This story was written by Amy Mariani, The Oracle
An unclear e-mail Wednesday left some University of South Florida employees confused about whether they would be able to leave work to vote Tuesday.
The e-mail, which was sent by Associate Director of Human Resources Julieth Chambers, states that because of the availability of early voting, administrative leave should not be required and will not be approved for voting in the presidential election this year.
Director of HR Michael Stephens said, however, that the e-mail was meant to clarify the qualifications of the administrative leave voting policy, not to say that requests would not be taken.
I dont think its our expectation that employees will have to take administrative leave to go and vote, he said. We just dont believe with all the opportunity out there, its going to affect many employees.
Administrative leave allows supervisors to let their employees leave workwithout penaltyfor up to two hours to go vote if they adhere to certain qualifications.
In order to qualify, an employee must live far away enough from his or her polling site that the employee cant make a quick stop to vote, or he or she must be scheduled to work during the majority of open polling hours.
Stephens said the availability of polling sites with early voting gives employees opportunities to vote that they didnt have before, lessening the need to take leave. Also, Gov. Charlie Crist extended polling site hours throughout the state, mandating that sites remain open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. for the rest of the week, and over the weekendgiving employees more opportunities to vote, Stephens said.
This e-mail wasnt going to be tailored to every individual situation, he said, explaining that if an employee needed to take time off to go vote, he or she could request it from his or her supervisor.
President of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees William McClelland said the e-mail is misleading to employees.
To insist that people can only participate in early voting, we believe, is an unnecessary obstacle placed in the path of a lot of employees, he said. Early voting does not offer opportunities to all the people I represent.
He said many employees do not have transportation to get to early polling sites, or they do not have the time because they need to work more than one job.
McClelland also said that none of the 2,000 employees he represents had questions about the policy until the e-mail was sent.
He sent a response to the HR department, stating that restricting administrative leave is not in the best interest of the university.
The burden of this policy will be carried by the staffthose who have the least access to power, who are the most vulnerable, who are the lowest paid and who have the most to lose or gain in this historic election, he wrote.
Stephens, though, said the e-mail was sent as a preventative measure, just in case anyone had questions about the policy.
I dont believe the e-mail was misleading, he said, explaining that if employees had any questions, they were provided with a name to call in the HR department.
Chambers sent a response back to McClelland, stating that voting is a personal, individual responsibility, but that those who qualify for administrative leave could receive it if their supervisors permitted.
One problem, McClelland said, is that this clarification hasnt been made available to all employees.
They need to provide notification to everybody, he said. If they dont, the damage will be done.
McClelland said the union would file a grievance against the university if hey do not clear up the policy and worries that the policy is too restrictive and may discourage many employees from voting.
Unfortunately, the election will be over, he said, but we can resolve this for the future if we dont get it resolved now.
There are ample opportunities for employees to engage in the political process, he said. The university believes that all of our employees are going to be able to go out and participate in the political process if they so choose.