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A look at comp time

Leaders in both the City of Bainbridge and Decatur County governments have been looking at policies governing employee overtime and days off in an effort to reduce their operating budgets.

As part of their budget hearings in July, county commissioners and officials discussed the county’s Paid Time Off system, which had been blamed by Sheriff Wiley Griffin for unnecessarily boosting his department’s costs for overtime, when hourly-wage employees are paid 1.5 times their normal rate.

According to county policy, employees are eligible for anywhere from 11 to 30 days that can be taken off for any reason during the year, in addition to their birthday and 11 observed holidays. PTO time is supposed to be approved in advance by supervisors, but according to Griffin, it is often taken unscheduled by employees who report being sick, which the policy permits.

County Human Resources Director Marjorie Mayfield said this week that possible revisions to the Paid Time Off system are still a “work-in-progress,” with county officials still researching which of the county’s employees would be affected.

“The issue was, for departments who work 24/7, when someone took PTO or vacation time, they had to be replaced with the same kind of employee who then had to be paid overtime,” Mayfield said.

The county’s Fire and Rescue department, Sheriff’s Office and Jail, Emergency Medical Service and possibly, E-911 dispatchers, could be affected by changes to the PTO system, Mayfield said.

The city’s policy

The City of Bainbridge cut out overtime pay altogether back in February by adopting an amendment to its employee personnel policy. The amendment sets up a system by which hourly-wage employees are given compensatory time off from work, instead of extra pay, when they work overtime. Salaried employees with the city government are not eligible for comp time in the same way that hourly employees are, however, the policy states that “in recognition of significant hours worked in addition to the normal work week, any salaried employee’s supervisor may approve some time off for that employee.”

Comp time at the City of Bainbridge is calculated differently according to how many hours are in eligible employees’ work week and how much they actually work on regular time.

According to City Manager Chris Hobby, the employees who would be most affected are in the city’s Public Safety and Public Works divisions, due to emergency situations arising. Any employee who works beyond their normal schedule—more than 40 hours in a week for most employees, or 144 hours over 24 days for Public Safety officers—would get comp time at the rate equal to 1.5 hours off for every extra hour worked.

Any extra hours worked in a work week that does not exceed a normal schedule—perhaps, due to a holiday—would receive comp time equal to one hour off for every extra hour worked.

City employees’ comp time has to be coordinated with their supervisor, to avoid leaving any office or shift unacceptably shorthanded, Hobby said. Hourly employees whose comp time doesn’t get scheduled by supervisors by Sept. 30 of each year get paid for it, while any salaried employees’ unused comp time gets forfeited at that time, according to the policy.

Hobby said he has not observed any problems with the comp time policy being implemented to date.

“I think the employees miss overtime pay but they understand the reality of the economic situation we’re experiencing,” Hobby said.