County workers unhappy over leaves

Human Services employees aren’t pleased with how the county board handled the state shutdown.

Employees expressed their discontent in a Human Services Employee Satisfaction Survey completed last month.

“A lot of raw emotion came out of those,” Human Services Director Julie Stevermer said during Tuesday’s county board meeting.

Though only about 30 percent of the employees completed the anonymous surveys, Stevermer said it showed displeasure over the county’s involuntary layoffs following the state shutdown.

“They’re still upset,” she said.

Many employees voiced concern about job stability and poor morale stemming from the shutdown. One person questioned if the agency was valued, and another said employees were used to make a point to the state.

Others said commissioners acted hastily and acted too quickly approving involuntary leaves, and it created financial and emotional stress on employees.

The Mower County board voted unanimously June 28 to put about 39 state-funded county employees — 26 Human Services employees, 13.355 Public Health workers and a 0.5 Environmental Services employee — on involuntarily leave during the shutdown.

Employees used paid time off and vacation time during the involuntary leaves, and many used all their time or were getting close.

One complaint stated workers were called back before they could qualify for unemployment.

Summaries of the responses said the attitude in the Human Services office is “catty” and another compared morale to that of Hormel after the 1985 labor strike.

It will take a long time to heal, another said.

The summaries said employees felt they weren’t valued and that the county board didn’t understand the office’s high case loads.

During Tuesdays board meeting, commissioners acknowledged some of the responses targeted them, but they still said the surveys were good for the employees.

“It’s good to do these surveys, so they can vent some of their frustrations,” Commissioner Ray Tucker said.

Despite the difficult times following the shutdown, Stevermer said her employees are very dedicated to their jobs and are happy to be back.

“We’re focused on getting back on track, getting our jobs done,” Stevermer said.

Stevermer told the board they are looking to move on.

The surveys are finished in late summer of each year for strategic planning and to look at ways of improving the office.

There were positive responses, too. Some employees said they were happy to have a job with good wages and benefits when many people are unemployed.

During the government shutdown, Human Services employees were not allowed to talk to the media.

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