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Berlin employee manual gets long-overdue modern update

By Jack Chavez, Staff Writer

Kelsey Jensene

The handbook for Town of Berlin employees just got a makeover.

At the June 27 town council meeting, Administrative Manager Kelsey Jensen outlined changes, additions and subtractions.

The council unanimously approved the updates.

A couple of the more noticeable changes include changing pronouns in the handbook from “he/she” to “they/them,” adding great-grandparents to the definition for “immediate family” and updating the harassment policy.

“These are things that have previously been approved,” Jensen said to the council. “We added great-grandparents to immediate family because many employees have them and they should be able to follow through with that bereavement if there is a passing.”

The harassment policy is probably the “largest change,” Jensen said as far as housekeeping goes.

“The harassment policy changes were recommended by (Local Government Insurance Trust),” Jensen said. “They took our policy and made several changes and then sent it back to us. They are our insurance provider (and) who we look at for this type of resource. We did go ahead and implement their policy into this.”

Harassment updates includes various rewordings, such as changing the phrase “work atmosphere” to “work environment.” Specific language was also added that says that “actions, words, jokes or comments based on an individual’s sex, race, color, ancestry or national origin, age, religion, disability, sexual orientation, sexual identification, genetic information, pregnancy, marital status, military service or any other legally protected characteristic will not be tolerated. The handbook also now lists general examples of offenses based on those characteristics such as the displaying of offensive pictures or drawings or “racially or ethnically charged” text messages.

Holidays were also addressed. Employees now get a full off-day on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. Juneteenth, which falls every year on June 19, is now recognized by the town as well.

The sympathy guidelines have been cleared up on 24-hour recovery stays versus outpatient care and minor procedures.

Councilmember Jay Knerr pointed out that some outpatient procedures are indeed major.

“I’m not sure how you guys will want to handle that,” Jensen said. “Currently, it’s set for the period of a day. I don’t know what you consider a day. If someone has something major, we’ve sent flowers, even if it’s not 24 hours.”

The cost of flowers to be sent now exclude delivery costs.

“A few years ago, this was approved by the prior town administrator and prior mayor,” Jensen said. “It was difficult to order a decent arrangement and any delivery/processing fees for under $100. We cannot always use a local florist depending on where the flowers are being sent.”

She added that department heads are responsible for requesting a sympathy card or gift for their staff members.

“They know best about the status of their employees,” Jensen added.

The electronic equipment section was updated in light of the prevalence of take-home laptops. The town administration credit limit was updated based on purchasing policy, up to $10,000.

The town will also leave it up to an employee’s respective department to request documentation for sick leave, with the department head being the one to direct the employee to submit proper documentation to the HR department.

A section has been removed that instructed that handbooks must be returned upon an employee’s termination. Jensen said most people do not return them and she doesn’t see why they’d need to.

“Lastly, we indicated where copies of the most up-to-date handbooks would be available and that employees will sign off for updates,” Jensen said.

“That’s kind of what we changed. This time around we’re going to go section by section, if these are approved this evening and just kind of — it’s an outdated handbook and it hasn’t been truly updated I think since (2015 or 2016).”

Jensen and the council will continue to work on the handbook section by section at the second meeting of every month, when recommendations can be made and discussions had about the handbook.

This story appears in the print version of the Bayside Gazette on July 7, 2022.