Human Resources Committee Meeting Minutes – Thursday, September 17, 2020

For your consideration, please read the minutes from the Human Resources Committee Meeting held on Thursday, September 17, 2020 at 10:30 a.m. in the Commission Meeting Room.

Human Resources Minutes 9-17-20 with Attachments

To read the minutes, please open or download the pdf from the link above, or you may see more below.

Brunswick-Glynn County Joint Water & Sewer Commission

1703 Gloucester Street, Brunswick, GA 31520

Commission Meeting Room

Thursday, September 17, 2020 at 10:30 AM 

HUMAN RESOURCES COMMITTEE

MEETING MINUTES 

PRESENT:                             

Donald Elliott, Committee Chairman

Cornell Harvey, Commissioner                                              

Wayne Neal, Commissioner

Andrew Burroughs, Executive Director 

ALSO PRESENT:                  

Ben Turnipseed, Commission Chairman

Charles Cook, Commissioner

LaDonnah Roberts, Deputy Director

Cindy Barnhart, Teamwork Services, Inc.

 Jeffrey Singletary, Teamwork Services, Inc.

Janice Meridith, Exec. Commission Administrator 

MEDIA PRESENT:               

None                               

Chairman Elliott called the workshop to order at 10:30 AM.  

PUBLIC COMMENT PERIOD

There being no citizens that wished to address the Committee, Chairman Elliott closed the Public Comment Period. 

APPROVAL

  1. Minutes from May 20, 2020 Human Resources Committee Meeting

Commissioner Harvey made a motion seconded by Commissioner Neal to move to approve the minutes from the May 20, 2020 Human Resources Committee Meeting.  Motion carried 3-0-0. 

DISCUSSION 

Commissioner Elliott advised that the purpose of this meeting was to review the Human Resources Standards of Practice – Employee Handbook and discuss some of the sections referring to “Employee Behavior” to determine if there are any necessary revisions at this time.  He commented that recently it was pointed out to him that during this time of COVID and some of the current issues with “Black Lives Matter” that some JWSC employees occasionally use social media to comment, and while they do not intend to harm JWSC, their actions may cause JWSC to have a workplace problem.  This is somewhat monitored as employee behavior and we have rules and policies to go through with employee behavior.  Commissioner Elliott provided that at the end of the discussion, he would like to discuss a particular product on the market that the Commissioners may want to think about.

  1. Review of Employee Handbook – “Employee Behavior” – A. Burroughs

Mr. Burroughs provided that Commissioner Elliott, Charlie Dorminy and he had met to look over some of the employee behavior restrictions.  Several of the Employee Handbook sections were selected to discuss with the Committee at this meeting.

Section 2.4 – Harassment; Workplace Violence

Mr. Burroughs stated that upon review he did not find any major revisions needed for the section on “Harassment; Workplace Violence.”   He mentioned that use of social media to harass other employees was not addressed in this policy.  He inquired if any of the Commissioners had any concerns with this section.  Commissioner Harvey said he did have some concerns about it, and he added that social media has a tendency to spill over to the workplace and causes some issues in the workplace, especially when someone sees something of a negative nature concerning them as something being talked about that is happening in the workplace and it gets to be problematic, and it could be of a sexual nature or a racial nature but it seems to spill over.  Commissioner Harvey added that this can be a cause for issues in the workplace.  Mr. Burroughs recalled that about a year prior, staff brought forward a social media policy for the Board’s consideration.  However, the Board did not formally vote at that time to accept the policy even though they were in favor of enforcing it, so this is not a part of the HR Handbook.  Commissioner Harvey asked if this has been enforced, and also asked if there have been any incidents.  Mr. Burroughs advised there had been incidents which have been taken care of as a result of that, but this is not an official policy in the HR Handbook.  Commissioner Harvey asked if it has caused any problems by not being an official policy or if it could become an issue.  Mr. Burroughs noted that it could become an issue certainly with the First Amendment concerns around social media, it being used off site and what is said in that regard.   Mr. Burroughs stated that the policy was actually related to using social media during work hours and not commenting on things as a representative of the JWSC.  He added that we do have some employees who use social media as part of their daily work; people ask questions through social media to JWSC and there is live chat in responses to the customers, so those people do use social media during work.   Periodically Mr. Burroughs is made aware of an employee who has decided to make a post, nothing inappropriate, but if they are posting at 9:30 in the morning, they are at work and know they are not supposed to use social media during work hours.  Even if they are posting on their break, once the public sees their post it is assumed that JWSC employee is not doing their job; and we have to correct some of that.  Commissioner Elliott commented that the Committee might look at crafting our expectation that our employees would not use social media against other employees of the organization, and added he is not sure how to state that language wise.  Commissioner Harvey stated that if one of our directors decided to post some disparaging news on social media, JWSC has no policy against that director for saying what he said, even though he may be off duty.  If they post something that is derogatory, then it brings shame onto the organization, and we are trying to be an organization that is top notch and professional.  He added that if JWSC has no policy against that behavior, then there is no ground for us to do anything other than saying they shouldn’t be doing that.  Commissioner Elliott and Commissioner Neal agreed, and Commissioner Neal noted that JWSC does need to draft some policy through JWSC’s legal counsel Charlie Dorminy.  He added that if one of our employees went to lunch wearing a JWSC shirt and got drunk at lunch that still reflects on JWSC, even if he wore that shirt to dinner after he got off work and then got drunk or got into a fight, it is reflective on JWSC.  Commissioner Neal suggested that this matter needs to be more in the way of training (i.e. think before you find yourself in these situations).  Maybe in training we need to address the comments that might be made on social media; comments discussed with a spouse or relative who may then post something about those comments; and, what the fallout or unintended consequences could be.   Mr. Burroughs mentioned that he and Mrs. Barnhart went over these policies, and she pointed out that making this subject a recurring theme in the weekly staff meetings with superintendents, and in the superintendents’ weekly meetings with their staff, to keep in mind that when you post something, realize that if it brings negative attention to us that can affect your employment status with JWSC.  He added this also causes morale problems with other employees; if they have said something that is offensive to another employee even if they had no intentions of being offensive toward that other employee, now we are coming into work, and we have to sit them both down and have a conversation because one is mad at the other about something that happened on a social media platform.  Commissioner Cook commented that one of the dangers of social media is that there seems to be a disconnect between the real world and the internet.  He added that people post things and they almost feel semi-anonymous or autonomous, and the reality is they are absolutely not at all.  Commissioner Cook stated that when he was an IT Manager, this was something he had to deal with all the time, monitoring and knowing what is going on; everything that is going on of course is essentially public record; and anything on the internet is going to be there forever. He noted that he thought training would be a very good method just to remind people that if you say something disparaging about the JWSC, an employee or situation there is going to be something happening there.  Commissioner Neal added in other governmental agencies this list could be endless, and his best advice when posting on Facebook is “Don’t.”  The Committee agreed that something should be put into the manual that would put some meat behind it.  Mr. Burroughs commented that typically when these situations come up he does get Charlie Dorminy (legal counsel) involved because there is a slippery slope between what is protected speech versus what is not protected speech.  He added that unfortunately we can draft it into policy, but there has to be some level of vagueness to it because of those concerns; so it does somewhat become a case by case basis on that, so we can certainly have a policy certainly restricting the usage at work and giving best practices of “here are things that you likely should not want to do.”  Mr. Burroughs then said we will have to consider every situation as to what level that came to, and just because someone said something on Facebook or Twitter you don’t like, it may not necessarily qualify as a violation of that policy.

Section 4.10 – Political Activity

Mr. Burroughs provided that political activity is not typically a problem at JWSC, but in light of recent events there have been protests and such during work hours that employees have wanted to take part in.  Per JWSC policy, this is not allowed during work hours, but the employee can use vacation hours to take part in the protests and still get paid.  He added that this was explained to these employees, most of them understood and were happy to take vacation time since they felt it was more important to take part in the protests than to hold onto vacation hours, but there were a couple of employees that got very upset about the fact that JWSC was making them take vacation time for these purposes.  Commissioner Harvey asked instead of what?  Mr. Burroughs responded instead of just going on JWSC’s time.  He mentioned that one employee has since left employment and he was very angry about the fact that because he didn’t have vacation time if he still wanted to go he was going to have to take leave without pay in order to take part in the protest.  Mr. Burroughs mentioned that he certainly does understand that no one wants to have to take money out of their paycheck.  Commissioner Elliott questioned if they are told that they cannot wear their uniform to take part in political activities.  Mr. Burroughs stated that the policy does get to that, we don’t necessarily tell them that during the day of that situation, yet we should be stricter on enforcing it. He also stated that the issue is not that JWSC doesn’t want employees taking part in political rallies or anything like that, but it is a problem when wearing a JWSC uniform.

Cindy Barnhart from Teamwork Services, Inc. provided that with the behavior of employees there are two other policies involved.  The Code of Conduct Policy contains sub-sections on employee behavior and addresses many of these concerns such as behavior, expectations, anything derogatory, and the use of phones are all a part of that.  She added that there is also a policy on the use of company equipment including phones which also has expectations on how you use that phone and what you use that phone for.  She noted that social media is part of that even though the policy does not specifically say social media.  Mrs. Barnhart advised that she had looked up the most recent SHRM (Society of Human Resource Management), noted that the categories of protective class need to be updated in the Employee Handbook.  She provided a draft of the update containing more reference to genetic identification, protective language, and reference to the Civil Rights Act; she distributed copies of her draft to the Committee for their review.

Commissioner Harvey expressed a concern with Section 2.4-3 under #5 Management Responsibility in the last sentence, “Any failure to so inform the proper supervisor and the Human Resources Department shall make the employee subject to disciplinary action, up to and including termination of employment.”  He noted that the word employee should be changed to “manager” since the statement is addressing the manager, not the employee who has been harassed.  Commissioner Harvey also mentioned that #7 on the same section needed a correction. “Upon notice of an alleged harassment, both employees will be temporarily assigned to different sections as to now allow further contact between the accused harasser and the employee claiming they have been harassed.”  The word “now” should be corrected to “not.”

Section 4.11 – Gifts and Gratuities

Mr. Burroughs commented that this policy comes into play mostly around the holidays.  Vendors often wish to send gifts and baskets, which are often placed in the break area where everyone can partake.  The dollar limit for gifts and gratuities is currently set at $25.00, which follows the federal standard amount and that has not been changed for years. Mr. Burroughs did note that some people agree with this policy and some others do not.  This policy does not include “Lunch and Learns” where staff are earning CEUs and such for their certifications.  Commissioner Elliott questioned if the policy should expressly state that vendor gratuities are considered to be for the whole organization, and Mr. Burroughs agreed that could be done.  He added that as the gifts are received, perhaps we should reach out to them and ask that if that vendor sends a gift the next year to please address it to JWSC rather than to a particular staff member at JWSC.  Also if a vendor sends a bottle of wine, this would have to be returned to the vendor immediately as staff are not able to accept alcoholic beverages.  Typically vendor gifts are candy and food baskets.  Commissioner Neal commented that in the case of vendor gifts that is often in appreciation, but if contractors or developers sent a gift that could be construed as solicitation.  He then asked Mr. Burroughs if this is addressed separately within the policy, and Mr. Burroughs responded that it is not separated explicitly, but in the policy a gift is defined as any benefit, favor, privilege or thing of value that could be interpreted as influencing an employee’s impartiality, which would apply to those gifts.  Mr. Burroughs noted that most builders and developers understand and normally do not send gifts; and we certainly do not want to do anything that could be perceived as our having our influence changed, hopefully not by a lunch.  He also noted that it is policy that a JWSC employee cannot wear a vendor’s hat at work, which the Uniform Policy states that a hat worn with the JWSC uniform must be a JWSC hat.

Section 4.12 Safety

Mr. Burroughs commented that the Safety Policy is not such a detailed policy, yet there is a Safety Manual that provides detail and should be referenced within the Safety Policy.  The Safety Manual may be edited and this will not require the policy to be changed.  He provided that JWSC does have a Safety Council comprised of Jeffrey Singletary from Teamwork Services and a representative from every department.  The Safety Council often reviews and recommends edits to the Safety Manual.  Mr. Burroughs advised that he would like the Safety Manual to be referenced in the Safety Policy as a governing document with the same weight as the Safety Policy.  He added that occasionally people claim that the Safety Manual is just a guidance document and is not in the policy, so the Safety Manual does need to be referenced as an official part of the policy.  Commissioner Neal asked what oversight is being used when it comes to the department heads having these meetings, that we know they are having these meetings, and it is not a passive thing.  Mr. Burroughs advised that there is a Toolbox Topic every week provided to the employees who do have to sign off that they were present at the time the Toolbox Topic is discussed, and those records go to Teamwork Services.  He also mentioned the Safety Stand Down that has been held the last few years, with the exception of this year since it is an issue getting 100 people in a room.  At this event, some of the required training is provided such as the annual sexual harassment training, which has now been moved to online as part of the on-boarding training for new employees.  Current employees must watch the training video prior to their evaluation.  Commissioner Elliott commented that with a past Executive Director, Steve Swan, there was a robust safety process and asked if this is still the case.  Mr. Burroughs advised yes, we do still have the same process.  He noted that previously we were doing the safety incentive where for every quarter that an employee did not have any safety incidents they were given $100, and if they made it through all 4 quarters without any incidents $500 was given to them at Safety Stand Down.  This year the incentive was changed to a nice blue rain jacket with the JWSC logo and Safety Award 2020 embroidered on it.  Mr. Burroughs also mentioned that all the “Best Practices” tell you not to give money as an incentive, because all it does is incentivize people to not report safety accidents.  Commissioner Elliott suggested that each of the Commissioners should attend at least one Safety Council meeting to see how it is organized and what all goes on.  Mr. Burroughs provided that there are 3 permanent members (Jeffrey Singletary from Teamwork, the JWSC Fleet Manager, and the Secretary) on the council and 1 representative from every department.  He said this is entirely employee driven, and the Superintendents make recommendations on who they would like to have on the Safety Council each year which gives everyone a chance to be on that Committee.  A report is produced at the end of every month for Mr. Burroughs review.  He said that he has attended a couple of meetings, however he believes employees are less likely to speak up about issues if he is in the room, so he does not attend.  It was noted that this Committee meets on every second Thursday at 9:00 a.m. in the Commission Meeting Room.  Commissioner Neal asked for a reminder to be sent to the Commissioners.  Jeffrey Singletary recommended that it would be best for the interested Commissioners to all attend a Safety Council meeting at one time since Safety Council meetings are not normally held in the presence of top management; council members may not speak as freely on matters in front of management.  Commissioner Elliott said this could be done as part of a Human Resources Committee Meeting in case a quorum of Commissioners were present at the same time.  Mr. Burroughs agreed that this should be part of a public meeting, and added that the Safety Council does vote on accidents as to whether they were preventable or not.  If preventable, the employee(s) involved would lose their safety incentive for that quarter; if not preventable they do not lose their incentive.  Mr. Burroughs commented that the Safety Council does a good job; the members take it very seriously which is always important.  He added that having leadership councils is a good tool as long as everyone takes it seriously, and that is one thing, this council does take it very seriously.

Section 4.13 – Drug-Free Workplace

Mr. Burroughs stated that the language in this policy is fairly standard language.  One certainly cannot work under the influence of alcohol or any other substances, and certainly our CDL drivers are required to be part of our random drug testing program.  He noted that last year, all employees became part of the random drug testing program.  Commissioner Cook questioned what states do where marijuana is legal.

Jeffrey Singletary responded that if the organization’s policy is that an employee cannot have drugs in their system, then they cannot have drugs in their system.   Even if the state says it is legal yet your organization’s policy is a Drug-Free Workplace, then you cannot do drugs or have them in your system.  Mr. Singletary also briefly discussed CBD oil with the Committee, as well as a few more details regarding marijuana, drug testing, post drug-testing and employees performing light-duty/desk work rather than being paid to sit home while waiting on the test results.  Commissioner Harvey commented about the statement at 4.13-6 12B:  “… a drug and alcohol test shall be conducted.  The employee shall be transported to the testing site by the supervisor or a designee.  Following the testing procedure, the person transporting the employee shall make appropriate arrangements to transport the employee home.   The employee shall not be allowed to drive himself or herself home. …”  The Commissioner’s concern was that having someone drive that employee to the test and then home could be problematic, especially in the case where the employee lives in another county and another employee has to leave to drive them home and then all the way back, which now puts 2 people off the job.  Mr. Singletary explained that JWSC does not want to be held liable in case that employee was under an influence and we let him drive home.  If he or she has an accident, JWSC could be held responsible for the entire accident.

Mr. Burroughs also briefly discussed the policy on the Use of Communication Systems, which was meant to be included in the Commissioners’ notebooks.  When Georgia passed the “Hands Free Law” this policy was updated to state that cell phones are not to be used while driving company vehicles.  He mentioned that in a Utility emergency, the employee is to pull off the road and take the call, then return to driving.  Also noted was that all of the newer fleet trucks have the hands-free Bluetooth capability for phone use while driving.  This policy also includes the use of social media and company phones.  Mr. Burroughs explained that the Verizon bill is reviewed each month and can help determine when someone has used a very excessive amount of data and may have streamed movies or used the cell phone as a hot spot for internet purposes.

Section 4.20 Solicitation and Distribution of Literature

Mr. Burroughs commented that this policy is not dealt with often.  The holidays are when this policy normally comes into play.  Staff members may want to collect items for donation, or sell items for fundraisers.  These occasions are to be approved by the Executive Director prior to posting or selling anything.  These events are also considered on a case by case basis.  Staff members who make things to sell as a side business are to limit their business to their break time.

Mr. Burroughs offered to send out the Code of Conduct prior to the next HR meeting.  Commissioner Harvey commented that he is glad that staff is updating the handbook since things change.  Mr. Burroughs advised that there are two policies he would bring to the Committee for review.  One is the Code of Conduct and the second being the Travel Policy, which is antiquated.

Mr. Burroughs and Commissioner Elliott presented a software program found called “Clear Force.”  It monitors employees’ social media accounts, arrest records, etc.  Clear Force provides real time, event based alerts of external employee misconduct and high-risk behavior, meaning risky behavior that may cause harm to the organization.  This is a subscription based service.  The basis behind this program is that actions occur as a result of factors or events occurring in the employee’s personal life such as financial distress, work dissatisfaction, life events, legal activity, etc.  Those actions are predicted by activities and behaviors conducted by the employee.  After concluding their discussion, the Committee decided that this type of “Big Brother” monitoring is not something needed at JWSC at this time.

With no further business to discuss, Committee Chairman Elliott adjourned the meeting at

11:38 a.m.