Warren County commissioners are exploring what can be done to county prevent employees from taking advantage of a COVID-19 policy by falsely claiming exposure in order to cash in on an additional 80 hours of paid leave per year.
“I’m opposed to the policy that we have now,” said Commissioner Carl D. Bouldin. “I’m straight out opposed to it. Eighty hours is too much. The nation has paid too many people not to work. As an employer, I’m tired of it. As a taxpayer, I’m tired of it.”
That statement was made Monday night when the full Warren County Commission was presented with a measure to extend the county’s COVID-19 policy. Originally approved in 2020 and extended in April for three months, the plan outlines employee leave due to COVID-19 and provides employees with an additional 80 hours of paid leave annually.
County safety coordinator David Britton said one change had been made and that was to replace the word “annually” with the word “fiscally” because some employees have already used up the 80 hours given for calendar year 2021 and making that change would provide those employees with 80 more hours of paid leave.
A fiscal year is a period of time lasting one year, but not necessarily starting at the beginning of the calendar year. The county’s fiscal year begins July 1. The calendar year begins Jan. 1. If the change is made, employees who have used up the 80 hours would immediately be given 80 additional hours of paid leave they could use – rather than having to wait until Jan. 1 for it.
“The only change we made is that we added the 80 hours as a fiscal year,” said Britton. “We have some employees who were at the 80-hour mark for the year. There is one person who has already been affected again. They were essentially going out of work with no resources at all. The only real change that we made in the procedure was to make the 80 hours applicable on a fiscal calendar instead of a yearly calendar.”
According to Britton, the policy guidelines allows 10 to 14 days of quarantine and up to 21 days of paid leave depending on if the employee has had a household member test positive.
Commissioner Scott Rubley was the first to express concerns for dishonesty, or the potential for it. He voiced a desire to stem any shenanigans that might be taking place.
“I make a motion to amend the policy to state that once someone has been exposed, or feels like they have been exposed, after a five-day incubation period, they would be required to go get rapid testing,” said Rubley. “If positive, they get their time off with pay. If negative, they come back to work. If they refuse to be tested, they would not receive their pay.”
Bouldin voiced irritation for paying people not to work, as well as an intention to vote against Rubley’s motion and if it fails to make one of his own. Bouldin wanted to extend the existing policy until the end of September, which will allow the county Policy and Personnel Committee to review it and bring a revised policy back for County Commission consideration in September.
Rubley’s motion failed 13-9, while Bouldin’s follow-up motion received unanimous support. The motion leaves the county’s policy unchanged until next month when it will be considered again.
Commissioners Carl E. Bouldin and Deborah Evans were absent.