The board of selectmen and several Aquinnah library employees were left scratching their heads about whether or not full-time employees should receive holiday pay for days they were not scheduled to work, after a long discussion at the selectmen’s meeting Tuesday night.
Full-time library employees Jennifer L. Christy, Michelle K. Laurie and Natalie Francis sent a letter to the selectmen requesting back pay for holidays. “Holiday benefits have not been paid to Aquinnah Library full-time staff members... [We] are requesting that the longtime employees of the library be granted payment for the same holiday benefits that have been accorded to other full-time Aquinnah employees, dating back to the beginning of our permanent full-time employment,” the letter read.
Mrs. Christy, Aquinnah’s head librarian, said at the meeting she believed that language in a town bylaw indicated that these employees should be compensated for those holidays, regardless of work schedule. The library is open Tuesdays and Thursday from 2 to 7 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Mrs. Christy, too, is requesting compensation, through language in her contract appears to counter her claim to the holiday pay. The contract states that she should be compensated only for holidays that fall on a scheduled work day.
But Mrs. Christy said the language of the bylaw closely mirrors that of her contract but has been interpreted differently by the town, resulting in other town employees being granted holiday pay in similar situations.
Selectman Camille Rose said the issue has been raised at several meetings of the personnel board, but there was some confusion as to what their decision had been. “I don’t quite understand what their decision is on this matter,” said Ms. Rose.
“They decided that inasmuch as they were full-time employees, they should be granted payment for the holidays,” said selectman Jim Newman.
Still, Ms. Rose said that personnel board decisions do not extend to contractual employees such as Mrs. Christy.
But Mrs. Christy said that her contract should be interpreted in the same way as the bylaw. “If the language in the bylaw . . . was interpreted one way, I’m curious why the language in the contract is being interpreted the opposite way,” she said.
Ms. Rose suggested going back to the contract framers, to determine their intent regarding holiday pay. She also recommended a joint meeting of the selectmen, personnel board and library board.
If the selectmen determine that the library employees are owed compensation for holidays dating back to the beginning of their employment, the payments would have to be brought to town meeting as an unpaid bill.
“I agree that you should have had the benefit that others get,” said Mr. Newman. “My problem with it is going back past the last fiscal year. That’s going to get complicated.”
Ms. Rose said that if the board does decide that the employees should be compensated, the town might need to negotiate a pay-out for the back pay. “We just don’t have the money to put out all at once,” she said.
In other business, selectmen:
Approved a reverse 911 system for Aquinnah that will alert town residents in case of an emergency. The notification system will be put into effect sometime in the next fiscal year.
Endorsed a plan to standardize taxi fares on the Island, though Aquinnah has not had an issue with fluctuating charges.
Agreed to support a dress code for taxi drivers; inappropriate clothing would include T-shirts, tank tops and swimwear.
Renewed the Aquinnah Taxi Company’s license.
Postponed turning the water on for the shops at the Aquinnah Cliffs until they receive a request from a tenant to do so.