City employees: ‘Give us a hand (book)’

By Bonnie Culverhouse

At the February meeting of the Minden City Council, councilpersons did something that has been four years in the making. They unanimously voted to accept a new employee manual.

“I inherited this from the last mayor,” Minden Mayor Nick Cox said. “The last council had been working on it all four years they were in office.”

Cox recommended the council pass the handbook with the understanding they could go back and amend any part of it later.

“It’s essentially a new handbook through and through,” Cox said. “It’s changed a lot.”

The City’s Human Resources Director April Aguilar said the last time the handbook was revised was April 2019.

“It was revised by section, not as a whole,” she said.

Some handbooks are adopted by ordinance.

Aguilar said, “Ours is not. It has to be council approved, however.”

The previous council had at least four workshops and went through the handbook sentence by sentence, she said.

“It is related to the employees’ employment with the City, how they will be paid, what are the rules,” she said. “What if you have a workplace accident? What do we do?”

One of the sections the council wanted to keep as part of the manual was related to hiring of department heads.

“We added the Economic Development Director, Human Resources Manager to that area because they were previously not in the book,” Aguilar said. “Those had been hot topics before.”

Another topic concerned harassment definitions. This manual defines harassment, non-harassment and sexual harassment.

“Government employees have to do sexual harassment prevention training,” Aguilar said. “We also have to do governmental ethics training every year.”

The section on holiday pay remained “pretty much the same.”

“Our employees receive 13 paid holidays – 14 including their birthday,” she said. “That’s a really nice perk to have.”

Overtime pay and vacation counted as overtime hours required clarification.

“In our previous handbook, if you performed overtime work, you should be paid at one and one-half times your regular hourly wage for any time over 40 hours per week you work,” Aguilar said. “The City of Minden’s legal holidays including your birthday shall be counted as a day worked (not at overtime rate).”

The revised handbook states the legal holidays, including birthday, vacation and jury duty shall be counted as a day worked during the workweek.

In the previous handbook, vacation and jury duty were not counted in the hours worked, she said. 

“This mostly applies to like the line crew in the case of an employee on vacation when a storm comes through,” she said. “In order for him to respond and help his co-workers safely, he had to know in advance that he was not getting paid overtime because he was already on vacation.”

In the new handbook, that crewman will receive the overtime rate because his vacation counts as hours worked. This applies to non-exempt (hourly) employees.

Disaster pay is one thing established that was not previously covered in the manual.

“We did not have that, but it is required if we are going to be reimbursed by FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency),” she added. “Kathy Newer (Public Works) was very helpful with this, making sure we have the right verbiage and language.”

Disaster pay is work performed during a declared or named disaster. It may be compensated at an overtime rate in excess of 40 hours worked, at the mayor’s discretion. This is for exempt (salaried) employees.

The handbook also establishes the definition of disaster.

There are special sections relating to police and firefighters, however, they are also governed by State Civil Service law. Both cover salaries and retirement, therefore, those departments are totally different from regular hourly and salaried employees.

As Aguilar pointed out, all areas of the more than 67-page handbook are important, and every new employee is required to read and sign a copy. 

“We all learned a lot working on this book,” she said. “We learned a lot about governmental law, too.”

Those helping her through the process and whom she would like to thank include the late mayor Terry Gardner, Wanda Pittman Mahala Hutto, Kathy Newer, Michael Fluhr, Melaney Langford, Tommy Davis, Nick Cox and council members (past and present).

Any resident or citizen of Minden can view a copy by public records request at Minden City Hall.