Employee handbook revision under way

Published 10:43 pm Tuesday, April 2, 2013

A revised employee handbook for the town of Franklinton is nearing completion.

Since the book on policies and procedures for the town of Franklinton’s employees had not been updated since April 2005, a committee was appointed by Mayor Wayne Fleming almost a year ago to review the approximately 87-page document and make any necessary changes, town clerk Merty Fitzmorris said.

Fitzmorris said the project was a team effort. At the first meeting, the handbook was divided into chapters, and certain chapters were assigned to each department head. She said each reviewed the chapters and then at the next meeting shared his or her thoughts on them and talked about what needed to be changed. The other committee members would look through the chapters and make suggestions, she said.

In addition to Fitzmorris, Alderman John L. Daniel, Police Chief Donald Folse, Fire Chief Chad Manning, Maintenance Department Superintendent Reggie McMasters and administrative assistant Penny Keigans serve on the committee, and Fleming sits in some of the meetings.

The committee went through the document chapter by chapter, tweaking wording, clarifying some of the language and correcting typos, Fitzmorris said. Besides needing an update, she said the document was a workable handbook and was already in pretty good shape.

One of the biggest changes was giving the department heads a bit more authority on discipline issues, Fitzmorris said. The revised handbook provides a clearer understanding on the chain of command and the actions the department head can take before the issue goes to the departmental designee. One alderman is appointed to the fire department, one to the police department and two to the maintenance department, while Fleming is over the administrative department, she said.

If the issue is not resolved with the department head or the departmental designee, “then the mayor is the last step in the chain of command on disciplinary actions,” Fitzmorris said.

A clarification was made on the number of vacation hours an employee can accumulate, and a chapter was added on employees’ use of email, the Internet and social networking sites, Fitzmorris said.

Another area of focus was to clear up or remove some language that did not apply to the town of Franklinton. Fitzmorris said the original document was based on the city of Hammond’s employee handbook. It included, for example, a number of references to civil service, something that is not applicable to the town, she said.

“The main purpose of doing this is to make it a little more compatible with Franklinton,” she said.

Other things came up, and the handbook project was pushed to the back burner for several months, Fitzmorris said. But she said the committee met last week to go over the final changes, and town attorney Ellen Creel will now ensure the changes are entered and the document is formatted on the computer.

After that, Fitzmorris said, the committee will meet once more and then forward the handbook to Don Strobel, a labor consultant with the Louisiana Municipal Association, for review. Once his comments on the document are received, it will go to the Board of Aldermen, which will make the final decision on approval of the updated handbook.

All employees were provided a copy of the current handbook when they were hired, and Fitzmorris said each will get a copy of the new one once it is adopted.

“Hopefully all the department heads will kind of go through it a little bit, hit the highlights with the employees and encourage them to read the handbook so they understand everything that applies to them and what the consequences are if you do certain actions,” she added.

Fitzmorris said the revised handbook should be a good instrument for the employees, department heads and aldermen. She said she thinks it will clarify issues for new employees, such as what their holidays and compensated time will be and what disciplinary actions they can expect after various infractions.

“I think it’s going to be a really good, useful tool for us to use,” she said. “It protects the employee and the employer.”

Daniel said revising the employee handbook is something the town has wanted to do for some time but has “never been able to get around to it” until now.

“I appreciate the department heads and everyone that served on the committee for making the handbook more current for employees,” he said. “It’s also something that will be used by future mayors and future town councils and future department heads.”