Ship Bottom Council Divided on Employee Policies

Aug 02, 2017

Even before routine changes to the borough’s bereavement policy came to light at the Ship Bottom Borough Council’s monthly meeting, the discussion surrounding the employee handbook was prickly. It started with a single phrase – “opinion of the supervisor” – under the newly implemented dress code policy, and spilled over into a fractious debate.

“I am not opposed to a dress code,” Councilman Joe Valyo said, noting his issue was with the inclusion of the phrase “opinion of supervisor” in describing how inappropriate dress would be defined.

While Borough Administrator Mark A. Pino acknowledged an opinion would be subjective, he said if the borough has no policy in place there is no way to correct someone who is dressing inappropriately.

“It’s a general appearance policy,” he said, noting that he consulted with the labor attorney about the policy. He also said there are no outstanding dress code issues, but the policy is a pre-emptive measure to thwart things like provocative dressing, certain tattoos and multiple piercings.

To counter objections, Councilman David Hartman asked if there was a protocol in place for an employee who disputed a supervisor’s actions. Pino said the employee’s complaint would come to his desk, and he would act as an individual arbitrator and consult with the council liaison and labor attorney, if necessary, to resolve the issue.

An employee reading the policy in the handbook might reconsider a certain style of dressing, Councilman Robert Butkus noted.

“I think it’s fine to include, but I don’t think it will hold up in arbitration,” he added before the discussion veered over to a modified bereavement policy.

“It mimics the contract including the civil union law,” Pino said when bringing the policy to the table.

The objection came from the words “five consecutive days.”

Times aren’t as they once were, Valyo said, and funeral proceedings aren’t done the same way (consecutive days).

Any employee who needs to take the time on non-consecutive days can submit a special request, and it will be considered on a case-by-case basis, the administrator said, noting the policy is written that way in the union contract.

“We’re not looking for a reason to deny it,” Hartman said before he, Councilman Tom Tallon, Councilman Robert Butkus and Council President Ed English voted to approve the employee handbook. Valyo and Councilman Peter Rossi voted against the adoption of the handbook.

Gina G. Scala

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