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Abby approves revised employee handbook

By Kevin O’Brien

A newly revised employee handbook approved by Abbotsford’s city council last week scales back some benefits for city workers while also clarifying some of the more ambiguous policies that have caused issues in the past.

The new handbook represents the culmination of months of work by a special committee that met several times over this past summer to go through the old document page-by-page and suggest updates and changes.

A few lingering issues were resolved at the city council’s last meeting on Oct. 16, which was attended by a trio of public works employees who provided input before the vote was taken.

The following are some of the more signifi cant changes made to the handbook:

_ Sick leave, now referred to as “paid time off” (PTO) to encompass family emergencies and other types of absences, will be accumulated at a rate of 3.7 hours per two-week pay period.

_ The maximum amount of unused sick time (PTO) that may be accumulated by an employee was reduced from 480 to 240 hours. Current employees who have earned up to 480 hours may keep those hours. If an employee leaves the city’s employment for any other reason besides retirement, he or she does not qualify for a PTO payout.

_ The definition of retirement was clarified to make it clear that an employee must file with the Wisconsin Retirement System and have worked at the city for at least 15 years. Employees who are not eligible for retirement due to the state’s age restrictions can still qualify for retirement if they have worked for the city for at least 30 years.

_ The maximum amount of vacation time an employee can earn was reduced from five to four weeks per year. An “accrual” policy will be used to determine vacation days, which means that employees will earn paid time off on a bi-weekly basis starting with their date of hire.

_ The new handbook makes it clear that “comp time” is only available for hourly employees who are not exempt from federal overtime rules. Comp time allows employees to take time off at a rate of 1.5 hours per hour of time over 40 hours per week, in lieu of overtime pay.

The review committee had originally recommended that employees be given six months to use their comp time, but the council voted last week to extend that to one year.

DPW Craig Stuttgen, who is a salaried employee, asked the council to provide some way for him to qualify for time off if he works beyond his normal shift.

“One week I might need to work 50 hours and the next week I might only need to work 30,” he said.

Instead of adding language to the handbook, city administrator Dan Grady suggested that Stuttgen and other salaries employees can just ask the council for additional paid time off if they consistently work over 40 hours per week.

_ The handbook states that the city administrator, along with the mayor and the appropriate department head, will be responsible for screening, interviewing and hiring all new employees below the level of department head. Previously, the council’s personnel committee handled this process, but that committee was eliminated, so the council will no longer be involved in these hiring decisions.

Department heads will continue to be hired by a majority vote of the council.