In recent years, the public's demand for social responsibility has increased dramatically. It is no longer good enough to provide essential services to the public, but those services must now be delivered in a manner that benefits the society as a whole. Luckily, public agencies in general, and special districts in particular, have been at the forefront of social responsibility by promoting conservation, encouraging the protection of natural resources and preserving the environment.
Agencies can also promote social responsibility from a personnel standpoint by promoting "green" practices and policies. Some suggestions for promoting socially responsible personnel practices are listed below.
Work from HomeTelecommuting sounds like a great option for many employees, but telecommuting is not for everyone. Most public sector jobs cannot be done remotely, thus making telecommunicating an impossibility. However, where possible, telecommunicating is a very effective way to save energy and reduce environmental impact.
Agencies should consider that telecommunicating does not necessarily mean that an employee performs all of their work from home. Rather, telecommuting can be applied in situations where an employee can work from only on a sporadic basis, or for portions of a workweek. Telecommunicating can also mean that an employee who is on-call can correct problems from a computer rather than physically returning to the worksite, thus saving an agency the expense of paying the employee for more hours worked. Telecommuting may also work for specific projects that an employee can do from home.
While telecommuting has obvious benefits, agencies must also be aware of the potential pitfalls. First, any agency that allows for telecommuting must establish a detailed policy that describes, among other things, how many hours of work the employee is supposed to perform remotely and whether the employee must log on to an agency controlled database to perform their work. The agency should also have a sufficient infrastructure to monitor the employee's computer usage and hours worked in order to avoid unexpected overtime liability. In addition, the agency should consider security issues to safeguard information and documents that an employee will be using from home.
Share the CommuteSharing the commute can reduce stress and increase productivity by ensuring that employees are not caught in unexpected traffic jams. Many agencies have implemented carpool policies that offer incentives to employees who rideshare to work. Ridesharing results in energy conservation and lessens the environmental impact of using vehicles to get to work. These incentives can include priority parking, or even looking at changing work schedules slightly to allow employees who carpool to arrive and leave at the same time. Incentives can also be offered for employees who use public transit, or who walk or bike to work.
Trash the PaperMany people now view their favorite newspapers or magazine on-line. The same concept can work for your agency. Making your agency "paperless" can positively impact the environment and save your agency money on supplies such as paper, toner and printer cartridges. Consider whether your agency can place important documents such as policy manuals or personnel forms on an Agency intranet to avoid copying and paper costs.
Many agencies correctly require an employee to acknowledge receipt of important documents or forms such as harassment policies, or proof that the employee has attended a mandatory training. These acknowledgments can also be obtained electronically. The California Uniform Electronic Transactions Act, Cal. Civil Code § 1633.1, et seq., provides that an electronic signature will be presumed to be valid if each party has agreed to conduct transactions electronically. Therefore, an agency that uses electronic signatures should obtain an employee's consent in writing (not digitally) to use digital signatures. Digital signatures can make it easier for an agency to preserve important employee signatures.
In addition, consider whether reports, memos, faxes or bulletins can be transmitted electronically. Employees can be urged to view and modify documents "on screen", if possible. If documents must be copied, employees should be encouraged to use double-sided copying.
Newer is not BetterWe buy used cars and used books, why not used communication devices. Many agencies supply employee with all types of communications devices such as cell phones, two-way radios, blackberries and pagers. Agencies can promote green initiatives and realize potential savings by purchasing used or recycled communications devices. While the devices may not be the latest in technology, it is likely that recycled devices will get the job done.
Off is InAgencies can also institute policies to require that employees unplug or power off their computers at the end of the workday. Not only will this help the environment, it will save the agency money. In addition, does your agency need aging desktop computers, or will laptops do the job? Laptop computers use substantially less electricity and generate less heat waste than desktops. Turning off unneeded lights, installing light sensors and switching to energy efficient bulbs are other cost-saving green initiatives.
These measures, and dozens of other "green personnel practices" can not only save an agency money, but also reinforce the social responsibility that all agencies promote.
Mark Meyerhoff (email@example.com) is a partner with Liebert Cassidy Whitmore's Los Angeles office, an employment and labor relations law firm representing public agencies. Mark represents clients in all types of civil litigation, administrative proceedings and arbitrations.
Reprinted and/or posted with permission of Publication of the California Special District Association, September-October 2011.