Through 2011, sheriff’s employees received a compensatory day off for every holiday worked. That can become a problem, Sheriff Ronnie Strength said, because at the end of the year, some people might have so much comp time built up that they have to hold it over to the next year.
“It’s getting tougher to give that much time back and have them off the street,” he said.
In an attempt to alleviate some of the comp time, Richmond County will begin paying sheriff’s employees time-and-a-half for holidays worked. As usual, if they are scheduled off for the holiday, they will receive normal pay.
City Administrator Fred Russell says he agrees with the sheriff’s decision.
“With the staffing levels the way they are because of budgets,” Russell said, “it makes sense to me.”
The new policy will relieve the comp time quotas year-round, Strength said. Out of 750 employees, there are about 450 working each holiday, which adds up to a large amount of time owed. Strength says the plan is a form of “controlled overtime.”
“It was too much of a strain to give the time back,” the sheriff said. “We think it’s the right thing to do.”
Normal overtime will work the same as always. Normally, the comp time is recouped within the same pay cycle so the checks are not affected. Holidays are the only aspect that will change.
“We are optimistic this will be how we work going forward,” Strength said.
The departments surrounding Richmond County have different approaches to holiday pay.
In Columbia County, officers who work holidays are paid double time. For all other overtime, every effort is made to give the time back within the same pay period.
“We do everything we can to minimize the overtime,” Capt. Steve Morris said.
In Aiken County, there is a small fund for overtime that gets used only on rare occasions when there is an event that requires extra hours.
In some cases, such as the Graniteville train wreck in 2005, the overtime gets paid to the officers, but is then reimbursed to the department.
In that case, the overtime was paid by Norfolk Southern.
“Very rarely do deputies see any overtime in their checks,” sheriff’s Capt. Troy Elwell said.
Most of the time, including holidays, the officers receive comp time they can cash in later.
In all three counties, special duties do not count as part of deputies’ regular hours, so even if they end up working 40 regular hours and 20 extra hours on specials, it does not count as 60 total hours. The specials are paid by whoever is hiring the deputy.