Byrne Proposes Revised Flextime Policy to Board

MONTGOMERY, Ala., Aug. 6, 2007 -- Chancellor Bradley Byrne has revised the flextime policy sent last week to State Board of Education members.

Byrne took into consideration complaints that the system was trying to dictate too much what system employees could do with their personal leave time.  Byrne says employees who want to go off and paint houses on their vacation time are free to do so.  "I wish they wouldn't.  I wish they would rest, but they can if they want to."

However, legislators will now have to go to the chancellor to request unpaid leave to be away from their jobs in the system to do work in the Legislature.

The new draft policy reads as follows:

"1.  All Alabama College System employees engaged in outside employment or activities during their normal work hours must request personal, annual, or unpaid leave in accordance with State Board Policy.  Only unpaid leave is available for outside employment or activities which result in compensation and/or the reimbursement of expenses from state funds.  Unpaid leave may be granted only in accordance with and for the reasons outlined in Policy 611.01 Leave Without Pay."

"2.  In circumstances other than those specified in paragraph one, a flexible work schedule may be granted upon approval of the Chancellor."

"3.  A flexible work schedule may be granted to employees to compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act as a reasonable accommodation when appropriate."

"4.  This policy shall supersede all other policies with respect to employee work schedules and assignments."

Policy 611.01 paragraph 2 is what replaces the 10 day limit in earlier drafts.  Byrne says, "But what we do in this policy is make it clear that unpaid leave has to be done under that (611.01).  So you have to ask for unpaid leave and that's how you have to do it."  The policy reads as follows:

"2. Personal Leave"

"The Chancellor may grant up to one year of personal leave without pay to a full-time employee on the written request of the President to the Chancellor. Such request shall state that the leave without pay will not hamper the normal routine operation of the institution. The tenure status of persons on personal leave without pay will not be affected."

Byrne says under the revised policy.  "It's up to me."  He says legislators or anyone else wanting to use unpaid personal leave has to convince him that the circumstances are "extraordinary."  Byrne says at it stands right now he doesn't see missing time in the system to work in the legislature as an extraordinary circumstance.  But individuals will have the ability to come in and convince him otherwise.  He says they also have to remember that their absence "cannot hamper the normal routine of operation."

"This is an existing policy that we should have been complying with for some time and apparently have not been.  It's existing policy.  We're not going to change that."  Byrne says if a legislator comes to him, "I'd say show me two things.  Show me why this is a direct benefit to our system and show me how this does not hamper the effective operation of your institution."  He says it's possible, "but still difficult," for legislators to continue in both positions.  "The other point we made is that you've got to be careful because once you open the door - if you do it  once (grant the unpaid personal leave request) you're establishing a precedent.  You can't pick and choose.  So leave it at that."

Board member David Byers say's it's time.  "I think that both the policies that will require employees who are legislators to make an election at the end of this elected term will pass and I think it's a good policy and will allow Alabama to have a Legislature that's freer of conflict of interest than it's ever had in the past, and I think that the leave policies will pass as well and I'm not sure whether the chancellor will view legislative service as an extraordinary circumstance, but I doubt that he will.  I think that we're just at a place in time where this is the direction we need to take and I think that's the direction the Board's going to take."

There was opposition to the proposed policy from Mrs. Ella Bell and Mrs. Ethel Hall said several of her questions had been answered, but she had been leaning toward abstaining earlier "but there's a long time" before Aug. 23.  Unless someone changes their mind between now and Aug.23 it looks like the policies will be approved.

Reported by:  Helen Hammons