U.S. Labor Department Is Investigating County
Starting on Monday, Aug. 21, representatives of the United States Department of Labor will be in Marinette County to do a wage and hour investigation, apparently in response to a complaint or complaints from one or more county employees.
That information was relayed to the County Board's Personnel and Veterans' Service Committee at its monthly meeting on Thursday, Aug. 10 by Human Resources Director Jennifer Holtger.
In response to questions from committee members, Holtger said the federal investigators normally do not just show up for an investigation, they come in response to an anonymous complaint or complaints, which could be from one employee or several. She suggested it could be related to changes in the 35-hour work week, or a complaint about overtime. She said they will be asking her department for employee contact information, and may set up personal interviews with employees. "They know what they're looking for, but the employer does not," she said. They will look at records, which her department is required to keep for seven years.
If the employee complaint is justified, findings will apply to all employees affected, not just the one or ones who filed the complaint. If there is additional compensation ordered, it could be for one employee, or fifty.
Holtger said many things are protected under wage and hours laws, and she has no way of knowing what may be involved in the complaint, she had just used overtime as a possible example of what the investigators may be looking at.
There has been ongoing discussion of ways in which Marinette County and the City of Marinette could work together, and now it appears to be happening. At the Aug. 10 meeting the Personnel Committee approved a request from Marinette Mayor Steve Genisot for the county to provide limited assistance from its Human Resources department. By unanimous vote, they approved the concept, and authorized County Administrator John LeFebvre to work with Holtger and Corporation Counsel Gale Mattison on creation of a draft ordinance for the committee to consider at a future meeting.
Marinette City Hall is located across the street from the County Courthouse, but there has been discussion in recent months by both city and county officials about the possibility of moving City Hall into the old Law Enforcement Center Annex building that is part of the courthouse complex.
At the start of the Human Resource sharing discussion Supervisor Russ Bauer asked jokingly if personnel would travel by golf cart between the city and county offices. County Board Chair suggested that hopefully within a year the city offices will be located in the annex.
LeFebvre explained the city's request was not for the county to take over the city's Personnel Department, but was for Holtger and her staff to assist them with their knowledge base - to help the city organize Human Resources work and be sure they are following all state and federal laws.
LeFebvre added that it is good for the county to help its municipalities whenever possible. "If we get the same request from Crivitz or Peshtigo or Niagara, I would say we should do the same thing," he declared. He said, however, that whatever help is provided to a municipality must be cost neutral.
"This is a good opportunity to expand our working relationship with the city," commented Supervisor Ken Keller, who also is a City of Marinette Alderman. He added ideas for working with the city "have been kicked around for several years," and expressed hope this one will become reality.
The process of implementing the new step pay plan as recommended in the recently completed Carlson Dettman study is underway. There is an appeal process in which rankings of individual positions can be questioned and adjusted. LeFebvre said as part of the appeal process, they had learned that the positions of Sheriff's Department lieutenant and parks caretaker had been placed incorrectly in the step plan, and this affects the salary. On his recommendation, the position of lieutenant was raised from Step K to Step L, and that of parks caretaker was raised from Step D to Step E. LeFebvre added they had checked all other position step ratings and they are correct.
On recommendation of Health and Human Services Director Robin Elsner the committee agreed to recommend that County Board create a mental health therapist position immediately and eliminate a mental health case manager position when the therapist position is filled, pending approval of the Finance Committee. Elsner explained the community support program needs a dedicated mental health therapist to complete psychotherapy for clients served in the program. He explained the incumbent Mental Health Case Manager-MA position has the license to complete psychotherapy for the Community Support Program clients, and will likely post for the new position.
Elsner repeated, "I am not asking you to create another position."
Marinette County Board Chairman Mark Anderson proposed a change in wording to state that the old position will be eliminated when the new position is filled, and that wording was unanimously approved. "Now it's very important that you fill from within," LeFebvre told Elsner. He added they are always required to try to do that.
In her report, Holtger said Health and Human Services care workers "continue to be a continuous pattern of coming and going."
At the July meeting Supervisor Mike Behnke had asked Holtger to look into some ideas for long-term disability coverage that could save the county money. Holtger said the county has a "gifted time" policy in which employees who have unused sick pay can donate it to others who are not eligible for family care leave, for example. APPA has short and long term disability coverage. Holtger asked the committee if they would like her to also look at gifting of vacation time to employees who are not eligible for other coverage but must stay at home.
"Our employees come together to help one another," she declared. She said for example there is an employee right now who could get 42 hours of gifted time, but is not FMAL-eligible. She asked if she could "take a crack at opening things up." She said she is trying to be creative," so we do not have to go out and buy more insurance...This is a way to provide this help and not cost the county any more money."
Anderson commented it was a good thought, but they needed to see the language before moving ahead with it.
"If gifted time will help us retain good employees it's in our best interests," LeFebvre declared. There was no vote, but it was agreed that Holtger will continue working on the gifted time concept.
The new pay plan provides there will no longer be health insurance for part time employees, which means County Board members also will no longer be able to buy health insurance from the county, but they will still be able to buy dental coverage, Holtger said.
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