(FOX 46 CHARLOTTE) — At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, a lot of things shut down temporarily from stores to some state services.
Across North Carolina, dozens of state Department of Motor Vehicle offices closed. Workers were reassigned, some worked from home, but others came into the offices.
FOX 46 spoke with an employee who has worked inside an NCDMV office most of the pandemic, who felt like there was a danger in working.
“Every single day,” the employee said, who wishes to remain anonymous.
The employee shared an e-mail with FOX 46 that has been making its way around NCDMV offices across the state, asking a question about mandatory compensation.
The email cited guidelines that stated, during a public health emergency, employees were entitled to ‘time-and-a-half pay. Further on in the e-mail chain, the North Carolina Dept. of Transporation’s Deputy Director of Human Resources confirms this, stating that employees “could be entitled to the compensation” but noted, “due to budgetary constraints, we are not able to compensate.”
“I’ve talked with coworkers at over a dozen offices,” said the employee. “Everyone is upset because we were the ones who had to show up every day.”
In a statement, an NCDOT spokesperson said:
“While we always want to improve compensation for our employees, NCDMV did not shut down as a result of the pandemic and state policy does not require mandatory employees earn time and a half. NCDMV employees are dedicated public servants, and throughout the pandemic, they have ensured the communities they serve continue to get the services they need.”
FOX 46 found out there has been a little-known change to the policy of working during a health emergency. The previous policy, which was in effect for at least 12 years, said employees “shall be granted time and a half pay,” meaning it was required.
Around a month after the pandemic began, on April 28, 2020, the “shall” in that language changed to a “may,” effectively making it an option for state agencies, not a requirement.
The e-mails FOX 46 received, however, do indicate some sort of conversations may be taking place to resolve the compensation issue. The employee said the blame does not entirely lie with the state agency over this, noting the recent state budget passage.
“I don’t think it’s fair to say ‘we’ll do this to you, but we’re not going to keep our part of the bargain’,” said the employee.