Tuesday, August 9, 2022

James City County furloughs workers while other localities hold off

As a result of the coronavirus closures, James City County has made the decision to furlough a number of workers.

Patrick Teague, the county’s director of Human Resources, said 78 part-time regular employees in the Parks and Recreation Department had been furloughed.

Teague said with the closures of the county’s parks’ services and recreation centers, there isn’t any work for those employees to perform. Some of the full-time staff from the department are being redeployed to other areas in the county depending on their skill set.

But many of the employees being furloughed don’t necessarily have skills that could apply to another position.

“With part-time regular staff, if you think about a park attendant, unless we have an opening where they have a particular skill set or a job they can do, then we might not have a job for them,” Teague said.

The employees are set to be furloughed for an indefinite amount of time, he said. He added that there isn’t currently any plans to furlough other departments but that could change.

“This is our first department and no one knows how long this will go on,” he said. “No one knows how productive each department can be based on their work tasks so we will be evaluating that everyday for the next few months.”

Teague said it’s important to understand the distinction between workers being laid off and workers being furloughed.

During the furlough, those employees will still remain on the county’s payroll and can use their paid leave time. However, once that time runs out they would be considered on leave without pay and can apply for unemployment benefits using the reason “reduced hours,” Teague said.

Those employees could also qualify for assistance under the Extended Family and Medical Leave Act, which provides certain employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave per year, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

Teague said the benefit of a furlough is that once the parks re-open, employees can come back without having to fill out any new forms or put their information in the county’s system again.

“Currently, we’re not conducting layoffs because our goal would be to keep as many employees on the payroll as possible,” he said. “So when we open up to the public, we can ramp up services as much as we need to.”

In the city of Williamsburg, there are not currently any plans underway to furlough employees, said LeeAnn Hartmann, the city’s spokeswoman.

“We’re a very small city staff and each of us sometimes wears up to two, three or four hats,” she said. “So it would be extremely difficult to furlough even our permanent part-time employees.”

Hartmann said the city won’t be furloughing staff with the Parks and Recreation Department because they hadn’t begun hiring any. The part-time staff that would be considered for furlough are typically seasonal and are hired each year in the spring.

However, she said that does mean there is a pause on hiring for these part-time staff as the area continues to shutdown due to the pandemic.

In York County, administrator Neil Morgan said the county is currently working on the operating and capital budgets for fiscal year 2021 and will continue to provide services to the community.

“Any talk of a furlough is premature and we will avoid it if at all possible,” he wrote in an email. “We are still going to need our capable staff when this is over.”

Robin McCormick, spokeswoman for the city of Hampton, sent a prepared statement from Mary Bunting, the city manager, in an email on Wednesday.

“We have not announced any furloughs at this time, nor are we planning to cut staff. Our commitment remains to maintain city services in as much as we reasonably can during this crisis. For those employees not able to do their normal jobs, such as community center staff, due to building closures, they are have been reassigned to other areas of need and/or fulfilling training responsibilities during building closure.”

Kim Lee, spokeswoman for the city of Newport News, was not immediately available for comment.

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Alexa Doironhttp://wydaily.com
Alexa Doiron is a multimedia reporter for WYDaily. She graduated from Roanoke College and is currently working on a master’s degree in English at Virginia Commonwealth University. Alexa was born and raised in Williamsburg and enjoys writing stories about local flair. She began her career in journalism at the Warhill High School newspaper and, eight years later, still loves it. After working as a news editor in Blacksburg, Va., Alexa missed Williamsburg and decided to come back home. In her free time, she enjoys reading Jane Austen and playing with her puppy, Poe. Alexa can be reached at alexa@localvoicemedia.com.

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