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Human Resources Department

Employee & Volunteer Engagement & Recognition Unit (EVER)

Employee Suggestion Award Program

Employee and Volunteer Engagement and Recognition 750

I. Board Adoption of the Suggestion Program

  1. Purpose
    On July 15, 1980, the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors adopted an Employees’ Suggestion Award Program (Program). The Program is intended to encourage employee participation in improving the efficiency and effectiveness of their job and County operations in general. It is also intended to motivate employees toward problem identification and to stimulate creativity in problem-solving. The program provides a means to communicate to the employee the high value County management places on constructive ideas through recognition and reward.
  2. Procedures
    Administration of the Employee Suggestion Award Program of the County of Sonoma shall be governed by the procedures contained in these Bylaws.

II. Management’s Role

  1. Management shall support the Suggestion Award Program concept by being open to new ideas submitted by employees.
  2. Management shall be responsible for the time completion and return of suggestion evaluation form.

III. Definitions

Whenever in these regulations the following terms are used, they shall have the meaning respectively ascribed to them in this section unless otherwise noted.


A suggestion shall be considered to have been adopted when the new or revised procedures and/or methods it proposes are implemented by the Department Head, County Administrator, or Board of Supervisors.


Either monetary or certificate, or other acknowledgment that is given to an employee in recognition for a suggestion deemed valuable to the County of Sonoma.


The Board of Supervisors of the County of Sonoma.

Certificate of Award:

A document that accompanies a monetary award commending an employee for submitting a suggestion that results in a tangible cost reduction, improved public service and/or limits the County’s liability exposure, and that has been adopted and placed in operation.


The Suggestion Award Committee.


The Human Resources Department is responsible for the administration of the Program. The Human Resources Director may assign one of his or her subordinates to be the principal staff for this Program.


When the terms “Suggestion Form”, “Evaluation Form”, or any similar reference is used in these regulations, it shall refer to such document or documents as may from time to time be authorized and approved by the Suggestion Awards Committee.

Intangible Savings:

Those savings which improve efficiency, provide a greater level of service to the public, save space, simplify procedures, reduce or eliminate safety hazards, lower the County’s liability exposure, or in some other way improve County government, but which have no measurable savings.

Joint Suggestion:

A suggestion that is submitted over the signatures of two or more employees. Awards for joint suggestions shall be divided equally among the employees submitting such suggestions.

Letter of Appreciation:

A written letter that acknowledges the suggestion submitted by an employee and informs the employee that the suggestion does not qualify for a cash award, yet does represent a contribution to the County.

Net Savings:

The estimated first-year net cost reduction resulting from the adoption and implementation of a suggestion, determined by the affected department and approved by the Committee or recovery of revenue which would otherwise be lost to the County if the suggestion had not been adopted, providing that this does not apply to increases in revenue resulting from increased fees. In computing net cost reduction, the cost of placing the suggestion into effect may be amortized over the expected life of the suggestion as determined by the Committee.

Significant Budgetary Savings:

Those savings that reduce or eliminate expenditures in the budget, increase revenue to the County or, in general, result in reasonable savings that can be comprehended.


A written proposal by an employee that contains both the identification of a problem and the basis for an acceptable solution or indicates to the Committee a way to do any job, system or procedure better, more quickly, more easily, more safely and/or at less cost; or to handle additional workload with the same staff and/or equipment; or to produce a more efficient operation with better control.

IV. Suggestions Awards Committee

  1. Membership of the Committee
    The Committee shall be composed of the following five members:
    1. A representative of the County Administrator’s Office.
    2. A representative of the Auditor-Controller’s Office.
    3. A representative of the Human Resources Department.
    4. A representative of the Management Advisory Council.
    5. An employee representative of SEIU Local 707.
  2. Alternate Members
    Each member shall have an alternate to attend meetings and vote in his or her absence. The member shall notify the Committee Secretary if he or she will be absent.
  3. Function and Responsibility of the Committee
    The Committee shall be responsible directly to the Board of Supervisors. It shall exercise general direction over the Program. It shall meet quarterly and hold special meetings as necessary for the operation of the Program. It may request assistance, as needed, from the Board of Supervisors in obtaining support and cooperation from County departments. The Committee shall:
    1. Review all suggestions and evaluations brought before it in a fair and impartial manner.
    2. Recommend the amount of each award, if applicable, to the Board of Supervisors.
    3. Assure that each suggestion is thoroughly and fairly investigated and reported on.
    4. Request further information and investigation deemed appropriate.
    5. Encourage employees to make suggestions, encourage departments to promote the Program among their employees, and to explain the Program to departments upon request.
    6. Make necessary changes in procedures in the interest of fairness and equity, with the exception of the rules governing the amount of the award.
    7. To determine the eligibility of suggestions for awards if necessary.
    8. Periodically review and update regulations as necessary.
    9. Call upon any County officer or employee for information on the evaluation or implementation of a suggestion.
    10. Appoint an individual to keep minutes of each meeting, and to supply each committee member and/or an alternate with copies of the minutes, the agenda, and the suggestions.
  4. Officers
    The Committee shall select from its membership a chairperson and a vice-chairperson.
  5. Conduct of Business
    The meetings of the Committee shall be conducted according to Roberts’ Rules of Order or such other procedure that the Committee may adopt subject to such modification as the Committee may, from time to time, determine.
  6. Quorum
    A quorum shall consist of three Committee members.
  7. Voting
    Each member of the Committee shall have one vote. At least a majority vote shall be necessary for approval of all matters requiring Committee action.
  8. Special Meetings
    When any two members of the Committee ask the chair- person to call a special meeting of the Committee to consider any matters requiring consideration and/or action by the Committee under these regulations, the chairperson shall schedule a meeting within two weeks of such a request.

V. Program Coordinator

This function is assigned to the Human Resources Department. The Human Resources Director may assign one of his or her staff to the Program. The staff works under the general guidance of the Suggestion Awards Committee.

  1. Function and Responsibility
    The Human Resources Director or his or her designated representative shall:
    1. Develop guidelines and procedures for the administration, promotion, publicity and maintenance of the Suggestion Awards Program.
    2. Administer, promote, publicize and maintain the Program
    3. Ensure compliance with program requisites and goals by the orderly processing of suggestions and award payments.
    4. Provide initial screening of all suggestions and return those not appropriate for evaluation.
    5. Provide recommendations to the Committee for appropriate awards and/or disposition.

VI. Evaluators

  1. The Evaluator
    The Human Resources Director or his/her designated representative shall refer the eligible suggestions to the appropriate department or departments for evaluation. It is the responsibility of department heads to select a qualified, objective individual to evaluate suggestions.
  2. Function and Responsibility
    The Evaluator shall:
    1. Treat each suggestion fairly, give factual and complete, prompt replies.
    2. Review each suggestion for merit and implementation feasibility.
    3. Estimate monetary savings even if suggestor or suggestion may not be eligible for awards.
    4. Summarize the effect of the suggestion, whether eligible or not.
    5. Assess total benefits carefully and determine whether it is feasible to implement the suggestion.
    6. Have department head sign off on the evaluation form.

VII. Eligibility

  1. Eligibility for Submission of Suggestions
    1. Every employee of the County of Sonoma or of the Board of Supervisors’ governed districts is eligible to submit suggestions under the Suggestion Program.
    2. Every terminated or retired employee is eligible for an award provided that his or her suggestion was received by the Human Resources Department prior to the termination or retirement date, and provided that he or she meets other eligibility conditions.
    3. The following employees shall not be eligible for a cash award under the Program:
      1. Members of the Board of Supervisors and their personal staff.
      2. Board or Commission members appointed by the Board of Supervisors.
      3. Members of the Suggestion Award Committee.
      4. The Human Resources Director and/or staff analyst assigned to the Program.
      5. Administrative management or supervisory personnel whose primary job responsibility is problem identification, analysis and solution, are ineligible for monetary awards for suggestions involving their own job assignments.
      6. Consultants employed by the County.

VIII. Eligibility of Suggestions

  1. Eligible Suggestions
    To be eligible for an award, a suggestion must be adopted in whole or part, and result in significant benefits involving the following:
    1. Save time, labor, space, materials or supplies.
    2. Improve methods, procedures, or equipment resulting in increased output and/or efficiency.
    3. Eliminate unnecessary procedures, records, and forms.
    4. Improve service, safety conditions, and/or County liability.
    5. Eliminate bottlenecks, accidents, delays, duplication, waste or spoilage.
    6. Improve revenue to the County except as limited by Section VIII (B) (13).
  2. Ineligible Suggestions
    Suggestions that fall into the following categories will not be eligible for awards:
    1. Those that call attention to a problem, but do not suggest an acceptable solution.
    2. Those that contain an idea already under active consideration by the County. This must be documented by the department(s) and reviewed by the Awards Committee.
    3. Those calling for enforcement of existing rules, policies and procedures.
    4. Those that are duplications of suggestions submitted within the last 24-month period.
    5. Those dealing with normal maintenance unless such suggestion contributes to the solution of a maintenance problem.
    6. Those proposing adjustments in salaries, job classification, or terms and conditions of employment that is subject to negotiation with recognized employee organizations.
    7. Those proposals for budgeting or staff changes for which other specific channels are prescribed for submittal.
    8. Those that are within the scope of the normal job responsibility of the suggestor.
    9. Those where the evaluation by the department and/or Awards Committee show that the potential benefits would not offset the cost of implementation.
    10. Suggestions that cannot or will not be implemented by the County because they are not practical or there are insufficient funds to implement suggestion.
    11. Those submitted for reconsideration more than ninety days after implementation of the suggestion.
    12. Those that were previously adopted and implemented.
    13. Those that propose an increase in existing fees to be charged for current County services.
      The decision by the Suggestion Awards Committee as to whether a proposal constitutes an eligible suggestion under these regulations shall be final.

IX. Suggestion Procedure

  1. Basic Regulations
    The following criteria must be complied with before a suggestion is accepted for evaluation:
    1. A suggestion must be submitted in writing to the Human Resources Department on the suggestion forms designated for that purpose.
    2. The suggestor shall set forth on the designated suggestion form in writing the following:
      1. A description of the present method or problem that the suggestion seeks to correct or improve.
      2. A description of the suggested solution and the procedure to accomplish the improvement.
      3. A description of the results anticipated from adoption of the suggestion.
      4. Any sketches, drawings, maps, photographs or other descriptive material necessary to describe the suggestion fully and clearly.
      5. An estimate of the amount of money the County may be expected to save (annualized from the date of implementation) if the suggestion is adopted and put into operation.
      6. The name and signature of the employee submitting the suggestion. If it is a joint suggestion, the signature of all employees joining in the suggestion shall appear.
      7. A return mailing address to which replies should be addressed, and the telephone number of the suggestor.
    3. The suggestion form and a copy of these regulations shall be made available to employees by the department Payroll Clerk.
    4. If a suggestion is rejected and is subsequently put into practice in part or in its entirety by the County, then in order to be eligible for the appropriate award the suggestor must request reconsideration of the suggestion for award. Such request must be submitted in writing to the Committee within 90 calendar days of such time as the suggestor might reasonably be expected to learn that the suggestion has been implemented.
  2. Anonymity
    At the request of the suggestor, the Coordinator may remove there-from the name and address of the suggestor, together with any other marks or information that might reveal the suggestor’s name, and thereafter the suggestion shall be known only by its identification number. The Coordinator shall not reveal the name of the suggestor until the suggestion is adopted.
  3. Identical Suggestions
    If at any time during the course of processing a suggestion it is found that a suggestion submitted previously presents the same proposal, only the suggestion received first shall be eligible for any award or certificate, and the employee submitting the duplicate suggestion shall be so informed by the committee. This regulation shall apply only where the second suggestion is received within two years of the date of the last entry, relative to the first suggestion in the committee’s official records. Otherwise, the second suggestion shall be deemed an original suggestion and processed accordingly.

X. Suggestion Process

  1. Submission
    1. All suggestions shall be transmitted to the Human Resources Department. If a suggestion is received in any manner other than that prescribed by these regulations, it shall be returned to the suggestor together with a suggestion form and an explanation of how to proceed in the prescribed manner.
    2. Upon receipt of a suggestion as defined in these regulations, the Coordinator shall place upon it the date and time it was received and shall assign an identification number to it.
    3. Upon receipt of a suggestion, the Coordinator shall transmit a letter to the suggestor acknowledging its receipt and informing the suggestor of the identification number.
    4. If the Coordinator is in doubt as to whether the suggestion is eligible or the suggestor is eligible for a monetary award, he or she shall submit the matter to the Committee for a final decision.
    5. The Coordinator shall maintain a permanent file of all matters pertaining to each suggestion and log showing the current status or final disposition of of each suggestion.
    6. Suggestions will be reviewed quarterly. If a suggestion is received after the due date, it will be reviewed in the following quarter.
    7. Suggestions shall ordinarily be processed in the order received. However, if The judgment of the coordinator, a suggestion involves a matter of immediate importance and application, it may be advanced in the processing.
    8. The Committee shall make its recommendation to the Board on all acceptable suggestions within 90 calendar days of the date of return from the department, on a quarterly basis.
  2. Evaluation
    1. The Coordinator shall refer clearly eligible suggestions to the appropriate County department(s) for investigation and recommendation. Within 45 calendar days after receiving a suggestion, each department shall report to the Coordinator its findings and its recommendations as to acceptance or rejection of the suggestion. The department’s report shall include the following information.
      1. An estimate of the annualized savings in time, labor, material, space, hazard, inconvenience and/or other factors.
      2. An estimate of the cost of implementation and a recommendation on the amortization of the cost of adoption of the suggestion.
      3. The estimate of the period of time over which the saving.
      4. A recommendation as to adoption or rejection of the suggestion. If the suggestion is recommended for rejection the complete reasons for the rejection shall be stated. The department head shall review and sign the evaluation form.
      5. A statement as to whether consideration of the suggestion has led or is likely to lead to an alternate or modified solution of the problem the suggestion modifies.
      6. A statement as to whether the suggestion proposes something which is already or has been under active consideration by management with clear, written documentation that this is the case.
    2. The Coordinator shall periodically review the records to see whether any evaluations by departments are overdue, and in such case shall send follow-up notices to departments asking the reason for the delay. If the department requires more time to complete its investigating it shall so notify the Coordinator, indicating when the investigation will be complete. The Coordinator shall notify the suggestor of the delay.
    3. A suggestion relating to safety will be sent to Risk Management for evaluation.
    4. A suggestion relating to the purchase of an unusual piece of equipment will be sent to the Purchasing Agent for review.
    5. The Coordinator shall review the department evaluation and submit the recommendation to the Awards Committee.
  3. Awards Committee Review
    1. The Committee shall review the suggestion and the departmental analysis and recommendation before its monthly meeting.
    2. The Committee shall determine whether the suggestor and the suggestion are eligible for a cash award or non-monetary award and shall recommend to the Board as to the amount of the award, if any, in accordance with these Regulations.
    3. The suggestor is notified of the department recommendation and the Committee’s recommendation.
    4. The Board of Supervisors shall make the final determination whether to approve an award. Once a suggestion has been placed into actual beneficial use, the Board shall present a certificate of Award and a monetary award to the suggestor for money suggestions, or a Certificate of Award and a token of appreciation for non-monetary suggestions. A copy of the certificate shall be placed in the suggestor’s personnel file.
    5. If the award is rejected, a letter shall be sent to the suggestor by the Committee, which states the specific reason(s) for rejection.
    6. Should a suggestor be dissatisfied with the amount of award or the reasons for rejection of his or her suggestion, he or she may file a written request for reconsideration within 30 calendar days from the date on the letter notifying the suggestor of the decision. Such request must state the basis for reconsideration. The Committee should review the file at its next meeting. Only one such request shall be granted on any given case. This request is separate from the process outlined in Section XI A (4).
    7. Suggestors shall be encouraged to discuss their suggestions with their supervisors. The supervisor shall maintain the confidentiality of both the suggestor and the suggestion. Suggestors may solicit supervisors’ comments for their initial applications. In cases where the assistance of job experience has been significant in framing the suggestions upon recommendation of the suggestor’s department of the Committee, a letter of appreciation shall be sent to the supervisor and a copy placed in the supervisor’s personnel file.

XI. Awards

  1. Monetary Awards
    1. The award for measurable savings to the County for the first calendar year’s projected net savings will be 10% of the savings up to a maximum award of $5,000 (Board of Supervisors approved 10/6/90), except that no award shall be less than $100.
    2. Upon finding that a net savings will accrue to the County by adopting and placing the suggestion into operation and also finding that there is unusual difficulty in computing such net savings, the Committee may recommend to the Board that the suggestor be paid a preliminary award of $100 and that the suggestion be re- evaluated after it has been in operation for twelve months. If, after re-evaluation of the operation and re-estimating the first year’s net saving, the Committee finds that on the basis of the re-estimate of net saving of the first year’s operations, a larger award than the preliminary award should be paid to the suggestor, the Committee shall recommend that the suggestor be paid an additional award equal to 10% of the re-estimated first year’s net savings less the $100, provided in no event shall the total monetary award exceed the aggregate total of $5,000 for any one suggestion.
    3. Upon finding that a net saving and/or improved public service or reduced liability will accrue to the County through analyzing and placing a suggestion in operation, and that it is impractical or uneconomical to estimate the amount of such savings, the Committee may recommend to the Board that the suggestor be paid a monetary award of $100 for any one suggestion.
    4. Upon finding that the suggestion cannot be adopted or placed in operation, but the suggestion has led directly to the adoption of improving or changes that result in a savings and/or improved public services or reduced liability to the County, the Committee may recommend to the Board that the suggestor be paid a monetary award of $100 for any one suggestion.
    5. The committee shall recommend the awarding of a Certificate of Award to the originator of an adopted suggestion, which shall be presented to the suggestor along with the monetary award in an appropriate ceremony. A copy of the suggestion and the Certificate of Award shall become a permanent part of the employee’s personnel file.
  2. Non-Monetary Awards
    The Committee shall give a Certificate of Award and a token of appreciation to an employee whose suggestions do not qualify for a monetary award, but which represents a contribution to the County.
  3. Payment of Awards
    Awards will be paid by the department(s) that receives the benefit of the suggestion. If more than one department benefits from a suggestion, payment will be split proportional to the benefit each department receives.

XII. Ownership of Suggestions

  1. All suggestions that are adopted shall become the property of the County of Sonoma. The suggestion form shall include a waiver of ownership of the suggestion and of any future claims upon the County based upon the suggestion.
  2. If any employee subsequently obtains a patent for a suggestion for which he or she has received a monetary award, all benefits from the patent shall accrue to the suggestor provided that the County shall be entitled to use the patented idea, feature, device, product, apparatus or design without charge.
  3. By submission of a suggestion, the suggestor thereby waives any claim for compensation for each suggestion, other than as herein provided, and each suggestion from submitted by a suggestor shall contain such a waiver.
  4. The Board of Supervisors’ decisions regarding the awards are final.