Apr 302014

By Nick Worth
The task of revising the City of Holbrook personnel policy began April 22 following the regular city council meeting.
Sam Coffman of the Dickinson Wright Mariscal Weeks law firm was on hand to go over changes he made to the policy and hear feedback from the council.
According to Coffman, the policy, as it stood, was not in need of a lot of revision.
“It just needed to be cleaned up,” Coffman said.
Perhaps the biggest change in the policy relates to call-out and overtime hours, and how they are awarded.
According to City Manager Ray Alley, “Before, if I called someone out, even if they only worked five minutes, I paid them two hours pay.”
If the employee ended up working more than two hours, the pay went to overtime pay at one and one-half time.
“Now that is cut back to one hour pay,” Alley said.
City Finance Director Randy Sullivan said the overtime pay would now be given after the called out employee had worked over one hour.
In addition, only hours worked in excess of 40 hours in a workweek will be considered as overtime. The city manager can also decide to compensate overtime hours with compensatory time at the rate of not less than one and one-half hours for every overtime hour worked. Employees will be required to sign a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to that effect.
The revised policy now states, “Acceptance of this compensatory time policy will be a condition of continued employment for employees executing the MOU. Newly hired employees shall be informed of this policy and will be required to execute a MOU and Acceptance. Failure to do so will be grounds of non-hire.”
Among the other major changes to the policy are the following:
* The personnel advisory board was replaced by a hearing officer to hear appeals, and advise the personnel director or city manager.
The language of the revision called for the hearing officer to be a practicing attorney, however Vice Mayor Charles Haussman told the council he did not believe the person serving as the hearing officer needed to be an attorney, but could be someone who is expert in employee relations. Coffman was asked to make the change in the revision.
* Pay increases are to receive the approval of the city council.
* Employees will no longer be paid for attending courses for which the city provides academic tuition reimbursement. The existing personnel policy states such classes may be compensable.
Coffman’s revision reads, “Employees attend college courses on their own time and are not eligible for compensation for time spent on these studies.”
* The current rule of no weapons at work was revised to be consistent with Arizona’s “Guns at Work” law. Employees may now have a firearm that is lawfully possessed stored in a locked vehicle, so long as the firearm is not visible from the outside.
* Employees picked for jury duty will be entitled to jury leave not charged to vacation time. They will also be paid full salary and any payment received by the court will be remitted to the city, except for travel pay. Employees who are subpoenaed to testify as witnesses in a criminal or civil case will get the same benefits as jurors.
Mayor Jeff Hill noted he did not want to pay an employee for time in court if, for example, he was testifying in his own divorce proceedings, or as a suspect. The council asked Coffman to rewrite that section to show that stipulation.
* Employees can be terminated if they are found guilty of a serious crime, such as assault, murder, robbery or burglary, or for sexual or unlawful harassment of another employee, that takes place away from the workplace.
* Any issues concerning a suspension without pay, a disciplinary demotion or dismissal must be appealed through the appeals procedure, not through the grievance procedure.
* Political activity is not allowed on city time.
* Personal vehicles may be used for city business with the prior approval of the employee’s supervisor. Employees can be compensated according to the city travel policy. They will be required to show proof of registration and insurance. Along with this, no employee can be required to use his or her own vehicle for city business.
* “The city recognizes the growing importance of online social media networks,” reads a new addition to the personnel policy. Employees are prohibited from using social media during city time or on city equipment.
The city also recognizes that employees have the right to use the media on their own time and are free to publish information without censorship by the city, but they are to avoid publishing information that “could cast the city in a negative light in the community.”
The new policy also prohibits posting a wide range of information that is confidential or proprietary to the city, and if employee identifies themselves as city employees, they must state in clear terms that the views expressed are theirs alone.
“All employees are responsible for maintaining the city’s positive reputation,” the policy reads.
* Another major change is the addition of language addressing the use of medical marijuana.
Since the city receives federal funding and since marijuana is still a banned substance under federal law, the city is not required to comply with the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act and marijuana remains a banned substance in the city workplace. Employees can be disciplined or terminated if impaired while at work, or if they possess or use marijuana while at work.
“We don’t want to allow that,” Sullivan said of allowing medical marijuana use in the workplace. “There go our airport grants and our ADOT (Arizona Department of Transportation) grants (some of which include federal money).
“Why would we want to do that?” he asked. “We can spend as much as $500,000 on resurfacing the runway at the airport.”
Sullivan said the personnel policy is still in the process of being revised.
The council asked Coffman to make changes to some of his proposed revisions, such as with the jury duty language.
“The changes won’t go into effect until the council adopts the revised policy,” Sullivan said. No date has yet been set for adoption of the policy.