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Monday, April 19, 2021

Cuyahoga County Chief of Staff Bill Mason: All Employees Must Return Full Time June 1

Posted By on Mon, Apr 19, 2021 at 3:39 PM

Bill Mason - BRICKER & ECKLER LLP
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  • Bill Mason

In an email that took Cuyahoga County directors by surprise, Executive Armond Budish's Chief of Staff, Bill Mason, decreed that beginning on May 1, all county employees must begin a staggered work schedule with three days in the office and two days at home. On June 1, all employees would be expected to report to work in-person full-time. 

In the April 16 email, which Scene obtained from a county employee, Mason wrote that it was time to re-evaluate the county's work-from-home policy. He said two of his top priorities were "providing the best possible service to the community and protecting the health" of employees and that the return-to-work policy was being implemented after he'd reviewed proposals from department directors. Mason said he would consider granting out-of-office work schedules beyond June 1 upon request.



"That's a huge part of this," county spokeswoman Mary Louise Madigan told Scene, when confirming the email. "But the current plan is that people will be returning to work on June 1. The staggering that begins on May 1 is to ease people back."

Madigan said that county buildings had been retrofitted for Covid safety, and that as a public sector entity, the expectation was that employees would show up in person to provide optimal service to the public.

"I'm shocked that anyone was surprised by [Mason's email]," Madigan said.

But employees who contacted Scene and spoke on background said that they and their supervisors were indeed taken off guard, that in fact they first assumed the email had been sent in error.

To complicate matters, Mason sent the email Friday afternoon and has taken the current week off. Budish's communications chief, Eliza Wing, officially departed last week as well, and there has been no follow-up communication from Budish or representatives from county communications. 

County employees told Scene that many of their colleagues were unhappy with the news, especially because, they said, their productivity had gone up while at home and, in some cases, grant dollars had been spent to improve remote work conditions.

From a logistical standpoint, some employees brought their work desktop computers home. A staggered schedule would be burdensome, if not unworkable, because they'd have to lug equipment and files from home offices to work offices and back. There is still some concern, too, about the safety measures and social distancing at county office buildings.

Mason's email ended by encouraging all employees to get vaccinated and said the county was studying a proposal to require the vaccine prior to returning to work. Employees told Scene that if implemented, that policy would "cause a major uproar."

The text of Mason's email is included below:

Two of my top proprieties [sic] are providing the best possible service to the community and protecting the health of our employees. Over the past year, we have allowed many employees to work from home. It is now time to re-evaluate that policy. I have received and reviewed all of the Director’s proposals for the employees returning to work. We are now implementing the following policy.

For those Directors who have required their employees to work from the office/building, that policy will remain unchanged.

For those Directors who have implemented a work from home or a partial work from home policy, beginning on 5/1/21 all employees henceforth will work 3 days in the office and 2 days at home. The Director shall arrange how that schedule is coordinated.

Beginning on 6/1/21, all employees shall work in the office every day. Upon a request to the Chief of Staff, an out of office schedule may be granted.

It is highly recommended that all employees get a Covid 19 vaccination to protect all co-workers and the employee. We are studying a proposed policy of requiring all employees to be vaccinated prior to being permitted to work and will address it in the near future.
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