PEF/encon wishes to thank our members who responded to our request for comments on management's proposed policy concerning work schedules. Our memo would not have been possible without this valuable input.
Note: At the June 29, 2005 LM meeting, Asst. Commissioner Jack McKeon stated that the proposed Work Schedule Changes are currently on hold. In particular, employees with start times before 7:30 A.M. may continue with that schedule.
To: Acting Commissioner Denise Sheehan
From: Mike Keenan, PEF/encon Division Leader
Subj.: Work Schedules
Date: May 12, 2005
PEF/encon wishes to thank you and Assistant Commissioner Jack McKeon for attending
our March LM meeting. We appreciate your offer to meet and discuss the issue of Work
Schedules, as it is of high concern and interest to our members. To aid in analyzing the
numerous responses that we received from our members concerning this issue, we formed a
committee. Our committee members, Holly Clark, RoseAnn Garry, Diane Kulzer, Toni
Norfleet, and myself, are available to meet with you at your convenience.
Informal surveys by PEF/encon indicate that approximately 10% of current DEC staff
have start times before 7:30 A.M.. The varied benefits identified may be categorized as follows:
• Consistency with DEC’s Mission
• Recognition of the Professionalism of DEC staff
• Consideration of the Personal Responsibilities of DEC staff
• Environmental and Safety Considerations
• Job Recruitment, Retention and Morale.
Consistency with DEC’s Mission: The mission of the department, as stated in Section 1-0101 of
the New York State Environmental Conservation Law, is to "conserve, improve, and protect its
natural resources and environment, and control water, land and air pollution, in order to enhance
the health, safety and welfare of the people of the state and their overall economic and social
well being." Staggered start times over the widest range possible (7:00 A.M. and earlier) allows
for a reduction in traffic congestion - thus reducing air emissions and fuel usage. DEC should
act as a role model and practice what it recommends others do in State Implementation Plans.
In addition, current staff who start before 7:30 provide necessary coverage for
responding to incidents, questions and/or concerns from the public, commercial enterprises and
other agencies. Many industries, such as asphalt plants, landfills, waste treatment and transfer
stations, generate citizens’ complaints earlier than 7:30 A.M. For instance, NY State has
thousands of waste management facilities that have a significant potential to negatively impact
public health, safety and the environment. A resident can quickly become irate when their
complaint call is answered by a machine and not a person. The earlier DEC has staff available,
the better the citizens of New York are served. Protecting the environment is not just an 8:30 to
4:45 office activity.
Recognition of the Professionalism of DEC Staff: Staff has been recognized by the Department
in a number of ways for their professionalism in carrying out DEC’s Mission. At the recent
Albany dialogue then Commissioner Erin Crotty noted the professional commitment of staff to
protecting the natural resources of NY State. Not only does removing the option of a 7:00 A.M.
start time imply a distrust of the staff by management, it also contradicts the effective and
efficient work this Department has accomplished over the many years that an early start time has
been practiced. Current work schedules and practices accommodate the Department’s needs,
while respecting the employee’s professionalism and family responsibilities.
Consideration of the Personal Responsibilities of DEC Staff: Many employees maintain a start
time before 7:30 A.M. to accommodate child care, elder care and other dependant care
responsibilities. For those who are single parents, those who deal with difficult spousal work
schedules, and those whose children may require more than the normal amount of attention or
supervision, this need is especially important. Many of these employees have already worked
out a schedule that allows them to perform needed high-priority duties in their personal lives
while still being fully contributing staff members at DEC. For example, a start time before 7:30
A.M. allows some parents the ability to be home when school is over. It also provides the ability
to make medical appointments, etc., later in the afternoon without the necessity of using leave
credits. An early start time is critically important not only to a single parent and those with
ailing or elderly relatives, but also to dual working families who currently are able to have one
parent work early, while the other works a later shift.
There are other personal situations which can best be accommodated by an early start
time. For example, observant Jews must leave work early on Fridays to make it home before
sundown, the start of the Sabbath. Likewise, Fridays are the holiest days of the week for
observant Muslims, who must attend extra prayer services and perform other charitable and
community services on that day. Work schedules that accommodate these needs also benefit
DEC, since a full day of work is achieved because activities necessitated by personal
responsibilities are undertaken outside of the employee’s work hours.
Environmental and Safety Considerations: DEC’s State Implementation Plans encourage various
alternate work schedules to achieve one of two goals; either eliminating a vehicle trip altogether,
or having it occur outside of the rush hour travel periods. PEF/encon received comments from
members throughout the State that due to logistics the current participation of a DEC employee
in a car pool with a non-DEC employed spouse or neighbor(s) depends upon the ability to start
before 7:30 A.M. A later start time will require that the DEC employee travel to work alone.
Public transportation is also less crowded, more dependable, and provides faster service earlier
in the day.
Commuting outside of the morning or evening rush hours takes less time and fuel. Stop
and go traffic, as well as the seesawing of vehicle speed, waste fuel and increase emissions. The
optimum travel characteristic to conserve fuel and minimize emissions is a constant speed above
20 MPH. The personal safety of staff, as well as the general public, is also directly affected.
Free flowing traffic is much less stressful. Traveling during non-congested periods and walking
from parking and/or transportation points during daylight hours greatly reduces the risk of
personal harm. It also minimizes having a logjam of cars trying to park or leave for home, while
pedestrians are trying to walk across the same streets.
Job Recruitment, Retention and Morale: The Preamble of Executive Order 68 is "Agencies of
government must constantly seek to maximize productivity of operations and the quality of
services provided to the people of the State, and at the same time, enhance employment
opportunities for qualified persons unable to obtain employment under conventional work
schedules." It is State policy "to encourage and promote the implementation of alternate work
• "provide increased availability of public service . . . ";
• "increase the number and caliber of individuals available for recruitment into State services"; and
• "increase employee morale and reduce absenteeism . . . "
At our March LM meeting, you expressed interest in expanding the diversity of DEC’s work
force. Allowing start times before 7:30 A.M. is consistent with this goal.
The juxtaposition of DEC needing a DOB waiver to promote DEC employees, while not
needing a DOB waiver for the use of contractors in lieu of DEC civil servants, has caused a
serious backlog on numerous promotional lists. In addition, state salaries have not kept pace
with the high cost of living. Because of these factors, as well as other individual circumstances,
some DEC employees, particularly in the lower grades, have outside employment. Starting
times before 7:30 A.M. can accommodate employees with this economic need, while not
impinging on their ability to work a full day for DEC. Also as noted above, it allows many
parents the ability to work a full day, while accommodating family needs and minimizing the
costliness of daycare, etc.
Staff perform a number of tasks that often require starting early, from maximizing
daylight hours for field work to accommodating various stakeholders’ schedules for meetings
and training sessions. Requiring staff to maintain an early start time to perform monitoring
and/or investigative tasks part of the year and then shift to a later start time for the rest of the
year only adds a layer of complexity to providing for child care, elder care and other dependant
care, or outside employment. These arrangements generally require a pre-set time of coverage
throughout the year. Adding the burden of alternating scheduling times throughout the year is
neither warranted nor welcomed by those potentially affected.
Summary: Most DEC employees are self-directed and decide when extra or odd hours are
needed to get a job done right. Many supervisors understand this and believe that what is
important is that the employee effectively performs the job and works the appropriate hours.
The March 7th memo and the draft policy will negate these mutually beneficial arrangements by
restricting the ability of supervisors to allow flexibility and increasing the approval process and
documentation surrounding schedules. The more difficult it is to adjust schedules to meet
program needs, the less willing staff will be to do it.
In addition, the proposed loss of flexibility between a supervisor and employee to modify
work hours for occasional circumstances (e.g., staying late due to an unforeseen late arrival) will
also negatively affect DEC because less work will be accomplished. Restricting "individualized
work schedules" to unusual circumstances of a short duration goes in the opposite direction that
private employers have been offering for years. Many managers now realize that flexibility is a
necessity of modern life and offer multiple ways to accommodate work and employee needs. It
also contravenes the sentiments expressed at the SEEDS sessions that DEC needs less micromanagement.
PEF/encon’s survey of its members found no instances where there was no staff coverage
in the late afternoon. We believe the concern over lack of staff coverage after 3:30 P.M. may be
attributable to other causal factors, rather than early starts. In particular, DEC needs more staff
to effectively carry out its mission, regardless of the time of day. The loss of more than 300
senior employees in 2003 removed a lot of institutional memory and expertise. In many
instances, DEC now has a single employee knowledgeable in a particular field of expertise.
When that employee is on leave or in the field, our ability to quickly address an issue is severely
Having employees available on widely staggered work schedules increases our ability to
get work done throughout the workday. Having at least some staff available early while others
work a later shift can make the difference between having work done and material prepared on
time for morning meetings, short deadlines, etc. or not. In short, work schedules of this type
have provided benefits to the agency as well as to the employee.
Finally, PEF/encon also believes that certain managers are reluctant to openly deal with
an employee who requires more direct supervision. That is, entire sections, bureaus and
sometimes even divisions are subjected to blanket prohibitions and restrictions, in lieu of a
supervisor counseling an employee on an individual basis. Thus, dedicated employees are
broad-brushed with unnecessary and counter productive policies.
PEF/encon looks forward to meeting with you and discussing this further. It is our belief
that we can offer you a perspective that the supervisory chain of command cannot offer.
CC: Assistant Commissioner Jack McKeon
Director of Management & Budget Nancy Lussier
Director of Employee Relations Joe Lattanzio
Director of Personnel Carol LaVigna
Last Updated on November 29, 2016