City of El Paso reinstating some furloughed workers who received layoff notices earlier this week

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EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — After receiving layoff notices earlier this week, some of the city of El Paso’s librarians told KTSM 9 News that they’ve received calls from the city on Thursday evening, telling them they will be reinstated to their former positions.

On Wednesday, furloughed employees stated they received layoff notices from the city claiming positions needed to be suspended due to the financial impact of the global pandemic.

The city of El Paso clarified that they reinstated 65 of the 156 employees who were furloughed in May, however, said 75 remained on furlough.

As of Friday, District 3 city Rep. Cassandra Hernandez said 39 had been reinstated into their positions and that city manager Tommy Gonzalez was working to bring the remainder back.

She said impacted positions were not being deleted and the city plans to re-open all quality of life services as health guidance and budgetary restraints permit. And, a 30-day hiring freeze was implemented to ensure enough vacant positions for furloughed employees were available.

“We value and need our city employees,” she said. “We look forward to having everyone back so we can continue to provide the services so many of our residents benefit from and enjoy.”

Mayor Oscar Leeser told KTSM 9 News it has always been the city’s intention to put furloughed employees back to work. Furlough decisions were driven by the reduction or suspension of services in relation to the pandemic, he added.

Leeser said the human resources department will continue working with employees to best match their skills with open positions.

“Civil service dictates how furloughed employees return to work and the letter issued followed those guidelines,” he said. “I am thrilled that in its phase-in-assessment of reopening quality of life services, the city was able to place a large number of the furloughed employees back in the libraries.”

On Wednesday afternoon, City Chief Financial Office Robert Cortinas said it was the City’s intention to bring back all furloughed workers and they would have the option to fill vacant positions if they qualified. The city also said those positions would be at an equal or lesser pay grade to their current positions.

Susan Barnum, a librarian with the City of El Paso, said she was one of a few library employees to receive a layoff notice and a phone call from the City on Thursday around 8 p.m., telling her that the letter was rescinded.

“It’s just an emotional rollercoaster,” Barnum said. “They said, ‘disregard the layoff letter that we sent you, we’re going to be reinstating you and you’ll get further information following up.'”

Around the same time Thursday evening, the City sent out a news release saying the city was dedicated to protecting the rights, seniority and benefits of its Civil Service employees. In a statement, City Manager Tommy Gonzalez said:

“We have been aggressive in our actions to give our furloughed employees the best opportunity to place them in positions suitable for them by implementing a 30-day hiring freeze to ensure we have enough frozen vacant positions for each of the furloughed employees, so that they can be placed in the position that best suits their skills.”

The city said on Wednesday that furloughed departments included:

  • Library
  • Parks and Recreation
  • Zoo
  • Museums and Cultural Affairs

The city said the departments with vacancies included:

  • City Clerk/Municipal Courts
  • Office of Management and Budget/City Manager/Internal Auditor
  • Human Resources
  • Information Technology Services
  • Purchasing
  • Tax
  • Police
  • Fire
  • Animal Services
  • Planning and Inspections
  • Streets and Maintenance
  • Environmental Services
  • Capital Improvement
  • Health
  • Sun Metro
  • Airport
  • International Bridges
  • El Paso Water

It is unclear which departments continue to be affected after the city began rescinding layoff notices. KTSM reached out to the city for comment.

This is a developing story and the story will be updated.

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