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Trumbull engineer forbids workers to donate sick time to help worker with cancer



Published: Sun, August 12, 2012 @ 12:09 a.m.

By Ed Runyan

runyan@vindy.com

WARREN

People have expressed a desire to help Trumbull County Engineer’s employee Nancy Guerini, 51, get through her bout with cancer by offering to donate sick time to her.

It’s a fairly common practice among workers in other county departments, but county Engineer Randy Smith has taken a position against it.

“There is no policy in place or language in the contract in place that allows for the donation of sick time, and we are unaware of any previous county engineer that has addressed that issue,” says a statement from his office released by Herb Laukhart, director of finance and personnel.

Asked about it directly, Smith said: “If there’s a law in place and a contract, that’s what I’m governed to follow.”

And as to whether he has the latitude to allow something like donated sick leave if it isn’t covered in the contract, Smith said he would not discuss that and would “follow the advice of [legal] counsel.”

Guerini, who started working at the engineer’s office in January 2010, was diagnosed with breast cancer last November and started receiving chemotherapy.

She had used up her sick and vacation time by Dec. 9 and then started using her 12 weeks of unpaid time off guaranteed through the federal Family and Medical Leave Act.

In the months to come, she reported to work as assistant personnel director most of the time, but still needed Fridays off for chemotherapy treatments, she said.

By July 17, after starting a more aggressive treatment because of growth of a tumor in her liver and having to go off of work altogether, her 12 weeks ran out.

Guerini received a letter July 18 from Smith notifying her that her FMLA time was gone and asking her what her intentions were for returning to work.

Guerini’s physician responded with a letter July 23 saying he estimated Guerini could return to work with no restrictions Oct. 22.

That same day, Guerini asked to be granted a leave of absence, which would have extended her employment with the engineer’s office beyond July 17 without pay.

In a July 24 letter from Smith and Laukhart, Guerini was told she had failed to meet several provisions of the policy manual but that her request for leave would be considered if she put it in writing.

The letter pointed out that Guerini would be responsible for the cost of continuing her medical insurance effective Aug. 1 at a cost of $425.37 per month.

In a July 29 letter Guerini wrote to Smith, she included a letter from a co-worker, James Ford, a foreman. In it, Ford said he would like to donate 300 hours of his accumulated sick time (37.5 work days) to Guerini.

Guerini said in her letter she preferred to use the donated sick time but would “in the alternative” like Smith to consider the leave of absence.

Guerini said she hasn’t heard back from the county engineer’s office and has started paying the $425.37 monthly health care bill.

“There is absolutely no response at all,” Guerini said of Smith’s office.

“I feel hurt about it because if Randy needed me to do something, I would do it without question,” Guerini said. “And now I need help, and I very rarely ask for any help. I’m in a position where I have no income and possibly no insurance.

“It takes an income to pay for [insurance]. I’m scared because I don’t know what the future holds as far as my health care — how I’m going to pay for it.”

Guerini was hired while the previous county engineer, David DeChristofaro, was in office. Guerini’s position is nonunion, she said. Smith became engineer Aug. 16, 2011, after DeChristofaro was forced to resign after being convicted of felony theft for using county resources for personal and political activities.

Donated sick time has been a past practice in the county.

Lt. Pete Lucic of the Trumbull County Sheriff’s Office, a union official, said corrections officer Bruce Gaugler has received donated sick time from co-workers at the sheriff’s office to allow him to remain employed while he has battled illness for more than a year. The contract allowed it, Lucic said.

Bargaining agreements covering most other county workers allow them to donate sick time to co-workers as well, as long as the donating employee retains a minimum of 120 hours, according to one county contract.

The Trumbull County Auditor’s office, which handles payroll for most county workers, reports that during an average year, 40 of the county’s 1,600 employees donate sick time to a co-worker.

The statement from Smth’s office says Ohio and federal law prevents the office from discussing Guerini’s medical issues, but the office is complying with all laws relating to medical leave and other medical issues, such as FMLA and the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“While we can sympathize with our employees’ personal situations, the law requires us to be uniform in our treatment of our employees,” the statement said.


Comments

1southsidedave(4780 comments)posted 2 years, 1 month ago

This will bring serious public outcry...Randy Smith get ready for backlash.

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2jfgiancola(157 comments)posted 2 years, 1 month ago

There certainly is precedent for this in trumbull county and if Mr Smith can't make this happen then it is a truly sad situation.

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3Not_Gilligans_Ginger(129 comments)posted 2 years, 1 month ago

OMG! What a b@stard! I have had breast cancer. I have had to take off work because of treatments. I have had my water shut off as a result. I have had to depend on others for food because I didn't have enough money to buy food. By the grace of God, I'm alive and now healthy but I vowed I would help others. If Randy Smith had to have his prostate removed and his cancer had metastasized I'm sure he would be happy for paid time off so he wouldn't have his water turned off, could keep up his medical insurance, not have bill collectors threatening you daily via telephone (something everyone needs when going through a life-threatening illness), and wouldn't have to depend on others for food. I'm going to make sure Komen finds out about this as well as LiveStrong and the American Cancer Society and I am going to name names and places. RIDICULOUS!!!

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4nuganuech(46 comments)posted 2 years, 1 month ago

Is it a personal thing, is he a bureaucratic jerk, is he so afraid of what happened to his predecessor, or does he really really not want to get elected to his own term?
I work in a government office in a different county and this is a standard practice.
Give the poor lady a break.

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5CurmudgeonMBA(17 comments)posted 2 years, 1 month ago

Maybe it is his board is forcing his hand. Don't judge Randy he is a good guy. I'm making a prediction, none of you know him or have ever spoke to him.

Typical short sided NEO people, don't know the situation but ready to crucify.

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6nuganuech(46 comments)posted 2 years, 1 month ago

CurmudgeonMBA instead of criticizing people and leaving cryptic hints, why don't you just say what's really going on. If by the board you mean the county commissioners, then the Vindy should have done a complete story and investigated. Anyone know where this lady can get some help, at least to cover the insurance?

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7dawn421(265 comments)posted 2 years, 1 month ago

he is a nice guy?????? really? shame on him and anyone who is in the way of this lady getting help. crap like this makes me sick

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8CCADTI(80 comments)posted 2 years, 1 month ago

I was under the impression the County was self insured. If it is self insured, this would explain why they would want her out so they do not have to pay the bill. If they are not self insured, it just looks like they are being bullies. Either way, the County does not look good.

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9reach4change(2 comments)posted 2 years, 1 month ago

If Randy Smith has some kind of legal opinion that says he's not allowed to change the policy or get a memorandum of understanding from the union then he needed to present it. Months ago ! This is the most sickening thing I have heard. The only worse thing would be his all of a sudden finding some kind of deficiency in her job performance to attempt to "justify" this. How about if he donates his sick time to her ? Does he think he's God ? If that's the case, he won't be needing his vacation time. You took an oath of office and one in engineering, Randy. Ethics, integrity, do no harm...sound familiar ? A failure to act, a refusal to act in a life and death situation is an action. You sure as He** better hope she survives this cancer, because karma & God will show you the same mercy you have shown her. She shouldn't have even had to ask. As a department head, he had the obligation morally and ethically to find a resolution that protected her job and benefits. This isn't a union or non union issue. It's a HUMAN issue !

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10mg20544(1 comment)posted 2 years, 1 month ago

IT is a HUMAN issue. We should be able to help others especially when there are people trying to give generous gifts. I had breast cancer and I have a handicapped child and have needed alot of latitude at my job. People stepped in to help when they could and no one was ever told to not do it. I don't work for union or have a government job but I know that when people are trying to help the rules or regulations should be checked at least before making a stand or decision. Someone said that Randy Smith is a nice guy. Maybe he is but, he sure doesn't understand how to try and work with his employees. I can't imagine any employer that wouldn't allow others to help when someone needed the extra hand. We live in a society that has so many terrible things happen everyday why can't something good happen instead?? How do you expect any of his employees to have any respect for him?? They only do because they have to!! I hope and pray that Nancy Guerini gets exactly what she needs and others are allowed to help her.

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11Boss(10 comments)posted 2 years, 1 month ago

Employer Rights The Trumbull County Engineer reserves all rights afforded to him by virtue of his position and all authority granted to him by the Ohio Revised code as well as any costitutional, statutory or inherent rights with respect to matters of managerial policy. So what are you going to do Randy? Her time is limited and so is yours!

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12Boss(10 comments)posted 2 years, 1 month ago

Lets go a little futher! The County Engineer has and will retain the full right to direct the operations of the departments of the employer, to make and amend policies, rules and regulations to issue directives to establish procedures and to otherwise exercise all rights of management. And to the person who said he is a nice person you must be one of the part time employees he hired at $18.74 an hour and working 5 days a week?????

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13reddot123(2 comments)posted 2 years, 1 month ago

I want to say thank you to the Youngstown Vindicator for printing this story. The Warren Tribune has posted nothing, not even letters to the editor. The grapevine says that reach4change is correct about them trying to justify this with her job performance, after she got cancer & was requesting help. MUST A WOMEN LOOSE HER JOB & MEDICAL BENEFITS BECAUSE SHE HAS BREAST CANCER! Shame on this elected official. We will be sure to remind the Trumbull County people when he is up for re-election. He was appointed by the Democratic Committee and this time he's running unapposed.

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14birdman(6 comments)posted 2 years, 1 month ago

Randy Smith is anything but a good guy curmdgeon. Arrogant may be a better word to describe him. And your prediction is wrong. Know him, spoke to him on many occasions, used to like him until the power went to his head. It may not be allowed in the labor agreement, however it is not dis-allowed either. His managements rights clause gives him the authority to do it if he so chooses.Their contract is online ck it out, article 3 section 2.

http://www.serb.ohio.gov/sections/res...

He may be unopposed by a republican but there is such thing as an independent!

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