Madison County commissioners plan to make all county jobs “at will” positions, meaning the old appeal provisions in the county’s personnel policies concerning termination and discipline will be removed.
Those changes have yet to be approved.
But the BOC recently asked employees for input on their proposed personnel policy amendments. Only one person, Magistrate Judge Harry Rice, addressed the BOC on the “at will proposal.” He suggested that the commissioners consider leaving appeal procedures in place for all current employees, while designating all new hires as “at will” workers.
That way, people who were hired with the expectation of appeal protection wouldn’t be stripped of the due process measures. Rice said the proposal would help the morale of county employees.
Currently, employees in offices headed by constitutionally-elected officials — such as the sheriff’s department, tax commissioner’s office, clerk of court, probate judge and magistrate judge — are already “at will” workers, since the elected officials can dismiss employees without any chance for employee appeals.
Meanwhile, other county employees, who work for department heads rather than elected officials, have “due process” rights of appeal. If they are fired, they can enter into an appeal process for reconsideration of their termination. Commissioners have noted that the appeal process has proven expensive and has never actually led to the reversal of a firing.
Commissioners also said the new arrangement would put every employee in the county under the same personnel policy.
Whether or not an appeal procedure is in place, Madison County employees will always be able to sue their employers if they feel they’ve been wrongly fired.
While the appeal process was a focus Thursday, the board also heard from employees concerned about proposed changes to county vacation policies.
County employees have been allowed to accrue many hours of unused vacation time in recent years. Commissioners note that large chunks of unused vacation are essentially county debt, at least as far as auditors are concerned, because employees could cash in on the hundreds of hours of unused leave at any time, while potentially leaving departments understaffed.
So, the BOC is considering setting a 280-hour cap on accrued vacation time. But commissioners are also considering giving employees who have more than the maximum allowed hours an opportunity to put their excess hours toward retirement.