An ordinance making changes to the county personnel policy will not take effect for at least another month.
Although it passed the Quorum Court on its first reading at Monday’s meeting, the ordinance failed to gain the required 2/3 majority to permit suspension of the rules for it to receive a second and third reading, and thus adoption.
The ordinance passed by a 7-2 vote, but needed eight “yes” votes – 2/3 of the full Court – to suspend the rules. Only nine justices were present, the District 7 seat being vacant and District 8 Justice Shawntae Thompson being absent.
The sticking point was the proposed exclusion of workers on 12-hour shifts from receiving holiday pay. As explained by Personnel Committee Chair Mark Reeves after the committee meeting that preceded the regular court meeting, the Sheriff’s Department (which operates on 12-hour shifts) maintains round-the-clock coverage seven days a week, such that holidays are covered the same as any other day. “So what we are proposing,” he said, “is that since there are basically 132 more hours each of them is subject to work that nobody else is, that they receive about a 5 percent pay raise to make up for it.”
In the view of District 4 Justice Jonathon Davis, however, the possibility exists for perceived unequal treatment by both those who don’t get the holiday pay and by those who don’t get the extra 5 percent pay raise. “If new employees come in,” he said during discussion before the vote, “they may see that others are getting holiday pay and they aren’t.”
“They don’t get holidays off,” Reeves countered. “So I think this is the right thing to do. It doesn’t help them to call it a ‘holiday’ when they have to work it.”
(Similarly, military units with a 24-hour, seven-day manning requirement do not recognize holidays as they schedule personnel for duty, and no military personnel receive “holiday pay.”)
In any case, Reeves said, the perception of inequality can be addressed by ensuring such employees were aware of both the added pay and the reason for it. “It’s all about communication,” Reeves concluded.
Davis also said that if such added pay is to accrue to Sheriff’s Department employees, it would have to be incorporated into the next year’s budget currently under deliberation. Davis chairs the court’s Finance Committee.
Both Sheriff Steve Franks and Jail Administrator Brent Cox told the court that there are a total of 50 employees in the department who work 12-hour shifts. Those employees would thus be subject to the 5 percent pay raise in return for the lack of holiday pay.
In response to a question from Davis as to whether county employees are guaranteed holiday pay, County Attorney Kimberly Dale said there is none. “They have to be employed for 60 days,” added County Judge Rusty McMillon, “and they have to work the day before and the day after.”
“So we can offer it to some and deny it to others?” asked Davis.
“It’s in accordance with our policy,” Dale replied.
Davis and District 10 Justice Jeremy Wooldridge were the two “no” votes on the ordinance.