Richland County issues pandemic personnel policy information

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WAHPETON — Richland County, North Dakota, issued its pandemic personnel policy information Thursday, March 19. The policy is listed in full.

Richland County may introduce changes to the policy information contained herein to further the interests of The County, its citizens and employees during an actual emergency.

Tier 1 – Business as usual – See Richland County Employee Policy Manuals

Tier 2 – County Buildings Locked-down. Access only for essential business with screening questions required. Some offices within County buildings will no longer allow anyone other than their staff to enter their offices. Additional Flex Hours, Telecommuting & Employee Leave implemented

Tier 3 – County Buildings Shut-down except for emergency staff. Shut-down mandated by Richland County Commission, State of North Dakota or United States Government.

The following is intended to provide information to Richland County administrators regarding personnel administration should a pandemic emergency situation occur. In the event a pandemic situation occurs, the event may, with varying degrees, necessitate suspension of non-essential operations.

Should this occur, the County shall have contingency plans in place in order to respond to operational needs and personnel administration in an effective and timely manner. In developing these contingency plans, consideration will be given to the following:

· Identification of essential functions

· Delegation of authority

· Alternative work schedules – Flex Hours

· Telecommuting

· Infected Employees

· Employee Leave

· Leave Rescinded

· Payroll and Employee Benefits

The policies and procedures for the County are to be followed in regards to each employee type. Refer to the existing Richland County Policy Manuals as a baseline for application of any of these policies.

1) Identification of Essential Functions

Each department shall designate essential functions.

2) Delegation of Authority

Each department shall designate their delegation of authority. The delegation of authority shall extend insofar as it is likely that the team role will be fulfilled. The department is responsible for training personnel to fulfill the role.

3) Alternative Work Schedules – Flex Hours

Alternative work schedules may be implemented during an emergency situation to enhance social distancing*, operational and business continuity, and other emergency response goals. Department Heads have authority to implement “Flex Hours” as best determined to protect employees while still providing needed services to the public.

*Social distancing refers to actions taken to discourage close social contact between individuals, including cancellation of classes, sporting events, worship services, and other social events. Workplace methods could include: workstations 6 feet or more apart; eliminate face-to-face meetings by using phone or email instead; encourage respiratory etiquette, surface disinfecting and frequent hand-washing.

The following methods may be employed to implement Alternative Work Schedules:

Department heads determine which employees should work other than their normal working schedule, using input from affected employees, in order to meet the essential functions required of the department.

If the essential functions of the department are not met, the department head may direct employees to work.

Work with employees to minimize the impacts of decisions affecting schedule changes.

For overtime eligible employees, rest and meal period requirements continue no matter what type of work schedule is assigned.

When appropriate, employees will return to their regular work schedule.

4) Telecommuting

Telecommuting means that an employee is working one or more days each work week from home instead of commuting to his or her regular worksite. The following methods may be employed to implement Telecommuting:

Department Heads identify possible telecommuters as soon as possible and make the necessary technological arrangements

Consider a broader use of telecommuting than would be exercised under normal operations or for other types of emergencies, when necessary to accomplish social distancing for Pandemic Event

Identify essential functions which may be accomplished remotely and whether the person performing the function(s) needs access to all systems and applications or only email and/or voice communications

Identify employees who are designated to perform essential functions and determine their ability to telecommute in order to perform those functions

Consider alternative work schedules for those authorized to telecommute to reduce peak demands on Information Technology systems

Supervisors may require that an employee telecommute during a pandemic emergency

Any requirement to telecommute shall be communicated to the affected employee(s) in writing

For expediency, supervisors may initially document the change via email, memorandum, fax or other documented method

Employee initiated requests to telecommute will be approved or denied by the Department Head

5) Infected Employees

If an employee who is staffing operations appears to have a highly contagious/pandemic disease, the employee will be required to leave the workplace.

Supervisors will secure approval of their department head prior to sending an ill employee home

Judgments will not be made as to medical diagnosis but may rely on observations of an employee’s symptoms in making a determination to send an employee who appears ill home

Employees who are sent home because of a highly contagious/pandemic disease, may use their sick leave accruals, then their vacation accruals

Employees are expected to contact HR via phone or e-mail to ensure that proper documentation is in-place for maintaining employee benefits

A medical release to return to work may be required prior to the employee resuming his/her duties in the workplace - Contact HR via phone or e-mail to receive direction on this point

6) Employee Leave

The Richland County Commission has authorized the following use of paid time off for County employees. Department Heads have sole discretion to grant paid time off.

Paid time off will be used in the following order:

Annual Leave

Sick Leave

Advanced Annual Leave – limit of 80 hours

Unpaid Leave

Advanced Annual Leave will be deducted from future accruals. If

employee separates from Richland County employment before the advanced hours have been fully paid back, the County will deduct the value of those hours (number of hours owed times hourly rate of pay at separation) from employee’s last paycheck.

7) Leave - Rescinded

A pandemic emergency event may have a significant impact on the utilization and/or granting discretionary requests for annual leave, compensatory time off, and/or personal holidays (paid leave) or unpaid leave. In the event of a business necessity, Department Heads may deny requests to use paid leave or rescind previously approved/scheduled paid leave or unpaid leave for non-medical pandemic reasons.

The following methods may be employed to administrate Paid Leave within a department:

Maintain an updated calendar of all approved time off and provide access to that calendar for those in the management line of succession

Deny/rescind leave requests based on business necessity

Provide notice as soon as possible that a potential staffing shortage may require that the employee report to work

Prior to denying a request to use leave or rescinding previously approved paid leave, the supervisor will attempt to staff the unit or project through other available means (i.e., seek available staff to perform the work)

Rescission of an employee’s leave which is already in progress shall be reasonably based upon the employee’s ability to report to work, e.g. it would be reasonable to require that an employee who is on vacation at home report to work but unreasonable to require that an employee who is on vacation, out of the area or out of the country report to work

When rescinding leave, the supervisor shall have actual contact with the employee to ensure that the employee received the directive to report to duty

Departments will review the duties of the employee who is on leave to determine if those duties may be able to be accomplished via telecommuting, as an alternative to returning to the worksite

Rescission of paid leave will be confirmed in writing

Should the need for an employee to work result in the employee going beyond the maximum annual leave accrual amount, the Department Head may submit a recommendation to Human Resources that the employee be allowed to carryover annual leave

Should rescission of compensatory time off occur, the Department Head may submit a recommendation to Human Resources that the employee be allowed to carry over accrued compensatory time

8) Payroll and Human Resource Services

Departments must have contingency plans and be prepared to submit time and leave reports to Payroll, especially when employees’ leave balances have been exhausted and their employees will be on leave without pay. Department heads must be prepared to timely submit personnel action forms and supply pay-affecting information.

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