire Chief Danny Ray explained.

“(Swap time) is a logical thing to try and help the guys out,” City Council President Rick Hayes said during a June 5 phone interview, but he added if it is not “codified” in the law, it could present interpretational issues.

The definition and provision of holiday time in the current Civil Service Law also posed a challenge for the Personnel Board. Although it “holds true” for a “typical” 40-hour, Monday through Friday city employee, it does not for employees such as policemen or firefighters who must have “full shift coverage all the time,” including nationally-recognized holidays, Rick Hayes explained.

“It’s just not covered as clearly as we think it should be,” Rick Hayes said, noting a desire to be fair and give these employees their deserved time off.

Waters suggested defining holiday time for employees such as firefighters and policemen in hours, giving them 88 hours rather than 11 days of holiday time.

The discussion of holiday time raised definitional issues for the Personnel Board to consider. The Civil Service Law currently does not differentiate between full-time city employees working a “typical” workweek and those such as police officer and firefighters.

Pelham Fire Department Battalion Chief Michael Reid suggested using the Fair Labor Standards Act categorization of these full-time, “non-typical” employees as “first responders.”

“All of this is sheer discussion,” Rick Hayes said, adding the Personnel Board would continue to look into section 7.8 and nothing has been decided.

The Personnel Board ended the June 4 meeting with a concrete decision to leave section 7.12, defining earning of vacation time by seniority, unchanged.

“Those are not going to change,” Bobby Hayes promised the city employees gathered in the room.

The Personnel Board will meet again to continue the discussion of Rule 7 on June 15, and Waters encouraged city employees to attend.

Personnel Board member Greg Darnell agreed with Waters, expressing appreciation for the input of city personnel. “I have enjoyed the interaction with the group,” he said.