Employee Forum Agenda

9:15 a.m.–Meeting: Pleasants Family Assembly Room, Wilson Library

I.    Call to Order & Opening Remarks—Chair Charles Streeter

II.  Welcome Guests & Members of the Press

III. Special Presentations

  • Howard Kallem, University’s Title IX Compliance Coordinator

Kallem, a recognized expert in Title IX compliance, is chief regional attorney of the District of Columbia Enforcement Office for the United States Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR). OCR is responsible for ensuring civil rights enforcement and compliance with Title IX, as well as other federal nondiscrimination legislation. Kallem has more than 15 years of experience with OCR, as well as 14 years of experience with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

In addition, Kallem has worked in higher education as a senior equal opportunity specialist at George Mason University. He has a bachelor’s degree from the State University of New York at Binghamton and a juris doctor degree from Catholic University.

As Title IX Compliance Coordinator, Kallem will be responsible for coordinating the University’s compliance with statutory and regulatory requirements under Title IX, the federal legislation that covers gender discrimination. He will oversee campuswide education, training and outreach around Title IX issues, and coordinate the University’s responses and investigations into Title IX complaints.  (http://www.unc.edu/campus-updates/kallem-named-title-ix-compliance-coordinator/) 

  • Chuck Stone, State Employees’ Association of North Carolina (SEANC) Lobbyist

It’s safe to say no one knows more about state employees’ health care benefits than SEANC Lobbyist Chuck Stone.

Stone is a 31-year veteran of state service, having retired in 2004 after spending his entire career at the O’Berry Neuro-Medical Treatment Center in Goldsboro, 25 years of which were spent as the center’s administrative officer.

These days, Stone is SEANC’s resident health care expert. If there’s something going on with the State Health Plan, Stone is on it. That can be a tricky job sometimes with a state treasurer’s office that can be less than forthcoming with information. And though health care is his passion, Stone also lobbies along with the rest of SEANC’s Legislative Affairs team on all areas concerning state employees, especially retirement issues.

He counts his time as Director of North Carolinians for Affordable Health Care, a group formed to support President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, as his favorite accomplishment as a SEANC staffer. He said while the act has many imperfections, it has many positive elements which will enhance the quality of care and reduced costs for seniors on Medicare.

He has been a SEANC member from the association’s creation in 1984 and was a member of the NC State Employees Association for 10 years before that. He served as SEANC president from 1997-1998. During his tenure as SEANC president, he worked with Gov. Jim Hunt and legislators to form N.C. Health Choice – a program that offers much needed health care options for children at a more affordable rate. 

Stone also served for six years on the State Health Plan Board of Trustees in late 1980s, the very board he spends most of his time as a lobbyist keeping tabs on today. He also served on the Blue Ribbon Task Force Legislative Committee on the State Health Plan. (http://www.seanc.org/legislative-action/meet-your-seanc-lobbyists/chuck-stone/) 

IV.    Human Resources Update—Associate Vice Chancellor Matt Brody

V.      Approval of January Minutes

VI.     Old Business

VII.   New Business

  • Resolution 14-01, Concerning Proposed Revisions to the Forum Bylaws

VIII.  Forum Committee Reports

  • Bylaws Committee: Rotating Chair
  • Carolina Community Garden Advisory: Arlene Medder (January minutes)
  • Communications and Public Relations: Katie Turner
  • Education and Career Development: Lois Douglass-Alston/Matt McKirahan
  • Membership & Assignments: Paula Goodman
  • Recognition & Awards:  Michael Highland
  • Personnel Issues:  James Holman
    • Compensation & Benefits: Shelby Long
    • Legislative Action: David Fraley
    • Staff Relations, Policies & Practices: Yvonne Dunlap
  • UNC System Staff Assembly: Michael Highland/James Holman/Charles Streeter
  • Executive Committee: Charles Streeter (November, December minutes)

IX.     Announcements/Questions

X.      Adjournment

MINUTES

February 5, 2014 Employee Forum minutes

Attending (those who signed in):  Dan Barmmer, Deborah Bush, Tiffany Carver, Tammy Cox, Yvonne Dunlap, David Fraley, Jim Fuller, Paula Goodman, Maggie Grant, John Gullo, Michael Highland, Todd Hux, George James, Shelby Long, Arlene Medder, Chris Meinecke, Jackie Overton, Christina Rodriguez, Anna Schwab, Tara Smith, Charles Streeter

Chair Charles Streeter called the meeting to order at 9:15 a.m.  He welcomed guests and members of the media.  Jackie Overton passed around a card for Faculty Chair Jan Boxill’s 75th birthday.  The Chair noted that the Forum now has thank you cards engraved with a portrait of the Forum with the Chancellor.  The Chair noted questions about the University’s adverse weather policy.  Associate Vice Chancellor Matt Brody said that General Administration is very involved in these matters, and that he would convey these concerns.  The Chair noted that the Chancellor will hold an open house from 4:30-5:30 p.m. in the Carolina Union.

The Chair took a moment to welcome the new Vice Chancellor for Workforce Strategy, Equity, and Engagement, Felecia Washington.  Washington said that she has big shoes to fill in the place of outgoing Vice Chancellor Brenda Malone.  She looked forward to future discussions with the Forum.  She took a moment to inform listeners about a presentation that evening from the Department of History at the Stone Center on Civil Rights and Wrongs:  North Carolina and the Struggle for Justice and Equality by Dr. Hasan Kwame Jeffries.

The Chair welcomed SEANC lobbyist Chuck Stone to speak about changes to the State Health Plan this year.  Stone did not think that the State Plan will change in 2015.  He recommended that employees buy the best coverage they can afford, as health care costs can cause bankruptcy. He said that the State is blessed to have the employee optional coverage for free or near-free, but the dependent coverage costs are outrageous.  He noted that Dr. Warren Newton, Vice Dean of Education in the School of Medicine is an employee representative to the State Health Plan Board of Trustees.   The University is fortunate to have a local faculty member on the Board for reference.

Stone advised listeners to enroll in the enhanced 80/20 PPO plan if possible.  He said that the institution of a primary care physician and a health assessment were generally good things.  He commented that the enrollment process was troublesome.  He said that the Beacon system had never been designed to handle this volume of business.  He said that Benefit Focus had “blew it” as the peak of calls started at the beginning rather than the end of enrollment.  Training for operators was poor and left operators confused with many unanswered questions, Stone said.  He said that employees should not hesitate to submit comment about the enrollment process to the State Treasurer’s Office.

Stone said that surcharges are not the answer to increasing health insurance enrollment, even if things like health assessments are necessary.  He said that tobacco users are more likely to fall into lower socio-economic categories.  However, these lower-income people are also more likely not to be able to afford the out of pocket costs under the 70/30 plan.  He said that a surcharge on insurance charges was unheard of in insurance circles.  He said that the surcharge for not completing a health assessment or specifying a primary care physician took money out of the pockets of employees who have received only one 1.2% raise in the last five years.  He said that instead of surcharges, he would offer incentives to anyone completing these requirements, in order to encourage enrollment.  He said that the Treasurer’s Office did not want to implement incentives for political reasons.

Stone said that body mass index and cholesterol assessments are likely on the agenda for future iterations of the Health Plan.  He said that studies on obesity which show that it affects people randomly should preclude using this factor to determine health care insurance rates.  He noted that his daughter has health problems that prevent her from working out regularly.  He noted that cholesterol and blood pressure levels are determined by race and gender levels.  He noted that SEANC had played an important role in reducing out of pocket costs for principal care physicians and specialists in spite of the legislative vote being delayed and moved to a weekend.

Stone commented that the State needs a combined cap for Health plan and prescription costs.  He noted that employees in the 70/30 plan are stuck unless they have a qualifying event such as the birth of a child.  Stone thought that the health care reserve account was a net negative for employees as out of pocket costs can greatly overwhelm the benefit of the account.  The account is particularly hazardous in the event of chronic conditions which could quickly drain the savings of an enrollee.

Michael Highland asked if the Affordable Care Act will change the State Health Plan.  Stone said that employees with dependents might be better off in some circumstances taking the ACA plan instead of the State plan.  Deborah Bush asked if the State Plan had studied adjusting the cost of dependent coverage based on the number of children covered.  Stone said that this possibility had been studied and it was found that the administrative cost meant that the premium cost could be reduced only a small amount.  The Chair asked about the State Plan covering marriage counseling.  Stone said that this was a good idea and he appreciated the Forum suggesting it.  Jim Fuller asked about the demise of the 90/10 plan.  Stone said that SEANC had fought the dissolution of this plan.  In the end, the elimination of the 90/10 plan saved only $5 million a year.

The Chair introduced Howie Kallem, the University’s Title IX Coordinator.  Kallem said he had worked at the University around a month.  He has extensive experience with the federal Office of Civil Rights and the Equal Employment Opportunity discrimination in employment.  He has also worked on K-12 minority achievement.  After working on the policy and enforcement side of these questions, he is excited to work on the practical side.  He said that the University is taking seriously its responsibility to enforce Title IX, which prohibits sexual discrimination in programs or activities.  A primary reason for this prohibition is to secure a safer working and learning environment.

Howie Kallem said that the University has a full network of supports in place, including the Department of Public Safety and the Women’s Center.  He noted that the Women’s Center is in the process of hiring a survivors’ coordinator.  He said that there is a network of support but not a general public knowledge of these resources.  He thought that UNC-Chapel Hill is unique in its commitment of resources to the Title IX coordinator and serious about taking on these concerns.

Anna Schwab asked how many people in Kallem’s staff are attorneys.  Kallem said that most workers in his office are attorneys although others are not.  He noted the great number of applicants for the attorney positions.  Christina Rodriguez asked if the HAVEN training will be revamped.  She noted some confusion about how reporting sexual harassment should occur.  Kallem encouraged everyone at the University to find out about how to deal with possible complaints.  He noted that online training will occur in this area for all staff employees.  He said that the goal of his office is that the University’s employees will supply an accurate and consistent response.  He said that the University should follow up with additional training.  Kallem said that those who are not computer savvy could require assistance with the online training.  He appreciated whatever help the Forum can contribute to getting these people training.

Arlene Medder asked about instances of male victims of sexual assault.  Kallem said that the education process starts with students and then moves to faculty and staff.  Deborah Bush asked if the training process is the same for faculty and staff.  Kallem said that the sexual assault task force is reviewing the student process, then will move on to reviewing the faculty and staff process.  He noted that students greatly want to include faculty and staff procedures in the overall sexual assault prevention program.

The Chair introduced Associate Vice Chancellor Matt Brody for the Forum’s customary Human Resources update.  Brody welcomed newly appointed Vice Chancellor Felicia Washington.  He said that this is a very exciting time in Human Resources, noting that the last legislative session kept the organization very busy with new legislation.  The Office of State Personnel has a new name, the Office of State Human Resources.  The Legislature has established a new grievance policy for the State, which is currently undergoing clarification.  Brody said that HR will keep the Forum updated as to the progress of these revisions.  He also noted a change in the probationary period for State employees from 3 months to 24 months.

Dan Barmmer asked how many self-reported criminal convictions the University has seen since this policy was put into place a few years ago.  Senior Director Gena Carter said that only a handful of reports have come in.  Barmmer wondered if the policy did indeed work.  Paula Goodman asked what the penalty is for employees who do not make these reports.  Brody said that Human Resources would need to determine if the report is job-related.  If Human Resources becomes convinced that the employees has wilfully not reported the conviction, it will consider discipline of the employee.  Human Resources will naturally act to protect the safety of others at the University.  Chris Meinecke asked if employees in new positions will receive new background checks.  Brody said that these would not take place in the event of reclassifications, but would occur with the advent of new job duties requiring different judgment calls.  Michael Highland asked if it is the policy of the University to do credit checks.  Brody said that these occur only in the Department of Public Safety.

Jim Fuller asked if one’s probationary period is extended by shifting from one job to another.  Brody welcomed Senior Director Noreen Montgomery to make a presentation on this question.  Montgomery noted that SPA probationary periods have previously varied across the State.  She said that this change a uniform 24-month probationary period will allow more consistent and efficient administration of the practice.  She noted that the law creating the extension of new employees’ probationary period from 90 days to 24 month was passed October 24, 2013.  The Office of State Human Resources discussed how to apply written revisions in line with career status at a meeting with Human Resources commission members on December 12, 2013.  She said that the law had thereafter moved from the Governor’s Office, to General Administration, then to UNC System Vice President William Fleming.

Montgomery said that UNC-Chapel Hill has hired over 200 employees since the law was passed October 24, 2013.  She said that these employees did not receive communication from General Administration about the new probationary period until the policy was updated after consultation with the Office of State Human Resources.  On February 2, 2014, Human Resources contacted these 200+ employees with information about their probationary status via U.S. Mail.  Employees hired after August 24, 2013 are still eligible for sick and vacation leave, retirement benefits, tuition waiver, and workplans at the 30-day mark of their employment.  They can expect to meet with supervisors on a quarterly basis.  Montgomery said that an employee moving from an SPA position to an EPA position or vice versa would have to complete a 24-month probationary period.  An employee working at similar positions at different State institutions would not have to undergo a new probationary period unless they have a 31-day break in service.  Montgomery said that career status means a permanent position serving 24 consecutive months.

Matt Brody said that traditionally the UNC System has been more liberal in its treatment of probationary periods than other State agencies.  He said that now, probationary employees have no access to the disciplinary and appeal process for 24 months.  This is a substantial change that will require aligning to the State’s specifications.  The Chair asked whether a probationary employee can be let go without cause for up to 24 months.  Noreen Montgomery said that there must be documentation of performance or conduct issues.  The supervisor has the option of allowing the employee to stay for up to 14 days, or can end their employment immediately.  Senior Director Gena Carter said that there should never be a situation in which a probationary employee is let go during their 23rd month of probation.  She said that management needs to provide honest feedback to probationary employees all through their probation.  Todd Hux asked if supervisors need any documentation when firing probationary employees through the 24th month.  Brody said that supervisors can let probationary employees go anytime in their 24 months if performance or conduct issues arise, without appeal.  Brody said that probationary employees also do not have a right to warnings.  He emphasized that the University did not ask for these changes, but rather the State has imposed them from above.

Matt Brody said that this sanction refers to lesser conduct and performance concerns, such as not meeting expectations.  He said that the right to dismiss a probationary employee is not an absolute right and should be seen as an expectation not a guarantee.  The Chair asked if Human Resources has received any feedback from the 216 affected employees.  Brody said that Human Resources invited these employees to contact them for a personal opportunity to discuss these changes.  He said that there have already been reports of employees turning down jobs due to these new changes in the probation policy.  He said that most employees do not end up terminated in their first 90 days of employment.  Yvonne Dunlap asked why the restriction on probationary employees’ access to the disciplinary process is so important.  Brody said that Dunlap should ask the Legislature about its intentions.  He said for UNC-Chapel Hill these changes are significant as the University before gave these employees access to the disciplinary process once their 90 days were complete.  He said that the new Office of State Human Resources policy does not provide the University the option to speed up this access.

Dan Barmmer asked if the University could institute its own separate probationary policy.  Matt Brody said that the University must get approval for its policy from the State.  John Gullo asked if Information Technology personnel must undergo a new probationary period for every reclassification.  Brody said that reclassifications will not result in new probationary periods.  Vice Chancellor Felicia Washington said that the University would be happy to provide more information about this question.  She said that the University has no intention to make the chance for termination for probationary employees greater.

Grievance Officer Chariss Jones spoke on the changes to the University’s grievance policy.  She noted that the General Assembly had decided that all State institutions must have the same grievance policy.  She noted that written warnings will no longer be grievable.  She said that ‘Good’ performance ratings will no longer be grievable, although ‘Below Good’ and ‘Unsatisfactory’ ratings are still grievable.  She noted that harassment and discrimination of those in protected classes is grievable.  She said that at the University level, protected classes include race, gender, religion, veterans’ status, sexual orientation, and gender identification and expression.

Chariss Jones noted that Step 1 grievances have a deadline of 15 days from the date of the event, down from 30 days previously.  Mediation is required at Step 1 unless the Office of State Human Resources (OSHR) allows an exception to move to Step 2.  Mediators are not UNC-Chapel Hill employees, and the University will help schedule mediators from a State-approved pool.  The entire grievance process will take 90 days, with mediation taking 35 days.  If mediation reaches an impasse, the grievant has five days from the end of the mediation to make a Step 2 appeal.  A panel of University employees will hear statements from the grievant and respondent.  The panel is obliged to complete its report and recommendation within 35 days.  The University will send its recommendation to the Office of State Human Resources for review and approval.  OSHR has ten calendar days to consider this decision then it must forward a ruling to the Chancellor, who must issue the ruling to the grievant within five days.

Gena Carter noted concerns about the added step in the process.  Todd Hux asked if the Chancellor has the option to override what the panel says.  Carter said that this point was still in question.  Carter said that grievance officers should receive more direction from OSHR in the coming days.  Chariss Jones noted that grievants will have an additional 30 days from the time of the Chancellor’s ruling to make an appeal to the Office of Administrative Hearings.  Jones went over the issues that are grievable.  She noted that the timeline has changed drastically under the new revisions

Chariss Jones said that the equal opportunity informal process regarding harassment, discrimination, and retaliation must be completed in 45 days.  She said that the incident must be grieved 15 days from the receipt of the treatment.  Gena Carter said that the intent of informal process is to give an opportunity to resolve.  She said that Human Resources is not certain as to how this process will play out.  Christina Rodriguez asked if this process is available to probationary employees.  Jones said that employees with questions about which issues are grievable can contact her office at emr@unc.edu or 843-3444.

Jones said that the University uses alternative dispute resolution programs to conduct facilitated conversations and encourage departmental resolution of the issue.  Employees are free to write ‘note to files’ if unhappy with a written warning placed in their file, but this does not constitute the initiation of a grievance.  There is no time constraint on the placement of a ‘note to file’ in one’s personnel file.  Chris Meinecke asked about consultations with the ombudsoffice.  Ombuds officer Wayne Blair said that the ombuds process is informal and does not stop the clock on the formal grievance process.  John Gullo commented that the ‘note to file’ used in the pilot at the School of Government does not include a box for employee comment.  Gena Carter said that the pilot form will likely be modified.  The Chair asked how Human Resources facilitators will know that these changes are coming.  Carter said that the Human Resources Council was informed in December.  She said that the Council will be informed once it has a definitive answer to questions and concerns.  She said that Human Resources will present to employees through appearances with the Employee Forum as well as through a formal notice.  The Chair asked Jones for a copy of her presentation for publication on the Forum web site.

Anna Schwab asked if grievants are allowed advocates.  Chariss Jones said that the process allows a check for support people who can help behind the scenes.  Jim Fuller asked if grievant support people receive support in turn from Human Resources.  Gena Carter said that Human Resources will not solicit new support persons until the new policy is confirmed.  She said that Human Resources employees do not function as support persons.

The Chair asked employees to communicate further questions about the policy via the listserv.  He reminded listeners that these changes in the probationary period and the grievance policy were not instituted by the University and are beyond the Chancellor’s ability to change.

The Chair noted that the Forum will undergo a first reading of Resolution 14-01 concerning changes to the Forum Bylaws in March.  He noted that a group of Forum delegates have met with members of the Red Cross to discuss the Forum’s possible permanent involvement sponsoring the University’s annual blood drives.  He emphasized that the Forum would not have to do logistics and planning for the blood drives, but rather would work to publicize the blood drive as an ambassador.  He said that the next blood drive is scheduled for June 3.  Tammy Cox asked who will handle the administrative burden for the blood drive.  She asked if a committee will handle this work.  The Chair said that he would like the Forum to decide whether to undergo this task.  The Chair noted timing matters in possibly getting the Forum involved in publicity for the event.

Yvonne Dunlap thought that the Forum would do well to contribute to this institution.  Michael Highland thought that the Forum should clarify its commitment to the effort before giving its assent.  Chris Meinecke imagined that the Forum would need to reach out to all departments for point personnel.  He said that the University should not lose these blood drives because one person has retired.  The Chair said that the blood drives need a home.  He envisioned that the blood drives will become a part of the Forum’s traditions.  Gena Carter asked if blood drive work is considered work time.  Tammy Cox said that Human Resources has historically approved this work as work time if the supervisor approves of the service.  The Chair concluded that the Forum would hear from the Red Cross at its March meeting and then the Forum would then make a decision on the effort.

The Chair asked Forum committee chairs to e-mail their reports to the Forum Office for distribution to the Forum via listserv.  He reminded listeners about the upcoming February 13, 2014 Vice Chancellor/Provost meeting.

In the absence of further discussion, the meeting was adjourned by acclamation at 11:34 a.m.

Respectfully submitted,

Matt Banks, Recording Secretary

 

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