By Ed Runyan
Trumbull County Engineer Randy Smith says he has received legal advice two times indicating that he should not allow donation of sick time in his department without a written policy, but he’d be receptive to allowing it if the county approves a policy.
The matter has come up in recent months because one of his employees, Nancy Guerini, has cancer, which has caused her to use up her own sick time and her federal Family Medical Leave Act time.
In August, she had to start paying about $400 per month to keep her insurance.
A co-worker offered to donate some of his sick time to her, which would have kept her pay and benefits intact, but Smith said he couldn’t do that because there’s no policy or practice that would allow it.
Many other county employees have been allowed to donate sick time to co-workers for many years.
Smith said he consulted with a representative for CORSA, the county’s liability insurance carrier, and was told he didn’t have the authority allow the practice.
Two reasons were that the county engineer’s office has no written policy that covers it and the union contract at the engineer’s office doesn’t allow for it.
Guerini, a two-year employee, is nonunion.
Smith said he also sought a legal opinion from the Trumbull County Prosecutor’s office, and Aug. 20, he received it. It agreed with what CORSA indicated, Smith said.
Meanwhile, the prosecutor’s office gave the commissioners a legal opinion Aug. 20 that said commissioners have the authority to establish a policy on donated sick time that would cover all county agencies.
Smith said the opinion left an unanswered question — whether the county engineer’s office qualifies as a county agency.
Nonetheless, Smith said if the county commissioners establish a countywide policy, he’d be inclined to follow it at his office.
He added that he would be open to extending the policy to Guerini retro- actively.
When told of Smith’s remarks, Guerini said she’s very pleased and hoping to be ready to return to work Oct. 22, though she’ll continue to receive weekly chemotherapy treatments past Oct. 22 and will need time off for those.
A subcommittee of five people, including Smith’s top assistant, Don Barzak, has completed its work on the proposed countywide policy.
James Keating, the county’s human resources director, said union contracts covering about a quarter of the roughly 1,500 county employees will “not be touched” by the policy, and will take precedence over the countywide policy likely to be approved by commissioners next week.