City considers employee furlough option in limited circumstances

In recent weeks there have been inaccurate news reports about the City’s potential use of furloughs for City employees. The Human Resources Department wants to ensure that folks have accurate information.

A City Council committee has given preliminary approval to a proposal to make furloughs an option for appointed and non-represented City employees, which is roughly 300 staffers.

The furlough option is not being considered as a budget-cutting tool; rather, it is being discussed as a way for the City to respond to unusual short-term situations such as the recent State shutdown. Because some City employees are paid with grant funds or revenue from non-City government sources, a situation such as the State shutdown meant that the funds to pay these staff members were temporarily unavailable.

Without the furlough option, the City’s only option during the shutdown would have been employee layoffs until the funding became available again. However, because of the requirements of our Job Bank Program (which is an excellent program for when positions are permanently eliminated), the process to layoff and then rehire employees during a short-term funding stoppage is very cumbersome and time-consuming, and thus does not result in savings needed. Furloughs, on the other hand, could be administered in such a way that furloughed employees could retain their health care coverage, continue accruing vacation and sick leave, and receive their usual pension contribution from the City even though they would receive no salary while furloughed.

The current proposal for appointed and non-represented employees will be considered at the City Council meeting on Aug. 19. However, even if it is approved, there are no current plans to furlough appointed or non-union employees. The proposal is under consideration as a way to offer a wider array of options for the City to cope with circumstances that could arise in the future.

Because furloughs represent a better option than temporary layoffs, furloughs are being discussed during negotiations with the City’s labor unions.

According to the report presented to the City Council Executive Committee on Aug. 10, the furlough option for appointed and non-union employees would be at the discretion of the department head and subject to these conditions:

Aug. 17, 2011

Published Aug. 17, 2011