When Superior’s pandemic-related state of emergency forced many city workers to work from home, the city didn’t have a policy to guide the transition in the workplace.
The human resources committee changed that by approving a policy Monday, Aug. 16, that allows city managers to consider telecommuting as an option on a case-by-case basis when job duties can be performed remotely. Options include an ad hoc arrangement that would allow temporary telecommuting arrangements and a formal arrangement that would include a set schedule for working away from the office.
Under the policy, individuals in their initial probationary period with the city would not be eligible to telecommute. Only employees working in suitable positions would be considered.
“The majority of our employees would not be able to work from home due to the nature of their work,” said Cammi Koneczny, human resources director.
She estimated 80% to 90% of employees couldn’t do their job from home and said having the policy in place doesn’t guarantee that employees who could work from home would be allowed to do so on a regular basis.
It will be at the discretion of the supervisor and the human resources department to determine if a person's job duties are appropriate for telecommuting and if a suitable work schedule can be reached.
Councilor Jenny Van Sickle questioned whether the city would notify employees who wouldn’t be eligible to telecommute that they need not apply.
“I think just after the COVID period, people have a general idea of who would be eligible and who couldn’t on a long-term basis,” Koneczny said.
Even when access was restricted at the Government Center during the shutdown last year, police still patrolled the streets, firefighters still responded to calls, and public works employees still did their jobs in the community.
Councilor Jack Sweeney questioned what would happen if an employee injured themselves, such as falling, while working at home.
“We would probably have them file a work comp. report, and they would turn that into our work comp. carrier, and they would make that determination,” Koneczny said. “So, they would do the questioning to determine how it happened, when it happened and whether it was something that is coverable.”
Mayor Jim Paine said whatever caused the injury would have to be related to work, and the city’s liability might be less if someone falls in their own home rather than a building controlled by the city.
“If they decide to take a break, mow the lawn, chop a finger off — that’s not worker’s comp.,” Paine said.
“I think it’s easiest to have people work at home when there’s specific, measurable goals, results we want,” Sweeney said before questioning whether the city could achieve measurable results. He also questioned the potential impact on the city’s general liability policy.
“I think it’s important to have this, but I think of the repercussions that could happen,” Sweeney said.
The City Council will consider the policy when it meets Sept. 7.