University implements changes in vacation donation procedure

Youssef Rddad

When University of Minnesota library accountant LaVon Beseman was diagnosed with cancer, she planned to have her husband give her one week of his vacation time. 
 
The University currently has a program that allows employees to donate paid vacation time to other employees. However, a change to the process has resulted in some lower-paid employees receiving less vacation time than before in certain situations and has some workers saying the change is unfair.
 
When employees have an emergency requiring them to exhaust their paid leave, they can request a donation of vacation hours from other employees to help make extended leave financially easier. 
 
Last year, the Office of Human Resources changed how it processes donations, which were previously calculated depending on the donor’s and recipient’s hourly pay. Now, pay isn’t taken into account.
 
Before the change, if an employee who makes $20 an hour donated eight hours to an employee who makes $10 per hour, the recipient would receive 16 hours in vacation hours. Now, OHR processes vacation time donations on a one-to-one hourly basis.
 
In an email obtained by the Minnesota Daily, Director of Compensation and Classification Patti Dion said OHR began processing donations differently because the old method
was lengthy and complicated. 
 
Dion said in the email that the purpose of the change was to make the donation exchange equal, pointing out when higher-paid employees receive donations from lower-paid employees, they received less vacation time when calculating salary differences.
 
Dion also said in the email that differences in pay after a donation would be put into a central pool.
 
“Because of this new procedure, I would only get one week from my husband, and the University fringe budget would get the rest of his salary, which would be like $750,” Beseman said.
 
Library Administration Aide Sally Iverson said the vacation time she received through donation was helpful after she took last summer off because of health concerns.
 
“It was very beneficial for me in my recovery,” she said. 
 
In June, University workers addressed the Board of Regents about several issues including sick leave.
 
Allison Brimeyer, a faculty assistant at the Carlson School of Management said new employees often have the most difficult time accumulating paid leave. She said sometimes hourly paid workers forgo asking for a vacation donation because of the paperwork involved.
 
In order for workers to get vacation donations, both unionized and civil service employees have to undergo a six-step process, including submitting a form requiring a supervisor’s statement and medical or injury information. OHR can request additional medical information, according to the policy.
 
Experiencing taboo and personal issues like an abortion or spousal abuse are sometimes reasons workers don’t ask for vacation donations and other assistance, Brimeyer said.
 
For workers like Brimeyer who are represented by unions, OHR has to negotiate the process change because it is a part of their collective bargaining agreement.
 
“I am trying to work as much as possible because I hate the thought of having to ask others to donate their hard-earned vacation to me,” Beseman said. “But I still feel that civil service and bargaining unit employees need to be aware of what the University has done so they can make an informed decision about their vacation time.”