February 8, 2018 Vice Chancellor Representatives’ Meeting
Attending: Linc Butler, Clare Counihan, Darius Dixon, Shayna Hill, Naquan Hill, James Holman, Arlene Medder, Carol Tresolini, Christine Van Vleek, Felicia Washington,
Felicia Washington called the meeting to order at 10 a.m. She noted that the Board of Governors and Equal Opportunity Commission diversity audit was now online. Shayna Hill asked that the agenda be rearranged due to absences. She noted that flex time has become an issue in Facilities Services, as this informal policy has not been consistently observed in all areas. She asked if flex time has been denied or abolished in Facilities Services, given that the University website asks supervisors to be as flexible as possible.
Washington thought it best to review the University policy on flex time. Darius Dixon asked if there had been one to four people or a large group of people who brought this concern to Hill. Shayna Hill said that a couple of people had brought the issue forward. She said that Forum delegates represent their delegation and so bring departmental items forward whether one or more people advocate the concern. She noted that a number of employees fear retaliation or differential treatment. Washington asked if Hill could define her understanding of the Forum’s delegation. Hill said that delegates are elected to represent job classifications but delegates also try to represent all employees. She noted that the delegation division in question typically does not enjoy the flexibility in scheduling that other administrative employees do. She said that some of these employees feel targeted.
Darius Dixon replied that one individual in Facilities Services had been afforded individual leniency for nine months using flex time. Once this employee’s allocated flex time had ended, the employee wanted to adjust more hours through flex time. Another employee had obtained a temporary change in work hours via flex time, but their position needed to have supervision available for the entirety of their work time. When this employee’s request was denied, the employee went on a campaign to gain acceptance for their flex time and temporary work time changes. Dixon said that only five of 800 employees in Building Services now uses a flexible schedule.
Dixon said that Building Services had instituted a reset on work schedule changes, whereby management may revoke or reset flex time arrangements at any time with a ten-day notice. Dixon said that Building Services had given the employee in question six month’s notice of the removal of their arrangements. Dixon said that Building Services had written individual letters to the five employees on flex time rather than writing the whole group of employees in the unit.
Dixon noted that one employee seems to take flex time scheduling in the same pattern of the same months every year. He said that another employee’s situation should have been addressed through the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) or other means. He said that these questions had led Building Services to conduct a confidential climate assessment in this area.
As a result of this assessment, Building Services worked to put together a general communication to all of its staff with the assistance of Employee Relations and Human Resources, due to go out Friday. Dixon said that this letter will clearly state Building Services’ position. As another example, Dixon noted that the one employee needing work schedule changes in order to meet day care obligations was to take leave other than medical leave for this purpose after 31 days. He noted that afterwards management could then revise or revoke these changes at any time. He added that other employees who had come to work early to flex their schedule did not have adequate supervision during these early work hours.
Dixon said that Building Services did follow the University’s policy in this area. He granted that there was a communication issue with the first letter on the subject but said that the upcoming clarification to come out Friday should address this question.
Shayna Hill prefaced her response by stating her appreciation for all that Dixon’s office had done related to the climate assessment on this question. However, she found that the description of those bringing the issue forward as “a couple of people…who had campaigned” seemed to single out those who had brought the question forward. These employees needed clarification of the policy and subsequently seemed to have been unfairly portrayed by this characterization.
Dixon asked if all five employees with flex schedules came to the Forum to ask for help. Hill did not think this was a fair way to frame the question. She would not out people who come to the Forum seeking help. Felicia Washington said that she understood why Dixon raised the question but said that depiction of the issue does not perhaps sound right to all listeners. Hill said that she has experienced targeting as a manager but spoke here in her capacity as a representative of staff.
Dixon regretted the wrong choice of words in this instance. Washington said that his words were not incorrectly chosen but rather would not land right with those who lack understanding of the issue. She understood why Dixon would phrase the issue as he did.
Clare Counihan said that the Carolina Women’s Center has a strong stake in the University’s policy on flex time, particularly related to parental work-life balance issues. She feared that the entire unit has been punished for the few folks who have made use of the University’s flex time policy.
James Holman said that the University needs a written policy to which all supervisors and employees can refer. Felicia Washington asked what employees are entitled to know and how different can a unit’s policy be from the overall University policy. Darius Dixon said that the policy had been attached to the letter to Building Services employees.
Naquan Hill thought that it is the supervisor’s job to clarify University policy for their employees. He said that a supervisor must understand and be open to modifications necessary under University policy. Clare Counihan observed that what others may call a “campaign” could also be seen as an effort to get supervisors to listen to employee concerns. She said that the effort could be depicted positively or negatively.
Felicia Washington read the letter that went out to the five employees. She concluded that it read like a “takeaway” of benefits. Darius Dixon said that the letter was not intended to have that connotation. He said that the letter was meant to reestablish work schedules. He noted that only five employees received this letter, of whom one should have used FMLA leave and one had a pattern of flex time use. He said that two of the other employees were in a grey area, flexing their schedule while sometimes requesting leave for vacation.
Clare Counihan said that employees would not be allowed to accumulate flex time under State policy. Felicia Washington said it was important to not allow use of flex time in FMLA situations. She offered to help Building Services with the all-unit communication.
Clare Counihan noted that the Board of Governors’ Equal Opportunity and Diversity audit had recently been published. She asked if the University would develop a process to respond to this audit. Felicia Washington recounted that in the 2017 Appropriations Act the Legislature required the Board of Governors to study all sixteen University campuses to determine what efficiency, effectiveness, and transparency measures govern equal opportunity, diversity and multicultural affairs programs on these campuses. She said that a consultant had met with Board of Governors representatives to study job and program titles across the UNC System. There are worries that the Board may use this data to consolidate these programs or to seek other efficiency measures.
Washington said that the executive summary of the report had studied the feasibility of consolidation, finding that consolidation could occur but that it would not necessarily enable more effectiveness. She said that the UNC System will likely play a more directive role in tracking diversity and inclusion and equal opportunity cases at System schools. The report is available on the Board of Governors website under the January 2018 agenda and meeting materials.
Of the report’s recommendations, Washington said that the Equal Opportunity and Diversity & Inclusion units at NC State and UNC-Chapel Hill seemed to have already enacted changes advanced by the report. She did not think that this part of the report would change jobs in these areas. Carol Tresolini said that the original report criteria seemed to cover only five or so employees with Equal Employment Opportunity Commission but later expanded to include Diversity & Inclusion personnel. Washington added that many positions are only indirectly associated with Diversity & Inclusion, which made the data very complicated to sort.
Clare Counihan asked what the report meant by having the UNC System Office (formerly General Administration) direct policy beyond State and federal requirements. Washington recalled that when UNC-Chapel Hill developed its sexual assault prevention policy, the System Office asked that the University provide a justification for each protected class in the new policy. She said that the University’s respondents generally sought to work with the perceived goals of the Legislature in order to provide information that is prudent and reasonable to know.
Washington read another recommendation from the report that sought foundation measures of success for Equal Opportunity and Diversity & Inclusion. Lori Haight noted Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) concerns about sharing student education records could undercut data collection efforts. Clare Counihan noted that UNC-Chapel Hill’s software overseeing these programs was considered centralized and robust in comparison to other System schools. Shayna Hill thanked Washington for her walkthrough of the report. (https://www.northcarolina.edu/apps/bog/doc.php?id=59024&code=bog)
Shayna Hill recalled that the issue of adverse weather at the University had arisen again among University employees and the UNC System Staff Assembly given recent weather. She noted a general push from employees to allow use of sick leave rather than vacation leave in cases of Condition 1 or Condition 2 adverse weather. Linc Butler said that sick leave is strictly defined in the SHRA Act. He said that modifying the SHRA Act would take legislative action.
Hill noted reports that housekeeping staff have been asked to do work beyond their purview during adverse weather events without appropriate equipment. She said that these employees have suffered confusion about the designation of adverse weather emergency employees. Some employees received this designation while others who wanted to work were sent home during the Condition 2 event.
Naquan Hill asked if the Office of Human Resources designates emergency employees. Linc Butler said that the office does make these designations but added that a department can make this designation on their own on the spot given the situation.
James Holman lamented that during the past snowstorm the department had turned away employees who were willing to work. He said that employees who live in the local area should have the opportunity to work if they are willing to help. He noted one recently hired housekeeper who had come into work anyway in spite of the Condition 2 adverse weather protocol, only to be sent home. Holman noted that housekeepers are not expected to shovel snow but rather are expected to clean and sanitize ten feet from the one designated entrance to campus buildings. He said that the Grounds department retains responsibility for the remainder of the ice and snow.
Darius Dixon noted that the University has plans for removal of snow by zones. He said that UNC must ensure the delivery of service to its students. Each component of Facilities Services plays a part in snow removal. Dixon said that there are some variations from the ten-foot rule for housekeepers in snow removal. He emphasized that the primary purpose of the department in these situations is to take care of the students and parents on campus. He said that in these situations departments must move from siloed to common goals.
Darius Dixon noted that currently there are only 113 mandatory employees out of the University’s complement of 435 housekeepers. All Grounds employees are mandatory employees. He said that zone managers and crew leaders should go over the responsibilities of their employees during adverse weather events. This task is their responsibility.
James Holman said that ten years ago all housekeepers were mandatory employees. Now, zone managers and crew leaders hold the responsibility to sort out the different roles for their employees. He said that given the severity of the recent weather, the University should have accepted all hands willing to work. Dixon said that the adverse weather policy as written requires non-mandatory employees to go home or stay home in Condition 2 status.
Felicia Washington appreciated the willingness to help. She said that communicating the specifics of the adverse weather policy is still an issue. However, she said that the University could not have employees determining the business needs of the campus. She was concerned with the idea that a housekeeper could tell management that they must allow that person to come to work and be selected.
Clare Counihan thought that there might be a mismatch between how employees are designated. James Holman asked why the department could not make a list of volunteers for these situations. Naquan Hill suggested that the duty go down as an addendum to these employees’ job descriptions. Linc Butler said that allowing employees to designate themselves mandatory employees could confuse responsibilities. He said that management must determine the business needs of their departments.
James Holman noted that sometimes housekeeping will dismiss non-mandatory employees during adverse weather events then must scramble to assemble skeleton crews. Linc Butler said that these adjustments are part of the logistical challenges of management which may include re-designation of employees as mandatory should conditions warrant.
Holman asked that management take feedback from zone managers and crew leaders on these matters. Naquan Hill asked what it would take for the University to close under Condition 3. Linc Butler said that this event would require major disaster event such as hurricane, tornadoes, or multiple downed power lines. He noted that under current State policy, no UNC System Chancellor has the authority to declare a Condition 3 general closure on their campus.
Felicia Washington asked that the final agenda item be retained until the next meeting. In the absence of further discussion, the meeting adjourned at 11:15 a.m.
Matt Banks, Recording Secretary