Oil changes, visits to the veterinarian, getting your dry cleaning — all this is permissible during work hours at the University’s Alumni Association.
The Alumni Association has the power to make its own rules, but sometimes those rules aren’t followed, according to emails obtained by The Red & Black.
One such email from Julie Cheney, assistant director of Alumni Relations says, “I am going to take quiet time tomorrow afternoon. I need an oil change!”
University Alumni Association employees may be taking more time off than department policy allows.
The University holds compensatory policies that allow each department to make up its own regulations. However, the Alumni Association has been inconsistent in its application.
Sige Burden, senior director of University human resources, said under the Fair Labor Standards Act, the managing authority has the option to create a compensatory policy that either pays staff for overtime or gives staff the equivalent in time off.
“Because [The Fair Labor Standards Act] does say that they are allowed to make that decision, so as long as they stay within [those rules and policies], they have that discretion to make,” he said.
The Alumni Association created a policy called “quiet time,” which allows employees to take two to five hours of paid time off within the week it is offered, called compensatory time, after long hours worked, according to documents obtained by The Red & Black.
“Quiet time may be offered to you all as a group, and/or to you as an individual depending on the work load of the team or person,” wrote Meredith Carr, associate director of alumni relations for programs in a Nov. 11, 2010 email to Burden, confirming the policy provisions. “Quiet time is contingent upon the status of work getting done.”
Carr wrote in the November email that quiet time cannot be “‘banked’ or collected cumulatively to be taken at one time.”
In a Nov. 15, 2010 email to Carr, Burden suggested a rewrite of a memo Carr planned to send out to employees to explain quiet time.
Burden suggested quiet time to be renamed to “Compensation (Comp) Time” in order to remain parallel with internal office memorandum within University policy as well as a clearer explanation of comp time policies within University policy.
“Comp time should be utilized as authorized/granted,” he wrote. “Comp time authorizations should not be ‘banked’ to be taken cumulatively. Unused comp time is forfeited.”
According to University Human Resources’ written policy, the University is not obligated by law to provide compensatory time to exempt employees, but the department supervisor may if the situation “warrants” the action.
“This practice should be consistent across the unit and does not have to be on an hour-for-hour basis,” the written policy explains.
In a Feb. 26, 2012 email to Beth Crovatt, former Alumni Association director of regional programs, Carr reaffirmed the 2010 quiet time policies, writing that quiet time “equates to about half a day.”
She defined quiet time as “a come in late or early type thing,” she wrote.
However, as seen in emails obtained by The Red & Black, this policy has not always been followed.
In a Dec. 7, 2011 email conversation, Sallyanne Barrow, associate operations director of alumni relations, wrote to executive director Deborah Dietzler concerning Shea Landers, business manager in University external affairs.
Barrow notified Dietzler that Landers was taking the whole day of quiet time and “perhaps Thursday also,” which disturbed Dietzler because people “may start asking if [Landers] is ill.”
“Not always safe to have someone take quiet time for the whole day,” Dietzler wrote. “Speaking from experience.”
Dietzler continued on to write “it is far better to allow come in late, leave early ... than to be gone for the whole day.”
Dietzler then wrote to ask Barrow whether or not they “told staff [that Landers] will be on leave, but [Dietzler and Barrow] are having her take it as quiet time,” which Barrow confirmed.
Because she didn’t “want to get into too much on email,” Dietzler ended the conversation.
Supervisors are “responsible for assigning, monitoring and ensuring the reporting accuracy of both regular, overtime and compensatory hours worked” for FLSA non-exempt employees — employees paid on an hourly basis, according to the University’s human resources policy. But the same cannot be said for the FLSA-exempt — salaried employees by the University.
“As long as they’re following University rules within [Board of Regents] and personnel law, they’re fine,” Burden said.
Burden also said that he does not get a report on compensatory time given to each department / unit and does not monitor the application of compensatory time.
Selena Robinson, former regional programs assistant director, worked for the association for “a month and a day” prior to her termination.
After asking questions about the quiet time policy, Robinson said she was terminated from her position, which has now seen three employees come and go in the past two years.
Robinson said her concerns were over the frequency of quiet time and “the possibility of nonexempt employees garnering quiet time and its unfair application.”
Employees who have filled shoes similar to Robinson beforehand were allowed to take full days of time off after receiving approval from Dietzler, according to documents obtained by The Red & Black.
Tami Gardner, the regional programs director in 2010 and 2011, wrote that she had decided to take a whole day off after completing the Dawg Trot program in March 2011.
“I didn’t think Dawg Trot warranted a whole day of quiet time, but won’t argue it at this point,” Dietzler wrote in a March 21, 2011 email to Carr.
Leave forms, Robinson said, must be filled out in case of an accident while taking the time off. When an employee returned to the office the next day, the form would be ripped up, as if it never existed.
An exchange between Carr and Crovatt, the regional programs director after Gardner, highlights this possible occurrence.
“Thank you for putting your leave forms in my box,” Carr wrote to Crovatt and another employee on May 7, 2012. “Take this Friday’s quiet time. I ripped up the leave form. So, enjoy your Friday.”
Carr said to The Red & Black that “a lot of times they might fill out a leave form for something, and it might be that I ripped it up because it was something that they earned some quiet time [for].”
She continued on to say that she does “ask them to fill out leave [forms]” when they wish to be out of the office, but in the May 7 case she “probably rewarded them” for a job well done.
The policy for how Carr runs the Atlanta Alumni Center became very clear-cut.
If an employee wants to take some quiet time, she said, they don’t need a leave form. But any sick or annual leave that is granted to them requires a form.
Dietzler — who directly supervises Carr, Barrow and Kay Brown, an executive assistant — said although she has disagreed with how those under her supervision have acted, as seen in the emails, it is within the University policy to do so.
In regard to the incident with Landers, Dietzler said “if Sallyanne [Barrow] told Shea that was OK, Sallyanne is the supervisor of Shea. And the University policy, unless I misunderstand it, is that all leave time is at the discretion of the supervisor.”
It was challenging the power of those under her, Dietzler said, that became an issue.
“One of the last things you want to do as a leader is undermine the authority of the people whom you’ve charged with supervision,” she said. “If you’ve entrusted someone with a position of leadership, one of the things you have to do is to back them up. Even if they perhaps have not done exactly what you would have had them do, you support them in their decision and counsel them afterward.”
Only if leave forms are filled out will the supervisor sign it and send it into Human Resources. Above the Alumni Association, Carr said that no memo or notice needs to be sent in monitoring the unit’s practice of quiet time.