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Health benefits for part-time employees? Moretown Select Board says no

11/08/2007

By Kara Herlihy

Can two part-time town positions become one? The Moretown Select Board says no -- and so does their budget.

Town clerk Susan Goodyear appeared before the select board Monday evening, November 5, to discuss health benefits and retirement contributions for her assistant town clerk Jamie Wimble, who currently works 24 hours per week.

Wimble, who is one of two assistant town clerks in Moretown, is on the budget for 18 hours of work per week, while the other assistant is slotted for 8 hours per week.

Since Wimble works 24 hours per week, she was added to the town benefits plan by Goodyear. The select board did not approve the addition pointing out the town clerk does not have the authority to issue health benefits to part-time employees without select board approval.

Select board chair Paula Mastroberardino said that "a part-time person is not eligible for town benefits" and that the addition "was slid in without the select board being notified."

Goodyear came before the board last spring and requested that Wimble's hours be increased to 24 hours. The select board denied the request.

Federal law states that a person working 20 hours per week a total of 1,000 hours per year is eligible for health benefits. The select board consulted town attorney Paul Gillies, who confirmed that whatever hours are stipulated in the budget are the hours that determine health benefit eligibility.

The budget states that there be two part-time employees, one working 18 hours per week, and the other is slated for 8 hours per week. Goodyear contested this assertion, stating that the town's insurance policy states that any person working more than 20 hours is eligible for health benefits.

"What purpose is there to this policy?" she said. Goodyear, who has been dealing with an illness, took on the two assistants to help carry her workload. The select board argued that two assistants were given extra hours to "help you out" and that she is still "defined as a part-time [18-hour-per-week] person."

Mastroberardino said that the two assistants were a "temporary fix" given Goodyear's health restrictions, and added and that it "just isn't what this board set out for assistant's hours and isn't what the board is considering for the future."

"I really think it was made clear that we didn't want Jamie working 24 hours," said select board member Rae Washburn.

Goodyear said that she has spoken to an attorney regarding what she called "discrimination" and added that it is yet "another example of the select board not supporting our office."

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