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Temporary raises for essential county workers & paid leave approved

BEAUMONT — Certain Jefferson County employees are getting a temporary raise while others are seeing a change in pay policy as commissioners adopt new rules related to COVID-19.

County Judge Jeff Branick said the raise pertains to law enforcement, corrections officers, emergency operations personnel and health care professionals that work for the county. These employees will see a 50% increase for two weeks.

Branick said there was concern that employees in the jail and other areas might claim paid leave unless an economic incentive was offered as some individuals are working from home while the County works on a skeleton crew.

There is an emergency pay policy in place for instances when the courthouse is closed, such as during hurricanes. Currently it is not closed, but it’s operating on very limited entrance, Branick said.

During a hurricane evacuation some employees relocate to Dallas or Austin and are still paid when the courthouse is closed.

“We found in (Hurricane) Rita, there were those working 80 hours a week and paid regular wages the first 40 while the others were evacuated,” he said. “That was before I got to the County. The new rule was put into effect in 2005 at a rate of 1 1/2 times regular rate whenever the courthouse is closed, necessitated during a disaster declaration.”

Branick said about 300 employees fit the category.

Another pay-related action was approved to comply with the governor’s Families First Coronavirus Response Act: Employer Paid Leave Requirements.

In summary:

  • Employees on leave are paid at the regular rate up to a maximum of $5,110, or $63.875 per hour, for an employee who is in quarantine, self-quarantine or experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and seeking a medical diagnoses.
  • Employees are paid leave at two-thirds regular rate of pay up to a maximum of $2,000 or $25 per hour for an employee to care for an individual in quarantine, self-quarantine or experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and is seeking a medical diagnosis or to care for a child whose school/day care is closed due to COVID-19.
  • Employees are paid an additional 10 weeks at two-thirds regular rate of pay up to a maximum of $200 or $25 per hour to care for a child whose school/day care is closed due to COVID-19. This equates to 190 weeks plus the 80 hours above equals a total of 12 weeks of expanded leave.

Branick said health care workers and emergency responders are excluded from the Act.

Precinct 3 Commissioner Michael “Shane” Sinegal does not have essential employees under his purview but does have an employee that was experiencing issues and was tested Tuesday for COVID-19. Two other employees are now quarantined.

The Jefferson County Sub-Courthouse was closed last week until further notice.

Sinegal said the new rules allow anybody who feels they have symptoms to be able to quarantine and still get paid.