Pulaski County Commissioners Discuss County Employee Policies at Recent Meeting

Pulaski County Commissioners Tracey Shorter, Kenneth Boswell, Michael Tiede

Settling disputes regarding county employee policies in Pulaski County is going to become a lot simpler, thanks to the development of a new personnel policy manual for the county. Paula Reimers of Wagner, Irwin & Sheely appeared before the commissioners to discuss revising the county’s policy handbook. The current handbook, which has not been modified since 1997, may contain current policies that are not compliant with federal standards. The commissioners signed a contract to begin the construction of a new county handbook and policies.

“We’ve already had some problems, which brought about this whole idea of rewriting our policies, so we’re going to have to meet with some department heads up front just to get a take on what their concerns are about us imposing our will on their office, for example, whether that be the prosecutor or the judges or the sheriff,” said Pulaski County Attorney Kevin Tankerslee.

The policy handbook is vastly useful in disputes regarding unemployment and FMLA disputes, as these cases always fall back on the policy manual to determine eligibility for unemployment. The EOC will always want to see the policy manual, and ensuring that the manual is read and understood by employees, as well as enforcing it, goes a long way in settling these disputes. The only time the policy manual does not have to be followed is when a state law contradicts it, but these situations will be eliminated in the course of developing the new handbook.

“With the manual, one of the things that I think we are pretty adamant on here is being compliant, of course, being consistent, and making sure that whatever manual or handbook we have will be enforceable,” said Commissioner Kenneth Boswell.

The cost of developing this policy handbook was based on hourly fees and travel costs, and is estimated to be anywhere between $10,000 and $13,000. The development of this handbook will also require the formation of a committee, consisting of six individuals from the county: Commissioner Kenneth Boswell, auditor Sheila Glaring, County Attorney Kevin Tankerslee, and two council members and a department head that have not yet been decided on. Wagner, Irwin & Sheely will be assisting the committee in developing the handbook, and they will be reviewing all existing policies, amendments, and appeals, as well as past employment practices to develop a handbook that fits the county’s guidelines. They will also be conducting a FLSA self-audit to make sure that overtime is charged correctly in addition to ensuring that all standards and criteria are met.

“I would work with a committee of county people because you have to take ownership of this document. There should be somebody at all times, like the auditor’s office or someone for the commissioners or the council, that understands the policy manual because they helped write it,” said Reimers.

Wagner, Irwin & Sheely develop personnel policy manuals for human resources, primarily for public sectors (towns, cities, and counties) to ensure that the county’s policies and practices are compliant with federal standards, including FMLA and military leave criteria.