By Kevin Boneske
ASHWAUBENON – Because of village employees being unable to take vacation time this year due to staff shortages as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ashwaubenon village board approved a vacation policy exception Dec. 15 to carry over up to an additional week of vacation into 2021.
Without that exception, Village Manager Joel Gregozeski said the village’s personnel manual does not allow more than 40 hours or one week of vacation time to be carried over from one calendar year to another for general village employees.
“There are exceptions within the personnel policies for public safety, but for general village employees, we do not have that ability,” he said.
Gregozeski said the exception will be temporary, given the nature of the pandemic.
“The reason why this resolution or request is being brought forward to you is that we have a handful of employees that may have more than 40 hours of vacation that has been accrued over the year, and that they have been unable to take that time off, primarily related to job duties and requirements associated from COVID-19, and some of the limitations that it’s created,” he said.
For example, Gregozeski said the village clerk-treasurer’s office was involved in four elections this year with the staff needing to be present to handle absentee ballots and Election Day responsibilities, as well as statutory mandates following the elections of recording and reporting results.
“They would have a period of weeks, four times a year, where they would not be available to take vacation,” he said.
In addition, Gregozeski said village employees would have been required to quarantine and be out of work for 14 days, if they had any contact exposure to someone with COVID-19.
Gregozeski said the resolution allows up to two regular weeks of vacation being carried over into 2021, if an employee makes a request in writing to his or her department head by Jan. 4.
“Department heads will have discretion as to whether they want to recommend that request to the village manager and village president,” he said.
Gregozeski said the intent of the exception relates to an employee unable to take time off because of the pandemic or some type of condition related to the virus, where the department head would likely recommend allowing unused vacation time of more than 40 hours to be carried over.
“If it was simply because an individual had to cancel their cruise, because they didn’t want to be stuck on a cruise ship in the middle of sea, and that was the reason why they cancelled their vacation, that may not be a reason why it would get recommended for approval,” he said.
Gregozeski said he will compile the requests, which the village president will have the discretion for whether to approve.
Gregozeski said the additional unused vacation time above 40 hours carried over to next year would have to be used by the end of 2021 or it will expire, unless further action is taken by the board.
“By policy, they can currently carry over 40 (hours),” he said. “Through this resolution, they could carry over an additional 40, so it’s a cumulative total of 80 hours. Say the employee has 120 hours of vacation time accrued yet, they would lose 40 hours of that vacation time, because they would not be able to carry over their full balance, only the 80 hours.”
Based on individual records, Gregozeski said the policy exception could involve a half dozen to a dozen village employees who may request it.
“We do know over the next two weeks we have a series of employees that have significant time off,” he said. “So there could be 40 or 80 hours that they’re going to be cutting from that.”
Public Works Director Doug Martin said his department had to call some employees who were on vacation back to work because of a couple of exposures to COVID-19.
Trustee Allison Williams said carrying over additional vacation time “is a very common issue in a lot of companies.”
“I know this is a practice a lot of companies are making exceptions to,” she said.
Employee of the year
Village President Mary Kardoskee announced Deputy Clerk Beth Stein was named the village employee of the year for 2020.
“She did an amazing job with four elections and a lot of legal work that she had to do,” Kardoskee said. “So there were many, many weekends that she was here working late.”
Kardoskee also presented the 2020 Community Excellence Award to representatives of Fortifi Bank.
The proclamation recognized Fortifi Bank, which last year constructed a new branch building on Cormier Road, for “continuing the betterment of Ashwaubenon since joining our community,” such as sponsoring Ashwaubenon Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department food truck rallies.