Grosse Pointe City Council addresses unused vacation time during pandemic

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published October 20, 2020

GROSSE POINTE CITY — The COVID-19 pandemic has upended virtually every aspect of life — including vacation time.

As of early September, Grosse Pointe City Manager Pete Dame said the City’s nonunion employees had 25% more of their annual vacation time still left than in 2019.

“One of the impacts of working through the pandemic for our nonunion employees is that many have not taken the vacations they usually would have,” Dame said during a Sept. 21 City Council meeting via Zoom. “They were also called in as essential workers.”

Employees are only allowed to carry over a week’s worth of vacation into the following year, and Dame said many of them have been shouldering greater workloads because COVID-19 forced the City to reduce staffing, so workers have been finding it difficult to use vacation days.

“We don’t see how, without crippling services, we could use up all of that vacation time before the end of the year,” Dame said.

Because of the unusual nature of 2020, Dame asked the City Council to allow nonunion employees to receive a payment for up to one week of unused vacation time in 2020.

“I think this would be a very positive … initiative, given the circumstances,” Dame said.

City Councilman Donald Parthum Jr. asked if administrators had looked into the possibility of carrying unused vacation days into 2021.

“We already allowed (staff) to push five days into next year, and any more will be a problem because of lean staffing,” Dame responded. “We didn’t really want to push the problem into next year.”

The council voted unanimously in favor of permitting payouts to the City’s nonunion employees for up to a week’s worth of vacation time — the equivalent of five days. Dame said the City has 23 nonunion employees who would potentially be eligible for this, although not all are expected to take advantage of it. At most, Dame said it would cost the City another $20,000.

“It sounds reasonable,” Parthum said of the administrative proposal.

City Councilman Christopher Walsh echoed that sentiment, telling Dame the proposal “sounds good” before Walsh voted in favor of it.