After union push, Hennepin County gives employees child care leave during pandemic

Until the county's declared emergency ends, employees can now take 160 hours of two-thirds paid leave. The county also created opportunities for negative leave to be forgiven.
Publish date:
AFSCME members rallied for child care leave ahead of the Dec. 14 Hennepin County Board meeting.  

AFSCME members rallied for child care leave ahead of the Dec. 14 Hennepin County Board meeting.  

After a monthslong union campaign, Hennepin County has created a child care leave policy to replace the one provided by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which expired at the end of 2020. 

The Hennepin County Board voted unanimously last week to establish 160 hours of two-thirds paid leave for employees caring for children not in school or daycare because of the coronavirus. It also voted to adjust its existing negative leave program to give employees an opportunity to have those hours forgiven. 

After speaking at public comment and holding rallies, the union requested fully paid caregiving leave through a Board Action Request in December, which didn't pick up any board members to represent it for a vote. Instead, commissioner Marion Greene presented a new Board Action Request at the Jan. 26 meeting, which outlined the partially paid leave and forgiveness of negative leave. The board passed the proposal on Feb. 2. 

"I think this is a really good step towards meeting the needs of caregivers in this county," AFSCME Local 2864 vice president and county librarian Angel Gardner-Kocher said during public comment. "I think we're better suited to serve our communities and our residents when we can offer them our full attention." 

Union members started pushing for a fully paid childcare leave policy in fall 2020 when they were informed the county, which has a predominantly female workforce, didn't have a leave policy to replace the FFRCA, said AFSCME Local 2822 president Ali Fuhrman. 

"We said, that's unacceptable," Fuhrman said. 

In response, County Administrator David Hough said in December that employees already had access to 240 hours of negative leave for any pandemic-related reason. 

But negative leave, which employees would have to accrue back before obtaining additional PTO, isn't a sufficient solution, union members said. 

“It ties us into a really impossible situation for a long time after the pandemic,” Deb Konechne said. “We don't want our members indebted to the county for any leave.”

With the new policy, employees "in good standing" with the county can have 60 hours forgiven per year over the next four years. 

"We wanted to recognize ... it's daunting in the repayment capacity, to be indebted to that many hours," said Michael Rossman, Hennepin County chief human resources officer. 

County employee Aimee Wimberly said she had tried using the two-thirds paid leave under FFRCA, but the financial strain it placed on her prevented her from doing it again. Having an option to forgive negative leave is a gamechanger, she said. 

"This is a long-awaited win for Hennepin County employees who are trying to parent, teach and work all at the same time," Wimberly said in a statement. "I feel relief knowing that I feel heard, even though it took some time."

Next Up

All Energy Solar Residential Installation

End 'renting' from your utility company and go solar

A solar installation is one of the few home improvements that actually pays for itself.

Karl-Anthony Towns

Hornets erupt in 2nd half to blow out Timberwolves

The Timberwolves were outscored 73-46 after halftime.


Authorities investigate fatal Bloomington house fire

One person has been reported dead in the fire.

Minneapolis skyline

New tool helps Minneapolis homeowners disavow racial covenants in deeds

A new free program connects homeowners with the City Attorney's office to complete the process

Kyle Rudolph

Watch: Vikings create tribute video for Kyle Rudolph

Rudolph's 10-year tenure with the Vikings ended when he was released on Tuesday.

Zach Parise

Wild scratch Zach Parise for Wednesday's game vs. Vegas

Parise will be a healthy scratch for the second time in his 16-year career.

shawn myers 1

Charges: Windham hospital patient threatened to kill staff, spit on them

Shawn Myers is charged with felony terroristic threats.

kaplans tiktok

Minnesota grandparents go viral for 'distancing duo' songs on TikTok

Their most recent duet about getting their second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine has gotten more than 67,000 likes.

CHS Field

Start of St. Paul Saints season delayed to May

Major League Baseball says it's being 'prudent' in delaying the minor league season.


image (1)

With federal relief expiring, Hennepin Co. workers push for expanded leave policy

AFSCME is pushing for the County Board to include funding for caregiving leave in its 2021 budget

Hennepin County Government Center

Hennepin County will make Juneteenth a "floating" holiday

The board's decision will not add a paid holiday for county employees.

Hennepin County Government Center

Hennepin County slammed for treatment of sidelined clerical workers

This comes after the closure of libraries and service centers due to coronavirus.

Screen Shot 2019-02-28 at 12.06.25 PM

During pandemic, advocates turn to ‘Farmers Market in a Box’

Free boxes of fruits and vegetables, mixed dairy items and meat will be available Friday at Allianz Field


Minneapolis' Tattersall Distillery staff vote to unionize

The voting results were finalized and announced Thursday night


Olmsted County mails absentee ballot applications to all registered voters

Hennepin, Ramsey and Dakota counties have similar plans.

Carolyn Ham DHS

DHS inspector general placed on leave days after child care fraud report

Carolyn Ham still holds her position, and claims she's being scapegoated.