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IV. Administrative Functions

  1. Human Resources
    This can be one of the most challenging areas for courts, and one of the largest areas for potential liability. When questions or unfamiliar situations arise, consult the experts (including legal counsel, when necessary). Judges in particular may want to address specific concerns with legal counsel.
    1. Available Resources include
      1. National Center for State Courts Human Resources Management Resources Webpage
      2. Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM)
      3. Ohio Judges’ Liability Self-Insurance Program
        1. The Judges’ Self-Insured Professional Liability program is administered by the Ohio Department of Administrative Services.
        2. It applies to personal or individual capacity claims brought against active or sitting judicial officers; coverage does not extend or apply to “official capacity claims.”
        3. Judicial Hotline hours are available on a limited annual basis. Court administrators may use the hotline’s services on behalf of judges. It can be accessed when contemplating disciplinary actions related to employment and other issues.
      4. Generally, the local law director or county prosecutor serves as legal counsel for the court unless there is a conflict. If there is a conflict, See R.C. 305.14. For appellate courts, the Ohio Attorney General’s Office provides representation.
      5. If your county is insured through CORSA (County Risk Sharing Association), you may be able to utilize their hotline for employment law questions as well. Contact the department in your county that handles liability insurance for more information.
    2. Hiring and Interviewing
      1. Post positions internally or externally; make sure to include equal employment opportunity (EEO) language in the job posting.  Job postings can be posted on the Supreme Court of Ohio website by completing the Job Posting Form.
      2. Ask the same interview questions to all candidates for consistency.
      3. All interview questions should be job-related, focusing on the essential functions of the job as identified in the position description. Interview questions that are prohibited include:
        1. Age;
        2. Marital status;
        3. Race or ethnicity;
        4. National origin;
        5. Religious preference;
        6. Sexual preference;
        7. Gender; and
        8. Disabilities.
      4. Use objective selection criteria and a way to measure criteria and hire the “best-qualified candidate.” Make sure to define the criteria in order to protect against discrimination claims.
      5. Consider federal law and guidance.
      6. The Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) of 1986 governs hiring requirements in the U.S. It provides basic requirements in order to ascertain an individual's eligibility for employment in the United States.
      7. Develop a policy manual/employee handbook.
        Employee handbook guidance:
        1. In addition to the standard policies, consider adding the following policies:
          1. Social media;
          2. Use of court-issued equipment, including computers and mobile phones;
          3. Drug-free workplace policy, including issues concerning the lawful use of medical marijuana by court employees;
          4. Progressive discipline, including verbal notice, written notice, written warning, last chance notice, and termination of employment;
          5. Corrective Action Plan/Performance Improvement Plan;
          6. Vacation Leave (R.C. 124.13 and any local ordinances); and
          7. Sick Leave (R.C. 124.38 and any local ordinances).
        2. Consider having staff sign an acknowledgment that they are responsible for the contents and obligations under the employee manual, where it is located/accessed, etc.
        3. Staff should sign off when major revisions occur; consider annual renewals of staff acknowledgment.
        4. Ask supervisors to review policies on a regular basis.
    3. Position Descriptions
      1. It is job content, not job titles, which determines whether jobs are substantially equal.
      2. Establish a procedure to formally review all job descriptions every three to five years and revise based upon any additional duties added or eliminated. Job descriptions should also be reviewed before hiring to assure any new legal or job-specific requirements are addressed.
      3. The Equal Pay Actrequires that men and women be given equal pay for equal work in the same establishment.  Additionally, no terms or conditions of employment (including but not limited to pay) can be based on race or color, national origin or ancestry, sex, religion, military status, disability, or age.
    4. Performance Evaluations
      1. On-going performance appraisals should be given to all staff. Initial evaluations, annual, semi-annual, formal, and informal should be noted and a record kept in the personnel file. It is important to document if the staff is working above or below the required minimums.
      2. Because most courts have multiple supervisors giving the appraisals, the administration should outline the expectations on what is to be covered, how to score/evaluate performance. Appraisals should be reviewed to assure consistency in how they are applied over various departments.
      3. Staff should be permitted to respond, and a mechanism to review responses should be in place prior to any appraisal being given.
    5. Discipline
      1. It is important to have a clear and consistent disciplinary policy and to outline it in the court’s employee handbook.
      2. Probationary employees, development plans, suspensions. All of these areas should be defined in the court’s employee handbook. It is often recommended not to have probationary periods for staff that are “at-will” employees, as it may infer a contract.
      3. Internal investigation process/grievances.  Know the court’s obligations in investigating and responding to a complaint. Determine the appropriate party to conduct the investigation (i.e., manager, human resources, neutral third party). Document the investigation results; evaluate; and take action.
      4. Disciplinary Appeals – Pre-Disciplinary Hearings (if applicable):
        1. Used for removals, suspensions, fines, reductions in pay/position primarily for classified and/or union employees.
        2.  Required to be conducted by an impartial individual who does not serve as the employee’s supervisor. The pre-disciplinary hearing need not be elaborate and should not be confused with an appeal and a full evidentiary hearing before an adjudicating body (Cleveland Bd. of Educ. v. Loudermill, 470 U.S. 532 (1985).
        3. Employees are only entitled to:
          1. Oral or written notice of the charges against him/her before the hearing (benchmark notice: 72 hours).
          2. An explanation of the employer’s evidence.
          3. An opportunity to present his/her side of the story including any potentially mitigating factors.
        4. Consider the requirements of “Section 124.34 Orders.” (See Appendix C: Ohio Administrative Code 124-3-01SPBR’s webpage. Appendix E contains a “Section 124.34 Order” to copy and distribute to appointing authorities.
        5. Notice of Appeal – Employees must file a notice of appeal within ten calendar days following the date the disciplinary order is served on the employee. State Personnel Board of Review (SPBR) hears the appeal. R.C. 124.03
      5. Involuntary terminations – processes for involuntary terminations should be put in place.
    6. All terminations/separations
      1. The court should have procedures for separating employees including the reacquisition of court identification, keys, and mobile devices.
      2. The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) of 1985 requires that all employees receive specific benefits notices, even if they do not take part in employer-sponsored benefit plans.
    7. Employee Classifications (Wage and Hour)
      1. Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) there are two categories
        1.  Identify exempt and non-exempt employees (U.S. Department of Labor Fact SheetSHRM (Society for Human Resource Management  questionnaire).  Seek information from human resource experts if not familiar.  This can be a significant area of risk.
        2. Understand compensatory time versus flex time and overtime and when it is appropriate.
        3. Understand holiday pay vs. other pay.
        4. Shift differentials may be appropriate for detention center staff.
      2. All employees on your payroll should be listed as Classified or Unclassified Status (R.C. 124.11).
      3. Determine if employees are “at will”.
      4. Title VII, the ADEA (Age Discrimination in employment Act, the FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act), and each FLSA have provisions that exclude the personal staff of elected officials. See Section 3(e)(2)(C)(i)(II) of the FLSA, the U.S. Department of Labor Opinion FLSA2005-23 and this FLSA Guide.
      5. Independent contractors should be reviewed to determine if they should be reclassified as intermittent part-time employees.  This is an area where you may wish to seek legal advice.
      6. The court should have policies around interns/volunteers.
      7. The Court Reporter Fair Labor Amendments of 1995 amends the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 to allow an exemption from certain federal wage and hour requirements for public agency employees while they are performing court reporting transcript preparation duties.
    8. Anti-discrimination and Harassment Laws
      1. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 dictates that employment decisions must be made on the basis of business necessity, not on employee or applicant membership in a protected class.
      2. Ohio Civil Rights Act of 1959 similarly protects applicants and employees from unlawful discriminatory employment practices. See R.C. Chapter 4112 and Ohio Administrative Code Chapter 4112.
      3. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 prohibits age discrimination in employment.
      4. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 amends Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to prohibit sex discrimination on the basis of pregnancy.
      5. The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA) which is intended to ensure that persons who serve or have served in the Armed Forces, Reserves, National Guard or other uniformed services are not disadvantaged in their civilian careers because of their service; are promptly reemployed in their civilian jobs upon their return from duty; and are not discriminated against in employment based on past, present, or future military service.
      6. The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, and the Amendments Act of 2008, which made significant revisions to the definition of “disability” under the ADA.
      7. The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (GINA) protects individuals from genetic discrimination in health insurance and employment, including the misuse of genetic information.
    9. Sexual Harassment
      1. Defined as quid pro quo when conditions of employment are impacted based on whether an employee submits to unwelcome attention, or hostile work environment when an employee is exposed to offensive conduct on the basis of his/her sex that interferes with the performance of duties.
      2. Affirmative Defenses
        1. Employees are aware that harassment is prohibited (e.g., written court policy, employee training).
        2. How to report harassment should be clear to all employees (e.g., in written policy and reviewed in training).
        3. The court will take prompt and appropriate action when notified policy is being violated.
      3. LGBT Protections – Gender Stereotyping: Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins, 490 U.S. 228 (1989). Although an older case, this case has proven significant to cases involving sex discrimination claims based on gender identity and sexual orientation.
      4. Online courses: Sexual Harassment Prevention for All Court Employees and Sexual Harassment for Judges & Supervisors are offered by the Supreme Court’s Judicial College.
    10. Administrative Actions (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, federal; (Ohio Civil Rights Commission) Know the reporting process in your municipality or county. (Employer requirements)
    11. Mandatory Postings of Information – Subscribe to service for postings or download posters for employers from the ODJFS Resource Center or purchase posters from a company such as Labor Law Compliance Center.
    12. Mandatory Employee Training – Be aware of mandatory HR training (sexual harassment, diversity, and inclusion, substance abuse), and other mandatory trainings for probation officers (under R.C. 2301.271), magistrates, staff attorneys, CASA, social workers, safety and/or security, etc.
    13. Retirement Issues – See Ohio Public Employees Retirement Systemrehire issues (R.C. 145.38)
    14. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) – Entitles eligible employees of covered employers to take unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons, with the continuation of group health insurance under the same terms and conditions as if the employee had not taken leave. See U.S. Department of Labor Fact Sheets.
      1. Consider a policy that prohibits employees from working for someone else while on FMLA. If no policy, then this is permissible under FMLA.
      2. Consider providing or requiring managers to attend regular training regarding FMLA.
      3. Consider a policy that requires concurrent use of all forms of leave and FMLA.
    15. Personnel Files – Personnel files are public records. The court must maintain I-9s, FMLA, ADA, and related documents in a separate file that is maintained apart from personnel files in a locked, secure area. It may be wise to keep files for the statutory time limit for appeals/lawsuits – not simply for the timeline for destruction, which tends to be shorter.
    16. Other considerations for new hires:
      1. Drug testing
      2. Background checks
      3. Self-reporting arrests and other violations 
    17. Tracking licensure – There may be a need to track licensure of employees due to insurance policies.  This may include professional, driver’s license or other licenses. Refer to local governmental insurance policies.
    18. Unionization – R.C. 4117.01(C)(8) excludes all “employees and officers of the courts...and the employees of the clerk of courts who perform a judicial function.” Courts can voluntarily consent to 4117-style collective bargaining and contracts and allow their employees to organize.  However, this will not be governed by the State Employment Relations Board (SERB).
    19. Court Reporter compensation may be unique in that compensation for court reporting and creation of transcripts can be separate. See 1999 Op. Atty Gen. No. 99-003.  Review your court’s policy regarding preparation of transcripts during court hours.

  1. Public Information Officer
    1. The court manager is often the lead on contacts with the media and needs to be able to balance the responsibility to the court, the individuals being served in the particular case, and the community at large.
    2. While much of the court’s business is public, some information may be restricted by court order, local rules, Rules of Superintendence, and statute.
    3. Security of the facility, staff, participants, litigants must all be considerations.
    4. Information provided on pending matters can differ from information shared on a resolved case.
    5. When sharing information, the public information officer should consider the audience. It is an opportunity to educate the public at large about the judicial system and its processes, and/or why it is appropriate to share some information while not other information.
    6. Be sure to note whether the court or sheriff has any policy restricting media access (e.g., media on-camera interviews must occur outside the courthouse, etc.).
    7. The National Center for State Courts Institute for Court Management course on Public Relations is a resource.
    8. Sup.R. 12 addresses photographing and broadcasting of court proceedings.
    9. Consider a policy for the release of information.
    10. There are several opinions regarding the restriction of media including
      1. State ex rel. Toledo Blade Co. v. Henry County Court of Common Pleas
      2. State ex rel. Dispatch Printing Co. v. Louden (2001), 91 Ohio St.3d
    11. Review Sup.R. 44-47 on public access to records.
      1. What is public record in one court might differ from what is public record in another division of court.  Review the rules on public access applicable to courts generally, and those that are specific to your type of court.
      2. Online course: Public Access & Records Retention is offered by the Supreme Court’s Judicial College.

  1. Education, Training, and Development
    1. Onboarding is essential to orienting a new employee to the court and providing base-level education regarding job requirements and court culture.
    2. Staff education is key.  For some staff, education is mandatory in order to keep licenses or certifications.
    3. Different departments may have educational requirements. Please See the specific job descriptions for requirements.
    4. Education Providers
      1. Judicial College provides relevant educational opportunities for court employees, generally at no cost.
      2. Online courses: Customer Service for Court Employees and Introduction to the Courts are offered by the Supreme Court’s Judicial College.
      3. The Ohio Association for Court Administration is the trade association for leaders in Ohio courts and provides two education-centered conferences per year.
      4. The court may have access to training through County Risk Sharing Authority (CORSA) if your county is a member, CORSA.
      5. Ohio Mediation Association provides educational opportunities.
    5. Managers and future managers of your court should seek continuing education regarding management and human resource matters.
      1. The Institute of Court Management offers two levels of certification within the Court management program: the Certified Court Manager (CCM) and the Certified Court Executive (CCE). Both certifications are offered by the Judicial College.
      2. The Judicial College periodically offers management courses in its “Supervisors Series.”

  1. Ethics
    1. Consider having a thorough policy within the employee manual to address and communicate to staff the court’s ethics policy.
    2. Areas of risk include campaign rules, other partisanship activity, customer relations, legal advice/information, receiving gifts, financial disclosure, public contracts, nepotism, confidentiality, use of county resources, and timeliness to work.
    3. Available Resources
      1. NACM Model Code of Conduct, with commentary
      2. Online courses: Ethics for Court Employees and Legal Advice vs. Legal Information are offered by the Supreme Court’s Judicial College.
      3. Ohio Ethics Laws Overview and Ohio Ethics Law and Related Statutes
      4. Courts are governed by the Board of Professional Conduct.
        1. Ohio Code of Judicial Conduct
        2. Rules for the Government of Judiciary
        3. Rules for the Government of the Bar
        4. Rules of Professional Conduct (applicable to attorneys in and practicing before the court)
    4. Attorney General's Opinion 42 (1983) provides that a local government entity should not pay the attorney registration fees for judges.
    5. The Ohio Board of Professional Conduct is a resource that can be consulted regarding potential ethical concerns. The Board has issued a number of opinions regarding judges and court personnel.
    6. Ohio Code of Judicial Conduct Rule 1.3 “Avoiding Abuse of the Prestige of Judicial Office” has been interpreted to apply to letters of support.  However, there are exceptions that can be found. The Board of Professional Conduct Conduct may be contacted if clarification is needed.
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