Youngstown council debating if city health employees should get pandemic overtime pay

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YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – During the height of the pandemic, health departments were mandated by the state government to get a job done, no matter the time it took. For the Youngstown City Health Department and its commissioner, that meant working overtime, and a lot of it.

On Monday, Youngstown City Council held a finance meeting to talk about compensating those employees who are salary and typically not allowed overtime.

Council members discussed and questioned whether or not health commissioner Erin Bishop and other members of the health department should receive and split $24,298 in overtime pay for their time worked during the pandemic.

“I know I’m salary but when I was working every single day; on weekends, 12-hour days, Saturday, Sunday; on the holidays. Those were all being worked because a lot of people didn’t want to work because they were afraid. They didn’t want to go and work the clinics because they were scared,” Bishop said.

However, some members of council have concerns, like Anita Davis, who said that is just part of the job.

“I don’t want to see us setting a new precedent providing a department head — a salaried individual — with this kind of overtime pay. I think she’s not supposed to get it,” Davis said.

However, city law director Jeff Limbian said the duties Bishop and her colleagues performed were well above the job description and that he doesn’t see this trickling down to other departments.

“I don’t see any other departments being required to do work with regard to a pandemic. This was such a unique circumstance. It was work mandated by the state, by the government’s order to do certain things. They fulfilled the government’s responsibility, not to mention, the local government,” Limbian said.

Bishop cited that in 2009 and 2010, salaried employees in the health department were granted more than $29,000 during the H1N1 crisis.

“This isn’t something that I just came up with, this has been done before and that’s why I just feel that this was important,” Bishop said.

The money would come from grants given for COVID-19 relief.

“There was an exception because there was an emergency order put on by the governor’s office, so this was not something we pulled out and said, ‘Hey, let’s just do it.’ We did it because we were in the middle of an emergency pandemic,” said Youngstown Mayor Tito Brown.

Council members are holding off on a decision. They plan to hold a special meeting with members of the Board of Health to research whether they are legally allowed to offer up the $24,000 in overtime pay to the salaried employees.

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