Mineola Village employees have been getting more time off than they were entitled to according to village officials. Following an audit, it was discovered that village employees were receiving their vacation days on January 1 of each year instead of the anniversary date of the start of their employment. The practice had reportedly been going on for years and long before any member of the current administration was involved with the business of the village.
While the village board took steps to correct the discrepancies and accounting practices, the employees union filed a grievance, which the village board denied during their regular meeting on September 19 at the village hall.
The grievance charge is that the village is in violation of the collective bargaining agreement by unilaterally changing vacation accrual, according to village attorney John Spellman. The grievance demands the village stop and all members be made whole for all moneys and benefits. Under the union contract, there is a grievance procedure, the third step being that when the union is not satisfied with the results, the matter comes before the village board.
Provisions in the employees contract indicated that vacation days were awarded on an employee’s anniversary date of employment. However, before the practice was discovered, employees could potentially have received vacation days for working less than one year. Employees of the village receive 2 weeks vacation after one year of service.
“Unfortunately over the years, an accounting practice occurred according to which employees were given vacation on January 1 instead of the anniversary date of their employment.,” Spellman said.
“When we performed an audit in this area, we found the discrepancy. We spoke to the union, they said ‘look, you cannot award people vacation before it is earned, as a result we’re going to correct the situation and follow the terms of the contract which provide that vacation is awarded on anniversary dates.’ We also told the union that if there’s any person who might be severely prejudiced by this switchover, come talk to us; for example if a person had booked a cruise, counting on that much accumulated time, we could move some sick time over temporarily until the vacation time is earned. The union insisted upon filing the grievance.”
A representative from the United Public Service Employees Union was not immediately available for comment.
“By awarding vacation time on their anniversary date, we’d be abiding by the contract that’s an agreement with the union,” Mayor Scott Strauss said.
“If we give a person vacation time before they’re entitled to it, it is a gift of taxpayer money which is not permitted,” Trustee Lawrence Werther said, noting that it was his understanding that the practice came to be before any current employees were working on bookkeeping for the time.
Werther also pointed to a similar situation occurring when the administration discovered that village employees were required to contribute a portion to their medical expenses.
“The unfortunate part is if we find out that there is something going on that costs the taxpayer money and we don’t work to correct it, then the board becomes personally liable for those monies,” he said.
The union has 30 days from the date of the village board’s denial to file the lawsuit appealing the decision to the Public Employees Relations Board (PERB), a state mediator.