Employee handbook changes draw discussion in Hobart
By Ben Rodgers
HOBART – The village board decided at its meeting Tuesday, Dec. 17, to follow suit of neighboring communities in terms of maternity leave for employees.
The change came during the first major update to the village employee handbook since 2014.
Trustee Debbie Schumacher said she was not in agreement with the proposed four months of unpaid maternity leave included in the 36-page draft of the handbook.
Erica Berger, deputy clerk treasurer, said she heard from Howard, De Pere and Ashwaubenon that 12 weeks of unpaid is the standard used by those communities.
Schumacher suggested an automatic two months, with any additional time off to be determined by Village Administrator Aaron Kramer.
“Two months is not enough time, and I say this as a father and grandparent,” said Rich Heidel, village president. “It’s not enough time for a normal, healthy delivery. I don’t think a mother could get medical clearance after 8 weeks if she had a C-section.”
Berger said she shouldn’t have to clear any medical issues related to pregnancy complications with Kramer.
“If there’s certain medical issues I have going on that I’m dealing with as a mother, I don’t want to tell my older male boss,” she said.
Kramer said due to HIPAA regulations, he wouldn’t legally be allowed to ask a question related to medical issues for any employee.
In the end, the board agreed to allow 12 cumulative weeks of unpaid maternity leave starting as soon as the mother is discharged from the hospital.
Schumacher was the lone opposing vote and Trustee Tim Carpenter was absent.
There was also some discussion on the handbook related to employee drug testing.
Kramer said the village will not participate in random drug testing, but rather test for drugs if it has probable cause.
“We’re not like baseball,” he said. “We’re not going to pull people in randomly to test them.”
He said an example of probable cause would be a public works employee involved in an accident.
“We’re not advocating random drug testing or anything, we’re just reserving the right with justification in any case,” Kramer said.
He said the document was created to give employees more opportunities for betterment, not punishment.
“Our mission was we took what we had from 2014 and simplified it, made it much more reader-friendly, user-friendly for the employees and now new employees that are coming on board,” Kramer said.
The document with the amendment on maternity leave passed with Schumacher opposed.
The village board also agreed to spend a little more than $159,000 for 21 new self-contained breathing apparatus packs for the fire department.
The budget item was previously sequestered at the request of Heidel, who wanted to know if the department could space out the purchase over a number of years to reduce the cost.
Fire chief Jerry Lancelle said it would not be possible, because the department would have to train for two different types of packs, and in the commotion of a fire, it could cost time and safety for his firefighters.
Tax levy, fee increase
Finally, the board approved a 25-cent increase in the recycling and garbage collection fee that will take effect on 2021 tax bills.
Kramer said the move helps offset increased recycling costs.
The board also gave final approval for a 2020 general property tax levy of $2,994,650 and an overall levy of $3,954,938 when including tax increment financing districts with all the taxable property in the village.