AG: Contract can trump time-off rule

WARREN – Trumbull County commissioners can create individual leave donation programs for different county agencies, but those rules can be trumped by a collective bargaining agreement if they conflict with a union contract that also lets one employee give away time to another.

Those are among the conclusions Ohio’s top attorney has on questions that lingered around the county’s sick and vacation time donation policy after commissioners put a countywide policy in place in September.

Asked to weigh in by county Prosecutor Dennis Watkins, Attorney General Mike DeWine also concluded that commissioners’ policy cannot let an employee use leave donated by another employee for time taken off before the policy was put into place.

Commissioner Paul Heltzel said commissioners haven’t discussed whether the county’s policy needs tinkering because of DeWine’s opinion, and they plan to include the prosecutor’s office before making that decision.

”I don’t know if we will or just stay with the same policy,” Heltzel said. ”We’ll probably talk with the prosecutor’s office and see what they think.”

Issues about employees giving co-workers sick and vacation time rose when Nancy Guerini, an employee in the county Engineer’s Office, sought to use six hours donated by a co-worker after she exhausted all of her vacation, sick and unpaid Family Medical Leave Act time for treatment of cancer.

Engineer Randy Smith didn’t allow it, saying his hands were tied because the office did not have a donation policy and commissioners at the time didn’t have a written policy.

Also, the contract for union workers at the office doesn’t have language relating to sick time donation, and even if it did, it wouldn’t apply to Guerini because she’s a non-union worker.

Sick time has been donated among employees in the past, but commissioners didn’t adopt a formal policy until September. There are time-sharing agreements in three union contracts as well as the county sheriff’s office, since 2002.

DeWine’s 17-page opinion also states that other elected county-level officials may create their own leave donation policy for their employees and it ”may be more, but not less generous” than the program created by commissioners, and commissioners can in their program determine whether time can be donated among employees in different agencies.

Lastly, DeWine said elected officials who create donation programs for their offices may allow employees to donate time to a worker in another county agency that has a donation program that lets employees accept and use donated time.