Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Surf City will vote on new whistleblower, non-discrimination employee policies

Surf City Town Manager Kyle Breuer, right, proposes new personnel policies -- including whistleblower and non-discrimination policies -- at a Council workshop meeting last week. (Port City Daily photo/Courtesy Town of Surf City)
Surf City Town Manager Kyle Breuer, right, proposes new personnel policies — including whistleblower and non-discrimination policies — at a Council workshop meeting last week. (Port City Daily photo/Courtesy Town of Surf City)

SURF CITY — Surf City Town Manager Kyle Breuer has proposed new whistleblower and nondiscrimination policies, among others, to protect town employees and ensure certain requirements are met to obtain federal and state grant funding.

A vote on the drafted policies will be held at the next Surf City Council meeting, scheduled for August 4.

Breuer discussed the policies at a Council workshop meeting last Friday, saying they were necessary to implement because of Surf City’s growing government body, and as part of a “myriad of things to update and revise” going forward. He said a whistleblower protection policy was “one of those internal policies that we should have.”

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“We want to make sure we are providing any and all opportunities to employees to report anything that might be going on, creating a harassment-free work environment,” Breuer told Council.

He also proposed a Title VI Nondiscrimination Policy because the town currently has no such provisions, including instructions to submit a complaint.

Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination because of race, color, or national origin for any program that receives federal funds or financial assistance. Breuer said it was this reason the town should implement an official nondiscrimination policy.

“Generally, state and federal grants want to see a policy like this in our handbook,” Breuer said. “This will allow us to be able to point to that if and when we get that question. It has come up, and we had some general language in there, but we can really be due to add this in.”

He said the proposed policies are part of an overall effort by Lydia King, the town’s human resources generalist, to review the town’s entire personnel handbook this year.

Other policies that Council will vote on in early August include those for background checks on potential employees, telecommuting, employee insurance benefits, and extra time accrual for salaried employees.

According to Breuer, although the town’s current policy states, “We perform a background check” on a potential employee, nothing exists to guide the town on a hiring decision upon consideration of a standard or criminal background report.

“It doesn’t say anything about if there’s a conviction of whatever degree [discovered in a background check], should we or should we not move forward in the hiring process. It just says, ‘We perform a background check,'” Breuer told councilmembers. “We’ve had some questionable things come up and really wanted the guidance on this one through the hiring process.”

Additionally, Breuer noted the current policy on the employee benefits insurance program is forcing employees who are 65 or older to participate in Medicaid or Medicare programs without providing an option to choose another insurance provider.

“That’s illegal. We can’t force you to do anything with your health insurance. So this essentially provides that updated language,” Breuer said.

He later elaborated that the town cannot force an employee to drop a group plan in exchange for a federal government plan, which is what the current policy states.

Other policies Council will consider adopting in August include teleworking and emergency office closures, especially in light of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Breuer’s recommendations come on top of an overall push to increase the town’s transparency and better organize its communication structure since he was hired as the town’s top administrative position last December. In January, Breuer began sending a detailed Surf City Governmental Update to media outlets, town employees, and elected leaders.

On Friday he also said he had tasked Audrey Goyer, the town’s marketing coordinator, to update the town’s website, and would focus on training town employees to keep information from each of the town’s departments “relevant and updated.”

Read the proposed Whistleblower Policy below:

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