Skip to main content
Publish date:

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.
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

D'Angelo Russell

With KAT out, Timberwolves can't upset Nets

D'Angelo Russell stepped up but couldn't overcome Brooklyn's firepower.

Everson Griffen Vikings dot com

Everson Griffen confirms he has bipolar disorder

"I’ve been running from it a long time. I’m not ashamed of it anymore.”

Angela Renee Jones, St. Cloud murder suspect

St. Cloud suspect now charged in two local murder cases

Both murders happened within a day of each other in June.

st anthony 3 crop

Twin Cities police ask for help finding missing 16-year-old

Police say all her family and friends have been contacted, and none of them know where she is.

mpd suspect 12.3.21 - 1 - CROP

MPD releases photos of shooting suspect, asks for public's help

The man is wanted in connection with a fatal shooting that happened Wednesday evening.

redmons popcorn colbert 2

Support grows for Redmon's Popcorn after shop's sudden closure

The county also commented on the situation, saying it hopes to help owner Zack Redmon.

prior lake high school

Prior Lake HS investigating another 'racist' video involving student

The principal said the social media video was reported to them this week.

Screen Shot 2021-12-03 at 3.08.27 PM

Walz: Minnesota has secured 1 million rapid, at-home COVID tests for kids

It comes as the delta variant continues to surge in Minnesota, and the omicron variant might follow.

boundary waters

Forest Service limiting permits to BWCAW due to damage, overcrowding

Visitors have been cutting down trees and have been forced to compete for campsites.

police lights

Lockdown update: Armed man threatened to go to Kimball High School

A high school and elementary school near St. Cloud went into lockdown as a precaution.

chaska sewer

People in Chaska are flushing the wrong crap down the toilet

Water and sewer crews in Chaska have had to clean the same pump four times in the past seven days.

Related

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

TattersallUnion2

Minneapolis' Tattersall Distillery staff vote to unionize

The voting results were finalized and announced Thursday night

Hennepin County Government Center

Hennepin County could institute $20 minimum wage for county employees

The full Board of Commissioners will vote on the measure next week.

voting

Olmsted County mails absentee ballot applications to all registered voters

Hennepin, Ramsey and Dakota counties have similar plans.