Lawrence city employees may punch the time clock with a little bit more frustration in the coming days.
City commissioners at their meeting this Tuesday evening are expected to approve a host of changes that will make it more difficult for most city employees to accrue overtime.
The reaction has been clear for managers to read.
“Well, they don’t like it, and I understand that,” City Manager David Corliss said of how employees have taken the news. “They don’t like a lot of the economic choices we have had to make lately.”
The new policy includes two major changes:
l City workers won’t be paid overtime unless they work more than 40 hours in a week. Currently, some city employees — though not all — get paid overtime if they work more than 8 hours in a day, regardless of whether they worked 40 hours in the week.
l Employees won’t be able to count vacation or sick leave in the calculation of whether they have worked 40 hours in a week. Under the current system, for example, an employee who worked 34 hours and then took 8 hours of vacation time would be eligible for two hours of overtime pay. Under the new system, the employee will still get paid for 42 hours, but none of it will be overtime.
City commissioners in November made it clear that the changes needed to be made. Not only was the city being more generous than federal law required, a survey found the city was more generous than most other major cities in the area.
“I think we’ve had a lot of practices that have been put in place over the years related to overtime,” City Commissioner Rob Chestnut said. “As we started asking questions, it wasn’t always clear why we’re doing things the way we’re doing them.”
Corliss said he’s optimistic the changes won’t significantly hurt the city’s ability to recruit and retain employees. He said that’s because the city is still in line with many area communities such as Overland Park, Olathe, Lenexa, Kansas City and Topeka. Corliss also said he’s reminded city employees that — even during these tough economic times — the city has approved about $3 million in compensation increases from 2009 to 2011.
“But we are going to need to watch employee morale,” Corliss said.
The change in policy won’t impact the city’s police officers and firefighters. They both belong to union-like organizations and have employee contracts that run through 2011.
The issue of overtime could become a significant issue in future negotiations with the groups. Police and fire accounted for about $900,000 of the $1.6 million in overtime the city paid in 2009.