New York unions sue over paid coronavirus quarantine leave

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ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – The New York State Public Employees Federation (PEF) and the New York State Correctional Officers and Police Benevolent Association (NYSCOPBA) have both filed lawsuits regarding their members’ access to paid coronavirus quarantine leave.

The PEF is suing three state agencies: the Department of Civil Service (DCS), the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) and the Office of Mental Health (OMH), claiming the state has “irrationally and improperly deprived union members of their guaranteed right to paid COVID-19 quarantine leave.”

“Our lawsuit asserts that state employers have irrationally and improperly deprived our members of their guaranteed right to paid quarantine leave during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The infection rate is higher than it’s ever been and people are probably going to have to quarantine again. For some insane reason, agency leaders and managers are bringing more and more workers back into the office and creating a vicious cycle of positive tests, mandatory quarantines, and most importantly – putting the health of my union’s members at risk.

“It’s ridiculous and ludicrous to ask state workers to come back to work when they demonstrated they can successfully telecommute. The New York State workforce has been providing services since the beginning of this pandemic without a hiccup. PEF has shown that telecommuting works. We followed the science and flattened the curve.”

PEF President Wayne Spence

Citing a policy issued by the Governor’s Office of Employee Relations in March 2020, the PEF claims its members who have been placed in mandatory quarantine by state or local health officials are entitled to paid leave without charge to accruals, for all workdays within a two-week period.

They also point towards a law enacted by the State Legislature, which specifically says employees: “shall be provided with at least fourteen days of paid sick leave during any mandatory or precautionary order of quarantine.”

The NYSCOPBA also claim their members who have been placed in mandatory quarantine or have had to quarantine for more than 14-days have had paid leave improperly withheld. They have filed lawsuits against the New York Department of Corrections and Department of Civil Service.

It alleges the Department of Corrections have only provided a maximum of one 14-day block of paid leave to its members who were quarantined.

NYSCOPBA President, Michael B. Powers claims in a statement that correctional officers are at constant risk of infection and unable to work remotely due to the nature of their job.

He claims some members have been placed on two or three mandatory quarantines after being exposed to the virus while on duty. Powers goes on to say the members who have been quarantined multiple times have been forced to use personal leave or go without pay when “State law provides paid leave for them without charge to their accruals.”

You can see the full statement from NYSCOPBA President, Michael B. Powers below:

“Our members are essential staff and must come to work every day, without exception. Our members cannot work from home like so many others, and our members are often directed to work mandatory overtime.

Our prisons are at constant risk for COVID-19 outbreaks, so our members face constant risk of becoming infected every time they walk into their facilities. Then, when many of them inevitably become exposed to or contract COVID-19, they are placed out of work, through no fault of their own. They have no control over this. Since the pandemic has raged onward since March, our members are now being placed on second or even third mandatory quarantines, having been exposed to COVID-19 again and again while on duty.

Many of our members have contracted COVID-19 at work, have been unable to return to work in 14 days, and have been out on their own pay after that. They should not be punished by being forced to use personal leave or to go without pay when State law provides paid leave for them without charge to their accruals. This lawsuit will hopefully achieve our goals and put an end to this once and for all.”

NYSCOPBA President, Michael B. Powers

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