Ocean Pines Considering Sick, Safe Leave Policy Changes

OCEAN PINES – Proposed revisions to the association’s sick and safe leave policies dominated much of the discussion at last week’s board meeting.

Last Saturday, the Ocean Pines Association (OPA) Board of Directors voted to support two motions regarding employee policies on sick and safe leave. The first motion approved last week sets a 240-hour limit on carryover sick and safe leave time, while the second establishes a policy to gift sick and safe leave time to workers in need.

“These two motions, together, I think will encourage responsible use of our sick and safe leave policies,” said Director Colette Horn.

Horn said she submitted the two motions for the board’s consideration after working with the association’s human resources director and administrative staff to develop sick and safe leave policies. She said what was presented to the board mirrored policies from neighboring municipalities.

“Our HR director was involved in the development of this policy as a representative of the employees and also to ensure what we are doing is within the law,” she explained. “We also did research on the policies of the neighboring communities – Worcester County, Berlin, Ocean City – and this policy is in keeping with the standard for this community …”

west o bottle shop

Director Amy Peck said she understood the value of attracting and retaining employees, particularly in the midst of a workforce shortage, but questioned if the 240-hour limit would hurt employee morale. She noted the employee handbook currently allowed for unlimited carryover.

“If we keep the present policy in place, it helps retain your long-term, your experienced, your most valuable, employees,” she said. “And I also think it helps attract new employees.”

When asked what employees’ thoughts were on the proposed revisions, General Manager John Viola noted there was a “passionate” response. While there was some concern that employees would lose sick leave they had already accumulated, Horn noted full-time staff with an employment date prior to May 1, 2022 will be able to keep sick leave that exceeds 240 hours and will be allowed to accumulate up to 240 hours more.

“If they have 1,000 [hours], they can accumulate another 240 …,” she said. “What they already have they won’t lose, but any that goes in excess of 240 they would be incentivized to donate to the sick leave bank.”

Director Doug Parks said he supported the concept, but wanted to see the exact language that would be used in the employee handbook. Director Frank Daly agreed.

“I’d like to know if there is any consideration for developing the language and giving us a little more time …,” Parks said. “I think that would be helpful.”

Horn noted that language provided in the motions would be inserted verbatim into the handbook.

“The idea today was to get approval in concept, approval of the policy, and then have the language developed by our director of HR, and for her to go through the handbook and make sure there are no conflicts,” she said. “That language would come back to the board for approval.”

After further discussion, the board voted 6-1, with Peck opposed, to support a motion setting a 240-hour carryover limit, but allowing employees with more than 240 hours’ leave to retain what they have and accumulate up to 240 hours over their leave balance once the policy goes into effect.

The board then voted unanimously on a motion to establish a policy for gifting sick and safe leave time to co-workers in need. Horn noted the establishment of a sick leave bank ensures sick leave time is not lost, but donated to those who need it.

“This also was benchmarked against the communities around us, and it is very much closely aligned with the policy that Worcester County has for a similar program to gift sick and safe leave …,” she explained.

About The Author: Bethany Hooper

Alternative Text

Bethany Hooper has been with The Dispatch since 2016. She currently covers various general stories. Hooper graduated from Stephen Decatur High School in 2012 and the University of Maryland in 2016, where she completed double majors in journalism and economics.