County moving to 35-hour work week

As part of bringing the county in compliance with labor laws, the Brown County Commissioners approved a new 35-hour work week for most county employees at their Nov. 2 meeting.

The new work week does not apply to employees of the highway department or to the sheriff’s department.

Office workers around the county had previously had a 40-hour work week including a paid hour lunch each day, said county commissioner Diana Biddle. Though some would take their lunch at their desks, others would to take a lunch break away from the office.

Under current labor laws, that could be considered “ghost employment” when workers are paid for time not in the office, she said.

Workers will not be paid any less than they had been, nor receive fewer benefits. Instead, their hourly wage will be raised so they are paid the same amount each week as they would have been previously.

However, county workers will not be permitted to eat at their desks or take working lunches.

If a county workers decide to work through lunch, they will either need to leave early that day or work with their department head to adjust their schedules to assure they do not work over 35 hours, said county council member David Critser.

Critser said he was concerned that since the employees will be paid a higher hourly wage, the county will have to pay a higher rate for compensatory time as well.

Biddle said the commissioners would consult with department heads to see how much the new arrangement might cost the county due to compensatory time.

Along with the rest of the updated county employee handbook, the new rule will be reviewed by the county council at their Monday, Nov. 21 meeting.