CASE Message to Voting Members Regarding COVID-19 Virus and Steps to Take if Telework is Unreasonably Denied
In response to the COVID-19 crisis, CASE has been using all of its resources to urge the State to adopt much broader telework options for all state workers to protect their health and to facilitate social distancing for the entire community. After numerous emails and calls, we were informed on Friday night that the State is allowing departments to expand telework in response to the crisis. Paul Starkey, Deputy Director of Labor Relations told us the following:
As the State continues to respond to the emergent public health concerns surrounding COVID-19, departments may respond with emergency telework programs tailored to the operational needs of the department and public health concerns, including concerns for the health and safety of state employees.
Given the rapidly evolving nature of this emergency, departments will provide you notice of these policies as soon as possible. While we have had emergencies in the past, the magnitude of the present challenge cannot be understated. We appreciate your input on behalf of the employees you represent and will continue to do our best to keep you informed.
All members of Unit 2 who are impacted by this emergency and in need of teleworking should contact their management to request telework in writing.
Late Friday, some departments began implementing this policy.
CPUC has informed its managers to maximize telework opportunities as quickly as possible while still meeting critical needs. Employees must have an approved Telework Agreement in place but can do so with existing technology while CPUC expands its capacity.
DOJ has asked employees who have the potential to telecommute to develop a work plan and present it to their direct managers for review and approval. DOJ is also expanding its capacity for remote access. DOJ employees will have to already be approved for telework or fill out appropriate forms for approval.
Other Departments: If you are not in one of the departments that has a plan, please contact your management and request in writing that they follow the State’s directive to allow telework. You should prepare any paperwork that exists for telework and prepare a work plan describing the work you will be able to do remotely, the ways in which you will be able to be reached by email and phone, and any additional resources you will need to effectively work from home.
For those who are impacted by school closures and need to be home to care for their children, if you are still able to work, you should also submit a telework plan as described above. For others, accrued leave time may have to be used. However, in some circumstances, Paid Administrative Time Off may be granted for those without leave credits, subject to mandated quarantines, or suffering other hardships. Please contact your management if you think you might qualify.
We want to remind all Voting Members of CASE of a few specific provisions of our MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) with the State.
First, section 6.4.B of the MOU provides “Employee requests for telework shall not be denied except for operational needs.” This provision along with the State’s emergency expansion of telework should be sufficient to support many of our members’ ability to telework during this crisis. Obviously, if a member has to preside over or attend court appearances or other mission critical functions that require your attendance, telework may not be an option. However, the need to work from the office should be based on clearly articulable, specific, mission critical needs. If your written work plan and request for telework are denied, please contact us.
Another relevant provision of the MOU that applies to the vast majority of our members (those in Work Week Group E or SE), is section 6.3.E.1 which provides “Employees shall not . . . [b]e charged any paid leave for absences in less than whole day increments.” This provision, often referred to as the “Partial Day Absence Rule” means that employees who work any part of a work day at the workplace cannot be charged paid leave for any absences on that day. Thus, if your duties require you to be in the office or court for only a few hours, you can then leave the office without taking any paid leave. When utilizing this option, we remind all members to adhere to the other provisions of the MOU which require employees to “keep management reasonably apprised of their schedule and whereabouts” and also require employees “to work all hours necessary to accomplish their assignments and fulfill their responsibilities.”
We want to assure you that CASE will vigorously defend all Voting Members against any discipline based on any department’s unreasonable denial of telework or any other provision of the MOU. We understand that school closures, sick or quarantined family members, and closed businesses are making everyday life more difficult and that our members are facing challenges in managing their home lives while accomplishing their work duties. We will keep you updated with additional information as it becomes available.
This email may not reach all CASE members. Accordingly, CASE encourages you to pass this email along to any of your colleagues who may not have received it. If you are not receiving CASE emails and wish to receive future communications from CASE, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and request to be added to the distribution list.
CASE also encourages you to send responses from your personal email address as opposed to your state email address. Please keep in mind that all responses will be treated as confidential by CASE.
As always, your support of CASE and your colleagues in Bargaining Unit 2 is greatly appreciated.
The CASE Board of Directors