Mark Conlon has been the Trial Court’s Director of Human Resources since 2009. He was originally hired in 1982 and served as the Trial Court Personnel Administrator for approximately 15 years and as a Personnel Specialist before that. Mr. Conlon received a BA from the University of Rhode Island; an MPA from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst; and a JD from Suffolk University Law School. He is designated as a Special Assistant Attorney General to supervise labor litigation and has taught as adjunct faculty at Anna Maria College since 2000.
This interview first appeared in the Probate and Family Court’s Family Matters newsletter published in December.
How do you define the role of HR in the Trial Court? Is HR just for managers or for all employees?
The HR Department has two roles. We have a labor relations role in that we negotiate collective bargaining agreements on behalf of the Trial Court with the unions that represent employees, we administer and interpret the provisions of those agreements, and represent the employer (in this case, the Trial Court) in arbitration proceedings.
We also have traditional HR responsibilities in the areas of hiring, promotions, salary administration, position management and classification, professional development and training, and benefits administration.
We value our role as a service organization and take that role seriously. On a daily basis, we answer questions from employees and managers on a range of issues. As appropriate, we will ensure that the inquiry and advice provided is confidential. We have an obligation to the organization to interpret the policies in the spirit in which they were drafted and to see that they are being applied in a fair and consistent manner.
Our advice is always the best advice we can provide. We also, however, have to be sensitive to the possibility that employees are end-running their managers. Any misconception that we favor management may be in the cases where we are advising a manager on how to address an issue of employee misbehavior or misconduct. If the employee who is the focus of that manager contacts us, we will advise the employee to speak to his or her union to ensure that the employee’s side is also taken into consideration.
When will the Trial Court allow employees to work part-time again?
There is no complete prohibition on part-time work. We did see an increase in part-time arrangements based on the 2009 fiscal crisis and the incentive program for part-time work schedules that was adopted as a way to address the budget deficit. Recently, we’ve been reviewing those part-time arrangements to determine whether they still meet the operational needs of the court. This has resulted in fewer part-time work schedules.
Does the Trial Court allow retired employees to return to work and volunteer, or come back and work on a per-diem basis?
Yes, we do allow retired employees to return to work with the approval of the Department Administrative Office and the approval of the Court Administrator. The retirement statute provides a limitation on the number of hours a retired employee may work and the amount of salary they may receive. In some cases, we have allowed an employee to return to mentor his or her replacement. In other cases, it has been for specific projects.
When will employees be reclassified again?
I believe this question relates to clerical employee reclassifications and will answer from that perspective. Under the current classification plan for clerical employees, reclassifications are ongoing. I should add that these reclassifications were allowed even during the hiring freeze that was imposed from 2009-2013 due to the budget deficit. Employees may receive reclassification from one level of a job series to another (i.e., Case Specialist I to Case Specialist II) consistent with the requirements for reclassification in that job series.
The Local 6 collective bargaining agreement provides for the creation of a committee to evaluate the classifications to ensure they reflect responsibilities performed and are consistent from one court to another. The committee may also make recommendations to create new classifications and new levels to meet the changing needs of the Trial Court.
The increasing use of technology is changing not only the way the work is performed but the types of positions that are needed. We expect that this committee will be formed and start working on this important initiative this fiscal year.
How do you report favoritism and what action will be taken by HR to investigate the validity of the complaint?
Employees may report these issues to the HR Department or may file a grievance if they believe favoritism resulted in a violation of their rights under the collective bargaining agreement. HR will investigate the claim and make a recommendation to the Court Administrator.
What is nepotism? What was the reason behind the new nepotism policy?
The new Nepotism Policy can be found in Section 4.304 . Nepotism refers to the hiring of immediate family members. We have circulated the new Nepotism Policy to further the goal that hiring and promotions are based on merit.
Are temporary appointments still allowed in the Trial Court and if so under what circumstances?
Yes, temporary appointments are permitted under Section 4.700 of the Personnel Policies and Procedures Manual. That Section references summer employment, college or university programs, or to temporarily replace an employee who is on an unpaid leave of absence, or to address extenuating circumstances.
Under the contract for Local 6, are transfers of members within the Trial Court allowed? Some employees who have been disciplined are transferred to other offices to avoid further disciplinary actions taken. Is this allowed by the Trial Court?
The Local 6 collective bargaining agreement permits transfers. Under most circumstances depending on operational needs, volunteers are sought first. There is also statutory authorization for the Court Administrator to make both temporary and permanent transfers for the administration of justice. Employees who wish to transfer to work closer to home should watch for postings and apply for positions that are of interest to them. We can’t simply transfer employees at their request because it may leave their current courts understaffed.
Is there a way to print the application for employment after completion, but before it is submitted for review? If not, why?
The Trial Court uses an applicant tracking system for candidates to apply online. Candidates can print the application for review prior to submission. If there are questions about this, candidates should contact the HR Department.
What are some of the biggest challenges you faced this calendar year?
The biggest challenges were developing and administrating exams for the Probation and Security Departments and in the implementation of performance evaluations.