Donald McIlvain, the president of Local Chapter 3384 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees., has been raising issues with the state's decision last year to limit seasonal employees to under 30 hours a week, a move he says will deny them medical benefits and force them to apply for food stamps to make ends meet.
Working with troubled children and teens is never an easy job.
And it won’t get any easier when employees have to wonder how they’re going to feed their own children, according to
Donald McIlvain, the president of Local Chapter 3384 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.
McIlvain has been communicating to local and state officials, including legislators and Gov. Jack Markell.
McIlvain has been raising issues with the state’s decision last year to limit seasonal employees to under 30 hours a week, a move he says will deny them medical benefits and force them to apply for food stamps to make ends meet.
McIlvain says is most concerned for the seasonal employees working at the William Marion Stevenson House Detention Center in Milford, where he works as a youth rehabilitation counselor supervisor.
“They work side by side with us,” he said. “They get involved with violent intervention with troubled youth just like we do and they don’t get any benefits or insurance. You would think the state would be taking the high road and taking care of their people.”
The state defines a casual seasonal employee as someone who is “needed to provide optimum staffing levels for clients or to maintain security in an institution.”
Seasonal employees are considered temporary, but make up 76 percent of Stevenson House’s staffing, according to Andrea Wojcik, the communications director at Delaware Department of Services for Children, Youth and Their Families (DSCYF), which oversees the juvenile detention facility.
In October 2013, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) sent a memorandum outlining enforcement policies for the Affordable Care Act, including a regulation stating that newly hired casual seasonal employees at all state agencies – not just Stevenson House – may not work more than 30 hours per week without prior approval.
“As a result of the Affordable Care Act, the workforce was reviewed to ensure that state organizations were complying with the current Delaware Code language as it relates to the classification of employees and the employment of casual/seasonal employees,” Jessica Eisenbrey, a spokeswoman for the OMB, said in an email this week. “We are reviewing agency requests as they come in for casual/seasonal employees to work more than 30 hours per week and are approving them based on need.”
According to the October memo, if any casual/seasonal/substitute employee works more than 30 hours per week on average, is enrolled in the Exchange/Marketplace through the Affordable Care Act and receives a federal subsidy, the employer is subject to a penalty of $3,000 per employee.
The memo also states that state agencies must provide health coverage to 95 percent of full-time employees, and that “it is imperative to keep casual/seasonal/substitute employees under 30 hours per week on average during the fiscal year” to avoid penalties.
Regardless of the hours worked, seasonal employees are not eligible for medical benefits or retirement plans, Wojcik, said.
Casual seasonal employees with DSCYF earn an average of $13.32 per hour. As of June, Stevenson House employed 26 of the 90 seasonal employees in the department’s Division of Youth Rehabilitative Services.
Eisenbrey confirmed that veteran seasonal employees, who may have been working more than 30 hours per week on average, are not subject to the hourly limitation.
“We have not specifically required a reduction in hours for existing employees,” she said.
But when a veteran seasonal employee who typically works 40 hours per week leaves, that employee is replaced with someone who is under the hourly restriction, creating an average gap of 11.5 hours, McIlvain said.
“We can fill the positions that we have, but we can’t get any additional positions,” he said. “Our overtime is out of control.”
Last week, McIlvain said there were 10 people working an entire shift of overtime because of vacancies and the reduced hours for casual employees.
“They’re not saving any money,” he said. “They don’t give us more full-time positions because they save money on the benefits, but really, they’re not saving money.”
Eisenbrey said the OMB is monitoring agencies to ensure compliance, but no savings have been calculated with the new policy.
While Wojcik said vacancies are filled as quickly as possible, McIlvain argues that it’s not helping to fill in the gaps of hours lost.
He said the overtime forced on senior employees because of the reduction in hours is not only a financial issue, but a safety and security issue as well.
“The building we work in, we’re 24/7 working with violent juvenile offenders,” he said. “You don’t want people that are working a lot of overtime. There’s no consistency in programming and the [juveniles at Stevenson House] end up suffering, too.”