Ted Smith, Chair;
Hon. Gail Hagerty;
Susan Hoffer (partial meeting);
Hon. James Hovey;
Petra Mandigo Hulm;
Hon. Lisa Fair McEvers; and
Donna Wunderlich for Carolyn Probst
Sally Holewa, Ex Officio
Amy Klein, Staff
Renee Barnaby, Minutes
It was moved by Justice McEvers, seconded by Judge Hovey, to approve the December 19, 2014 meeting minutes subject to the correction of the typographical errors. The motion carried.
Service and Retirement Awards Policy
Cammie Schock’s proposed amendment to the Service and Retirement Awards policy recognizes an employee’s years of service regardless of temporary or regular status.
It was moved by Judge Hagerty, seconded by Justice McEvers, to approve the changes as proposed to the Service and Retirement Awards policy.
Petra Hulm said she received some comments/questions from a supreme court employee. The person suggested making the policy singular so the first sentence in paragraph A.1. would be worded as follows: “Service awards are a uniform method of recognizing a temporary employee who works an average of 20 or more hours per week as a regular employee for the employee’s service to the Court System.” The employee also questioned how the average would be calculated--either per month or per year, and suggested keeping the definitions uniform across the policies. She said an alternative solution would be to leave the policy as is and amend paragraph B.2 of the Employment Status policy, which is where a temporary employee is given credit for the time served. The proposed language would read as follows: “A temporary employee who becomes a regular employee is given credit for the temporary service for the purpose of determining the accrual date for the employee’s leave, sick leave and service and retirement awards.”
In response to a question asking if an employee works half-time for five years, would the employee receive two and a half years of service, Amy Klein responded no. For years of service for service awards, if an employee works for a year part time, the whole year is counted. Thus, if they works half time for five years, they would get the same service award as someone full time. This would only apply to regular, part-time employees. Contract employees are not included.
Sally Holewa said while she does not have an objection to the policy change, she does have a concern about making it retroactive. If it is approved, she suggesting implementing the policy from this point forward. Ross Munns agreed as we did not go back retroactively when the three-year award was implemented a few years ago.
In response to a question asking what retirement benefits are available to a temporary employee, Ms. Klein responded they can elect to participate and pay all contributions.
Susan Hoffer suggested an alternative would be to not give the employee credit as a temporary employee, and if they do become a regular employee, then they would receive the credit for the temporary service.
Ms. Klein said when a temporary or contract employee is hired, they may be given credit under the salary administration policy for their time towards their starting salary, introductory period, and career ladder. Temporary employees when hired are also given credit for their temporary time for their leave accrual rate.
Ms. Schock stated she would like temporary employees to receive service awards because they are sacrificing somewhat to work for the courts as a temporary employee and it seems they should be recognized for that service. They are not receiving the retirement benefits of a regular employee. She feels it is very important to give credit to the time that has previously been served.
With the consent of the second, Judge Hagerty modified her motion to include the proposed grammatical changes submitted by the supreme court employee and as outlined by Petra Hulm.
In response to question asking if the employee would need to have worked three consecutive years to receive the award or if previous service would count, it was decided that the employee’s previous service would count and it does not need to be consecutive.
It was the consensus of the Board that the awards would be given from this point forward and not retroactively.
The motion carried and will be sent out to employees for comment.
[Cammie Schock left the meeting]
It was moved by Justice McEvers, seconded by Ross Munns, to modify section B.2. of the Employment Status policy as follows: “A temporary employee who becomes a regular employee is given credit for the temporary service for the purpose of determining the accrual date for the employee’s annual leave, sick leave, service awards, and retirement awards.” The motion carried and will be sent out to employees for comment.
Ms. Holewa suggested consideration be given to providing some type of an award to recognize the bailiffs for their long-term service. The Board requested Ms. Holewa and Ms. Klein draft a policy for review at the next meeting.
Lawsuits Against Employees Policy
Scott Johnson said he conferred with Mike Hagburg and is presenting the Board with a new draft of the Lawsuits Against Employees policy pursuant to the discussion at the December Board meeting.
Judge Hagerty said section B refers to obtaining written confirmation of the acceptance of the case by the Attorney General’s Office, and she is uncertain that can be demanded. She suggested changing the word “obtain” to “request.” Sally Holewa added that typically an email is sent stating whether or not they have taken the case and agrees the word “request” would be sufficient.
In response to a question asking who must send the notification to the employee’s immediate supervisor, Mr. Johnson responded the employee. Mr. Smith suggested the first sentence in paragraph A be rewritten as follows: “The employee must immediately notify the State Court Administrator, immediate supervisor, and appointing authority in writing.”
It was moved by Judge Hagerty, seconded by Judge Hovey, to accept the amendments to Lawsuits Against Employees policy incorporating the suggested changes as follows:
A. The employee must immediately notify, the State Court Administrator, immediate supervisor, and appointing authority in writing, the State Court Administrator, who, if the employee so desires, will request legal assistance from the Attorney General. The notification should must include a copy of the complaint if possible legal documents received and state the date of service on the employee. Copies of the notification will be sent to the employee's immediate supervisor and appointing authority.
B. The State Court Administrator will request a written confirmation must request legal assistance from the Attorney General and request confirmation of acceptance of the case on behalf of the employee.
The motion carried and because the changes are only clarifying the process, it will be sent directly to the Supreme Court for consideration.
[Jim Fox, Mark Goldberg and August Zhu joined the meeting]
Phone Conference with Compensation Consultants
The compensation study was awarded to Fox Lawson & Associates. Jim Fox said the purpose of the conference call was to get the Board’s perspective on who the court system competes with for personnel, what organizations will be surveyed, and select benchmark jobs to allow them to perform the compensation survey.
Donna Wunderlich said our competition depends on the position and the level and skills required. She said for example with the court reporters, we are competing with other states because it has generally been a nationwide search. For the deputy clerks in the larger cities, we are competing with the law firms, and in some of the smaller counties, we are competing with the county and state agencies. Petra Hulm added with regard to attorneys, we are competing with the state agencies and some of the other states.
Mr. Fox indicated that the last time the survey was done, they surveyed the following: Cass, Burleigh, Ward and Grand Forks Counties; Cities of Minot, Grand Forks, Bismarck and Fargo; Bobcat and MDU Resources; the executive branch in the states of North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota and Montana; the judicial systems in the states of Montana, South Dakota, Minnesota, New Mexico, Colorado, Idaho, Wyoming, Wisconsin, Iowa and Oregon.
Those who participated in the survey included Burleigh County, Bobcat, City of Bismarck, South Dakota Unified Judicial System, MDU, City of Minot, ND Dept of Human Services, ND Dept of Corrections, Ward County, Iowa Judicial Branch, Cass County, City of Fargo, state courts in the states of Colorado, New Mexico, Idaho, Wyoming, and South Dakota. They used private sector surveys for a number of jobs.
It was suggested that Bobcat be removed from the list, and the following be added: McKenzie, Williams and Stark Counties; ND Attorney General’s Office; ND Information and Technology Department; ND University System in Grand Forks, Minot, Bismarck, Valley City, and West Fargo; the Cities of Dickinson and Williston; and the state judicial systems of Oklahoma and Alaska.
Ted Smith indicated that the American Association of Law Libraries does a biennial salary survey for librarians. Mr. Fox requested a copy of the survey be sent to him.
Mr. Fox then asked where the court system wants to target the pay and asked if the court has been losing people at a rate that exceeds past patterns. Ms. Holewa responded that typically the target has been mid-point or slightly above market. Justice McEvers indicated the court system has a 10% turnover rate and over 50% of that is retirements. Ms. Klein added the largest turnover has been in the Williston area. Ms. Hulm said that attracting applicants seems to be the biggest challenge.
In response to a question from Mr. Fox asking if the benefits should be surveyed as well, Ms. Holewa indicated she was specifically asked by the Supreme Court to make sure that the benefits were included in the total cost.
Mr. Fox asked the Board to review the list of benchmark jobs to be included in the survey. He explained all jobs are classified in a salary grade. They are typically classified into that salary due to the complexity and difficultly of the work. He said a good benchmark job is one you can find in other organizations that is doing similar work, requires the same level of background, experience and qualifications in order to perform the work, and is likely going to exist in a lot of organizations in the same fashion. A lot of organizations will have a hybrid job or a mixture of a job that nobody else has and typically that job is not surveyed because it does not provide very good data. The way a salary is set for a job that you cannot find market data for is by going back to that salary grade classification and comparing it to other jobs.
In response to a question asking if different benchmark jobs could be used depending on what organization was being surveyed, Mr. Fox said the benchmark jobs are sent out to all participating organizations. The title of the job is provided along with a brief description of the job duties. If the organization does not have the position or something similar, no data will be reported.
Judge Hovey suggested that the electronic court recorders be added to the list. He said there is a significant difference in pay grades for an electronic court recorder and court reporter position and asked if other states also had a significant difference. For the electronic court recorders, we require certified electronic transcribing and certified electronic recording as part of the job duties.
Ms. Holewa asked Mr. Fox to address whether the career ladder is appropriate with the step system since it is actually rewarding the employee for the same thing. A step goes up based on the years of experience gained and the career ladder is sort of a jump in the middle based on the same thing. She said part of the confusion is we have a clerk I and a clerk II, which are based on the size of the operation that they are managing. The career ladders are also called I, II, and III and are based on years of experience in the job. She questioned if they will need to review all the classifications in a series. Mr. Fox said they typically review the first level, if there are issues with regard to hiring. If hiring is not a problem, then they generally look at the second level because that is journey level. In terms of where they fall within the organization, they are usually one or two salary grades apart for each level. Ms. Wunderlich noted the deputy clerk III and juvenile court officer IIIs are supervisors in the office and are not necessary based on years of service.
In addition to the classifications mentioned above, it was also suggested that the law library assistant I, deputy clerks of district court I and II, business analyst, and supreme and district court law clerks be added to the list along with at least one job from every salary grade.
It was the census of the Board to remove judicial referees from the survey since they are paid a percentage of the district judge salary.
Ms. Fox said he will review the list identifying the participating organizations and benchmark positions and will prepare the survey instrument. The information will be sent to the Board for review before it is distributed. It was consensus of the Board to have Amy Klein and Sally Holewa review the lists on behalf of the Board.
[Susan Hoffer left the meeting]
Personnel Records Policy
At the December meeting, the Board asked Ms. Klein to request copies of the executive branch policies for to review at the next meeting.
Judge Hovey said after reviewing some of the other agencies policies, he suggested having the human resource director keep a list of those who accessed the employee’s file and then the employee can request a copy of the list. He said this may be easier than having the human resource director notify the employee every time someone accesses the file. Ms. Klein indicated the files are rarely accessed and when the file is accessed, it is usually the supervisor.
It was moved by Petra Hulm, seconded by Ross Munns, to approve the changes as written in section 3.a., b. and c. and proposed the following language for 3.d.: “When access is gained under Section E.3., the employee must be notified by the Human Resource Director.” The motion carried and will be sent out to employees for comment.
Electronic Court Recorder Classification
The electronic court recorder classification requires employees to obtain the AAERT (American Association of Electronic Court Reporters and Transcribers) CERT (certified electronic court reporter and transcriber) certification. AAERT has indicated they are dividing the CERT certification into two separate certifications: CER (certified electronic reporter) and CET (certified electronic transcriber). The proposed change to the classification is before the Board for consideration.
It was moved by Judge Hagerty, seconded by Judge Hovey, to approve the changes as proposed. The motion carried and will be sent to the Supreme Court for consideration.
Personnel Policy Board Elections and Representation
An employee has requested the Personnel Policy Board election procedures be reviewed. In specific, they are requesting clarification on the time frame to submit a name to the election ballot, whether write-ins will be allowed, and requesting a juvenile court officer be added to the membership of the Board.
Judge Hagerty suggested 10 days would be a reasonable amount of time to respond to an election notice.
With regard to write-ins, people should declare their candidacy because most of our employees do not have an opportunity to interact with all court employees in the organization. The interested person typically submits their name along with some biographical information and a statement indicating why they want to serve on the Board. She is of the opinion that write-in candidates should not be allowed because it is unfair to everyone. She said if people do not declare a candidacy, it would be easy for the larger counties to always take the election. Judge Hagerty added if someone wants to be on the Board, they should be organized enough to submit their name up front. Justice McEvers indicated it allows people lay in the weeds to see who else has put themselves at risk and then add their name as a write in thinking they can steal the election.
It was the consensus of the Board to not allow write-ins.
With regard to the issue of the juvenile court officer position on the Board, juvenile court employees are part of the district court employees and do not have different interests when it comes to policies. If one specific group of district court employees is added to the Board, then others would need to be added as well.
[Susan Hoffer joined the meeting]
It was the consensus of the Board to not change its composition. Ms. Klein will submit a proposal at the next meeting outlining the election procedures.
Lead Court Reporter/Lead Electronic Court Recorder Classifications
Judge Hagerty stated it has been the practice in the South Central District for one court reporter to be in charge of scheduling court reporters and recorders to ensure there is coverage for judicial officers when people are sick or take vacations. This means the person may receive calls after hours to make arrangements to ensure there is coverage. This position can also train the new court reporters/recorders coming into the system and has a large amount of scheduling. Because of the heavy impact it has on the position, Judge Hagerty has drafted new classifications for a lead court reporter and lead electronic court recorder. She suggested leaving it up to the court administrators as to whether or not the position is needed in their district and either a lead court reporter or a lead electronic court recorder could be chosen. It is not a new position, and it is anticipated one of the existing employees could be designated for the position if needed.
In response to a question asking why the court reporters are doing the scheduling, Donna Wunderlich responded the calendar control clerks are managing the blocks of time, but if a trial needs to be continued, the court reporters are the ones who are in contact with the attorneys who need it rescheduled.
Judge Hovey noted that in the Southeast District, there are no calendar control clerks, so the court recorders do all of the scheduling.
In response to a question asking if there is a preference to have a court reporter or court recorder as the lead, Judge Hagerty indicated it would all depend on what the need was in that particular district, which is why two classifications were developed.
Ms. Wunderlich noted that in some of the other districts, the court administrators are scheduling coverage for the court reporters/court recorders. She indicated all four administrators are in favor of the new classifications and wanted the flexibility to choose a lead court reporter or lead court recorder.
Ms. Holewa indicated it would be up to the presiding judge as to whether a lead court reporter or lead court recorder would be chosen since technically those positions report to the presiding judge. She stated she likes the concept but would like to see the position have more binding authority to direct what happens and also look at the quality and quantity of the work that others are doing because it is such a specialized area. Judge Hagerty responded she initially thought of the position as a supervisor but that would take away from the judges. The judges do not have staff so it is important to have a sense that there is someone who is working for them on their team. Ms. Holewa said she is concerned the lead position will schedule a court reporter or recorder to cover something and then the judge will overrule the decision.
In response to a question asking Judge Hovey’s perspective on the need for this position in the rural district, he responded he agreed with Judge Hagerty that it is important for judges to know they have one person they can rely on. However, he realizes if someone is gone, coverage needs to be provided. He said currently one of the reporters is the de facto lead for scheduling and whoever is available simply responds. Ms. Holewa added there is also the issue of how transcripts are done for recorders. They are not supposed to mail them out to a third party until they have checked with everyone in the district to see if someone is available and someone has to coordinate that.
It was moved by Judge Hagerty, seconded by Ross Munns, to adopt the lead court reporter and lead electronic court recorder positions.
Petra Hulm questioned if a classified position appointed by the presiding judge can be unappointed without going through the grievance process.
Justice McEvers stated she is not against approving the classification but would like to have a policy in place on how the positions will be filled and vacated and would also like to receive comments from the presiding judges and from the court reporters and court recorders.
Amy Klein suggested treating it the same as any other position and posting it on our applicant tracking system. The position could be open internally to the hiring district. The applications would then be sent to the presiding judge.
It was moved by Justice McEvers, seconded by Susan Hoffer to table the motion until a special meeting can be held to continue the discussion. The motion carried.
Ms. Holewa and Ms. Klein will prepare a draft policy for filling and vacating the position for the a special meeting to be held sometime before the end of March.
Citizen Access Coordinator Classification
The item will be tabled until the next regular meeting.
The meeting adjourned.