Personnel Policy Board
Ramada Suites, Fargo, ND
February 9, 1999
Judge Bruce Bohlman
Judge Lawrence Jahnke
Justice Mary Muehlen Maring
Judge Mikal Simonson
Sarah Andrews Herman
Staff Carla Kolling called the meeting to order at 1:00 p.m. and immediately requested nominations for the chair position. Judge Bohlman nominated Justice Maring. Justice Maring nominated Penny Miller. Penny Miller accepted the nomination and committee members unanimously approved the nomination.
Chair Miller requested staff to distribute to each member the envelope containing the initial term of membership on the Board. The terms are as follows:
Dion Ulrich - 3 years
Judge Mikal Simonson - 3 years
Penny Miller - 1 year
Rita Hannesson - 2 years
Judge Bruce Bohlman - 2 years
Judge Lawrence Jahnke - 3 years
Justice Mary Muehlen Maring - 2 years
Overview of Current Personnel System
Chair Miller drew the Board member's attention to the agenda item concerning the current establishment and funding of the personnel system. Chair Miller invited guests Greg Wallace and Jana Thielges to provide the overview.
Greg Wallace informed the members that in 1990 the current personnel system was put into place. He explained that prior to that time, there was a personnel system but it only applied to district courts.
Mr. Wallace said that prior to the establishment of the Supreme & District Court Personnel Advisory Boards in 1991, all decisions concerning personnel issues were made by the chief justice. As the result of the formulation of the boards, certain decisions made by the Board are considered final.
Greg explained that the implementation of the personnel plan has eliminated inequities that were created by people in the same paygrade coming into the system at various starting salaries. He said the implementation of the step system provides that employees who are performing adequately, as justified by their supervisor, and if they are not over their step, will get a step every two years. The step equals to 5% of the base pay. In theory, each employee would get through the step system in nineteen years. Mr. Wallace informed the members that most employees are at their current step. However, there are a few employees who are over their step only because they were hired into the system before the new system was put into place or they were brought into the system over their salary as part of the county court system.
Jana Thielges informed the members that there are 184 classified positions being funded by the step system. The only positions excluded are the law clerks, state court administrator, and the two assistant state court administrators for the trial courts.
Jana explained that step increases are not budgeted for. The funding for those increases should come from employee turnover. She said that approximately 10% of the 184 employees are at the top of their pay range. At the end of next biennium, approximately 17% of the 184 employees will be at the top of their pay ranges. Therefore, the only pay increases they will receive are those appropriated by the legislature.
Jana said that there exists a 50% span from the minimum to the maximum of the pay range. The Executive Branch has a 53-63% span in their pay range. The Executive Branch intends to expand that range to 66% next biennium - including requesting an additional 6% increase in funding to address major discrepancies in employees salaries.
Jana informed the members that she will provide a budget update on the salary and wages line item at the next meeting. She reminded members that the salary administration plan needs to be to the court by June.
Greg informed members that there remains some unfinished business that the previous Board was unable to complete prior to January 1, 1999. First, set up a mechanism to conduct market analysis for certain positions each biennium and consider contracting with Fox Lawson to perform all employee reclassification requests. Chair requested staff to include these items on the agenda for the next meeting.
Overview of Juvenile Court Staffing Standards
Chair Miller drew Board members' attention to the next agenda item concerning juvenile court staffing standards. She called on Greg Wallace to provide an overview of the report.
Greg Wallace stated that prior to the Board reviewing the report he had some preliminary observations. He stated staffing standards in the juvenile court is not an exact science. There are many intangibles which cannot be accounted for in caseloads or time studies. The duties of the office go beyond those things which are easy to count, such as number of informal adjustments held. He stated that he believed the districts had been conservative and responsible in requesting staff and that requests have been based on real needs.
The report looks at three methods of comparing staffing needs -- population, caseload, and workload. The workload measures, in light of implementing balanced and restorative justice, are tentative. He emphasized that implementing balanced and restorative justice is a long-term process. While the direction and philosophy is known, exactly how implementation will take place is not immediately known. Much depends on what is available in the community and the community's ability and willingness to institute programs and service. Thus, exactly how victim/offender accountability meetings will be conducted is not completely known, nor is how the victim will be involved, or how meaningful restitution programs will be implemented.
The report contains information comparing staffing levels between districts. Greg reported that the first 10 pages of the report, written by Doug Thomas of the National Center for Juvenile Justice, contains some interesting, independent observations. Mr. Thomas pointed out that , "There appeared to be a high degree of agreement among the Directors regarding the critical tasks of juvenile court services and how to conduct those tasks. Similarly, while no statewide standards or criteria were mentioned, there was widespread agreement and uniformity among Directors regarding decision criteria for handling cases informally versus handling them formally."
Further, he addresses preparing petitions on page 8 of the report. He states that the juvenile court directors agree that petition related work should be placed with the state's attorney and that unruly cases should only be handled after other community resources have been exhausted. The report also emphasizes how policy decisions from within the court and from others has significant impact on staffing needs.
Greg called the Board's attention to page 8 of the report, which compares staffing levels based on youth populations of 0-17. The population figures come from the 1996 "Kids Count" report. Under this method, the total population is divided by 42, resulting in a state average of one court officer for every 4,100 youth. That number is divided back into the districts population giving the number of staff per district. Using this method, the East Central and South Central districts have the lowest staff ratio with the Northwest and Northeast Central having the highest ratio. Greg pointed out that this method ignores travel requirements and local practice, including arrest and prosecutorial discretion, as well as community resources.
Greg then reviewed with the Board the district planning meeting that had been conducted in six of the seven judicial districts. Information was collected relating to practices, procedures, time estimates, and views on implementing the balanced approach, including staffing needs. The site visits and case processing data show that the courts are diverting minor offenders. For example, 87% of curfew, 71% of shoplifting, 49% of minor in possession, and 85% of all tobacco referrals are diverted out.
In addition to the site visits, a time study was conducted by court officers in November, 1998. Greg reviewed the methodology of the time study and special considerations, including travel, petition work, and time devoted to probation. The time study found general consistency in how long it takes to complete activities and the percent of staff time devoted to those activities.
Greg then reviewed the developing standards based on caseload. Under this scenario the number of referrals to the juvenile court were used as a basis for comparing staffing levels, assuming 42 staff. The cases referred directly to the Police Youth Bureau in the South Central district were subtracted from the state and district totals for these calculations. The result, while different in number, shows the same general trend as population projections. That is, the East Central and South Central districts are low in staffing ratio and the Northeast Central and Northwest districts are at the higher end.
Greg then reviewed workload as a way of comparing staffing levels. Under this method, the time it takes to complete activities is applied against caseload data to develop workload measures. For example, on the average, it takes 37 minutes to complete an informal adjustment. That times the number of informal adjustments equals a workload of 3500 hours per year for informal adjustments, statewide. The time taken to complete activities matched with other items, such as travel results in a workload table. The results are similar to the other measures, population and caseload. Greg stated that this method carries some inherent problems, in particular, decisions on how cases are processed will affect the workload.
He then called the Board's attention to the summary which compares the three methods and outlines the biases of each method. He suggested that the Board recommend using caseload data as the standard.
Judge Bohlman expressed concern with the validity of the report due to the nature by which districts report cases and the manner by which they are entered into the current information system. Judge Bohlman suggested that the Board refrain from making any recommendation on the report until the Juvenile Policy Board reviews it and we hear their comments. IT WAS MOVED BY JUDGE BOHLMAN, SECONDED BY JUDGE SIMONSON, AND CARRIED UNANIMOUSLY THAT THE REPORT BE ACCEPTED BUT THAT ANY DECISION ON THE RECOMMENDATION BE TABLED UNTIL WE HEAR FROM THE JUVENILE POLICY BOARD.
Chair Miller suggested that we seek clarification from the Supreme Court as to what the Board's role is as concerns staffing standards.
Northeast Central Juvenile Court's Request To Approve Hiring of One Full-time and One Half-time Juvenile Court Officer
IT WAS MOVED BY JUDGE JAHNKE, SECONDED BY JUSTICE MARING, AND CARRIED UNANIMOUSLY TO DEFER MAKING A RECOMMENDATION TO HIRE ONE FULL-TIME AND ONE HALF-TIME JUVENILE COURT OFFICER IN THE NORTHEAST CENTRAL JUDICIAL DISTRICT UNTIL A LATER TIME.
Judge Jahnke's Letter to Keithe Nelson dated December 22, 1998
Chair Miller drew the attention of the Board members to the agenda item concerning Judge Jahnke's letter to Keithe Nelson dated December 22, 1998, regarding filling the administrative assistant position in the Northeast Central Judicial District. She called on Judge Jahnke to provide background information concerning his request.
Judge Jahnke explained that upon the departure of Dan Belcher, who held the office manager position in the Northeast Central Judicial District, he had requested the Court to fill that vacancy as an administrative assistant rather than an office manager. The Court approved his request. Since that time, the district has undergone the necessary steps to advertise and fill that position. Judge Jahnke stated that the pool of candidates that met the minimum qualifications was scarce primarily due to the one-year experience in a court related setting requirement.
He explained that after going through the interviewing process, only one candidate met the minimum qualifications. However, this candidate would not accept the position for the salary set forth for that position. As a result, he wrote a letter to Keithe Nelson requesting that he be permitted to hire the one applicant that met the qualifications at a salary over and above the entry level.
Judge Jahnke stated that he would like to see the office manager position eliminated from the personnel classification system. In addition, he would like to see the minimum education requirement for the administrative assistant position be changed to prefer a bachelor's degree, but not require it, and that years of work experience could be considered in lieu of a four-year degree.
Judge Bohlman agreed. He stated that they passed up several good candidates because they didn't meet the minimum education/experience requirement.
Carla Kolling informed members that as concerns the office manager position, Fox Lawson Consultants recommended that that position be eliminated.
She informed members that in April 1998, the District Court Personnel Advisory Board met and passed a motion that modified the administrative assistant education/experience requirement to state that one year of experience in a court-related setting would be preferred not required. Furthermore that the office manager position be eliminated.
Judge Bohlman stated that unlike some positions, he does not believe the administrative assistant position should require a four-year degree.
Carla explained that although a four year degree does not guarantee that a person will do their job any better than someone with only experience, a four-year degree does ensure that the person has been educated in the pertinent areas required for the job.
Justice Maring questioned what effect lowering the education requirement would have on those currently holding those positions. She said what needs to be identified is the need for the position, then take a look at who we currently have in those positions, who we've been able to attract, then identify a pay grade accordingly. If we can't attract qualified people, perhaps we need to reevaluate the paygrade. Justice Maring stated that the court system will be changing dramatically if the clerks are brought on board and qualified people will be needed in those positions. She stated that judges cannot do all the administrative work - it's too overwhelming.
Judge Bohlman stated the administrative assistant position is not a policy-making position. The person holding that position needs to be a good communicator who knows computers.
Rita Hannesson expressed concern with lowering the education requirement of the administrative assistant position. She stated that court officer 1 and 2 both require a four-year degree and they are at lower pay grades.
IT WAS MOVED BY JUDGE SIMONSON, SECONDED BY JUDGE BOHLMAN AND CARRIED THAT THE EDUCATION REQUIREMENT FOR THE DISTRICT COURT ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANT POSITION BE CHANGED TO READ: BACHELOR'S DEGREE IN JUDICIAL ADMINISTRATION, BUSINESS ADMINISTRATION, PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION, ACCOUNTING, OR RELATED AREAS. EXPERIENCE IN DEGREE RELATED AREAS MAY BE SUBSTITUTED FOR A BACHELOR'S DEGREE AND THAT THE PREVIOUS EXPERIENCE REQUIREMENT LISTED BE REMOVED. DION ULRICH AND RITA HANNESSON WERE OPPOSED TO THE MOTION.
At the request of Chair Miller, Sarah Andrews Herman reviewed various personnel policies and made various recommendations.
As relates to Policy 108R - Grievance Policy, Ms. Herman recommends that paragraph B be changed to include conduct of individuals with whom the employees have contact based on their employment in the North Dakota Judicial System. This addition is necessary because employees do from time to time suffer sexual harassment or other adverse treatment from third parties. The law requires that the employer afford protection for its employees under such circumstance, and she believes it is appropriate to have such information submitted through the grievance process both so that you are given notice and so that you have a fair and appropriate process to address any such reports.
She also recommends that the list of individuals to whom the employee may report a grievance be expanded. It is her experience that if you limit the employee to reporting to their supervisor unless their immediate supervisor is the party against whom the complaint is made, many grievances which should be brought forward, addressed, and resolved will not be. Since the goal of any grievance policy is to allow problems to be addressed early and effectively, it is helpful to give the employee choices of various personnel to whom they may report.
Also, Ms. Herman said C(2) Step Two was unclear. She stated, "it appears that the policy provides an employee an opportunity to skip Step Two and proceed immediately to Step Three and if that is so, then some additional language changes need to a be made for clarification purposes. She felt that the rest of the policy was clear and appropriate.
Policy 113 - Work Hours
Ms. Herman explained that employees who are exempt from overtime under the Fair Labor Standards Act are to be paid on a salary basis and the salary is to cover all hours worked. Granting compensatory time to exempt employees for overtime worked is not strictly in compliance with the salary test, but this is a very low risk issue and she believes the policy can be left as is.
She said that with respect to C (Hours of Work) while it is certainly acceptable to have a minimal expectation of 40 hours per week of work, it is important that with respect to exempt employees that no deductions are made from their pay for any week in which less than 40 hours are worked. Deductions from pay under those circumstances have been held to void the exemption.
Policy 115R - Employee Discipline
Ms. Herman indicated that this policy is clear and therefore there is no particular need to change, but she recommends that we review the policy and its effectiveness and the ease of administration of events under the terms of policy.
Policy 118R.2 - Filling Vacancies
This policy does not need amendment.
Policy 119 - Sexual Harassment
Ms. Herman recommends that the policy be changed as follows and that its title be Harassment Policy.
A. Statement of Policy and Purpose
In order to maintain a positive work environment for all court employees, sexual harassment or harassment on the basis of race, creed, color, religion, age, national origin or disability is prohibited. In addition to being a violation of the policy of the judiciary, harassment is prohibited by state and federal law and will not be tolerated.
B. Definition of Harassment
Prohibited harassment under this policy consists of unwelcome verbal or physical conduct or communication of a sexual nature or based upon an employee's sex, age, creed, color, religion, national origin or disability.
Sexual harassment is specifically prohibited. Sexual harassment includes unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, sexually motivated physical conduct or other verbal or physical conduct or communication of a sexual nature when:
1. Submission to that conduct or communication is made a term or condition, either explicitly or implicitly, of obtaining employment, promotion, or other employment opportunities of the judiciary.
2. Submission to or rejection of that conduct or communication is used as a factor in decisions affecting that individual's employment, promotion or other employment opportunities, or
3. The conduct or communication has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with the employee's ability to perform assigned duties or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment.
C. Any employee who believes that he or she has been the victim of sexual harassment or other harassment prohibited by this policy, or who has knowledge of any such harassment directed against another person, should report the harassment for resolution through the grievance procedures under Policy 108R.
D. Where an employee is determined to have violated this policy, the employee will be subject to disciplinary action up to and including termination of employment.
E. All supervisors have a duty to take appropriate action regarding any harassment that may come to their attention.
F. No retaliatory action will be taken against any person who in good faith reports conduct which he or she believes may violate this policy. No retaliatory action will be taken against any individual for assisting or participating in an investigation, proceeding, or hearing related to a harassment complaint. Violations of this process shall be reported and resolved through the grievance procedure under Policy 108R.
Policy 120 - Veterans' Preference
This policy is fine as written.
Chair Miller requested staff to redraft the policies as recommended by Sarah Andrews Herman for review at the next meeting. She also requested that staff prepare a Equal Employment Opportunity policy.
Judge Lawrence Jahnke Letter of December 22, 1998
Judge Jahnke recommended deferring any action on his December 22, 1998, letter to Keithe Nelson pending the Supreme Court's action on the qualifications of the administrative assistant position.
IT WAS MOVED BY JUDGE JAHNKE, SECONDED BY DION ULRICH, AND UNANIMOUSLY CARRIED THAT THE OFFICE MANAGER POSITION BE ELIMINATED FROM THE PERSONNEL CLASSIFICATION SYSTEM.
Staffing Standards, Etc.
At the request of Chair Miller, staff informed the Board members of a proposal to conduct staffing standards for select court employees. Carla Kolling explained that employee classifications to be covered under the proposal are: secretaries, law clerks, juvenile court secretaries, and calendar control clerks. She explained that the study will assume that there is one secretary/court reporter per judge.
Carla informed members that the National Center for State Courts has been asked to submit a contract proposal to perform the services. The Center has assigned Tim Fautsko to serve as the consultant. It is anticipated that the study will be completed before the end of the biennium.
Judge Bohlman inquired whether this effort was being undertaken now because of the anticipation of clerks of court coming under the system. Furthermore he questioned whether the study should be postponed until after the Juvenile Court staffing standards are completed.
Carla Kolling explained that one of the main purposes for conducting staffing standards is to ensure that adequate staffing is provided to everyone. Furthermore, staffing standards provide guidance when it comes to filling vacancies in positions. Justice Maring questioned the timing of the study due to the uncertainty of the clerks of court bill.
Future Meeting and Agenda Items
Chair Miller suggested that the next meeting be held during the Judicial Institute. Agenda items could include: juvenile court staffing standards, outsourcing reclassification requests, market surveys, policy revisions, and update on salary and wage line item.
The meeting adjourned at 3:45 p.m.