County revising policies, procedures for vacation, smoking and firearms at work
by Steve Kadel
Staff Writer
May 23, 2013 | 1658 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print

Grand County employees will soon have new rules covering vacation time, firearms in the workplace and smoking.

The Grand County Council has been working for months to update the county’s Employment Policies and Procedures handbook. County Human Resources Director Orlinda Robertson said the work might be done by fall, but there’s a Jan. 1, 2014, deadline because one of the revisions deals with stipulations of President Obama’s Affordable Care Act.

Currently, Grand County employees must work at least 32 hours per week to be eligible for health insurance coverage. The Affordable Care Act reduces the requirement to 30 hours each week, Robertson said.

The county’s vacation policy also is being changed. Currently, workers can accrue up to 320 hours of vacation and carry that amount from one year to the next. Under the council’s proposed revisions, the limit will be changed to 160 hours, Robertson said.

Employees who currently have up to 320 hours will have until Dec. 31, 2017, to pare that amount to 160 hours, she said.

“That will decrease the budget a little bit because we won’t have that liability sitting out there,” Robertson said.

Council chairman Gene Ciarus and vice chairman Lynn Jackson said changes to the vacation time policy prompted the most concern among department heads and employees.

“A lot of them are disappointed, but they understand it was the best compromise,” Jackson said.

Grand County Council Administrator Ruth Dillon called it “a nice compromise” and said the council “really listened to staff” in crafting the revision.

Council member Pat Holyoak noted that some employees attended the series of meetings in which the council discussed possible changes.

As for firearms in the workplace, a new policy follows state of Utah and federal guidelines, she said. That means those with a permit to carry concealed weapons are allowed to have a firearm at work, although not in restricted places such as a courtroom or airport, Robertson said.

The county currently does not have a policy covering firearms in the workplace, she added.

In another policy change, smokers who want to puff on electronic cigarettes, cigars or pipes are out of luck under the new rules “because they still contain nicotine,” Robertson said. Those items, along with traditional tobacco products, will be allowed only in outdoor designated smoking areas.

Use of county fleet vehicles has also been a tough issue to resolve, she said. That’s because it is difficult to determine which jobs are in the “emergency” category that allow employees to drive county vehicles from their home to work and back home again after a shift, Robertson said.

The issue is complicated due to the Internal Revenue Service’s designation of such use as a fringe benefit.

“It’s been quite a sticky one,” Robertson said, adding that the issue still needs to be worked out.

Workers will begin wearing identification badges as part of updates to the county dress code. Grand County Sheriff White suggested that idea to council members several weeks ago.

The badges will include an employee’s photo, name, and department. Medical information also may be added if the employee wishes.

Robertson estimated that about 80 percent of the new employee policies and procedures have been addressed. The council still must discuss such things as what types of gifts employees can receive from outside sources, guidelines for use of social media, and a driver qualification policy. The latter will require Grand County’s insurer, the Utah Local Government Trust (ULGT), to determine which employees are approved to drive county vehicles and which are not.

When the council has finished its review, the proposed document will go to the county’s human relations attorney and ULGT for their consideration. Once they’ve signed off, the council must take a final vote for approval.

Grand County has 223 full-time, part-time, seasonal and elected employees, Robertson said. The policies and procedures handbook was last updated in 2010.

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