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New Telework Stipend Program Policy Effective October 1; Retroactive Payments Likely

Posted: 10/7/2021 Tags: legislation policy representation Tags Views: 2396

The Department of Human Resources (CalHR) and the Department of General Services (DGS) have implemented a new Telework Stipend Program and a new statewide Telework Policy – each effective on October 1, 2021. Although the new statewide DGS Telework Policy is now effective, emergency telework provisions still remain in effect.

CalHR confirmed to ACSS that telework stipends for excluded employees are intended to be effective October 1, 2021, but that the payment of the stipends most likely requires a legislative appropriation. This means payments are not expected to begin until the Legislature passes a measure approving the appropriation of funds after returning to session in January 2022. CalHR confirmed that with a legislative appropriation, the telework stipend payments for excluded employees will be retroactive to October 1.

The major provisions of the new Telework Policy and Telework Stipend Program include:

  • An encouragement of teleworking, with management/departments retaining the discretion to find that positions or job classifications are not appropriate for telework
  • Dependent care and personal responsibilities cannot affect work duties or professionalism
  • For employees who telework, they will be either remote-centered (50% or more at home) or office-centered (more than 50% at the office)
    -  Remote-centered employees will receive a $50 per month stipend
    -  Office-centered employees will receive a $25 per month stipend
    -  As employees need to provide adequate internet coverage to perform the job, this is the main basis for the stipend
  • Other equipment and office supplies may be provided or reimbursed (pens, paper, printer ink, etc.)
  • The state will provide equipment for a single dedicated work station for employees
    -  Remote-centered teleworkers shall have their dedicated work station at their designated alternate work location. Remote-centered teleworkers shall use a shared work station when working in the office
    -  Office-centered teleworkers shall have a dedicated work station in the office and utilize their own equipment or department provided mobile equipment for teleworking at their designated alternate work location
  • Each department will have to adopt its own telework policy by October 1, 2022, but cannot alter the CalHR Standard 200 Telework Form

Departments are encouraged by the Administration to determine the maximum level of telework appropriate based on their operational needs with the goal of maximizing telework. ACSS will meet and confer as appropriate over proposed departmental telework policies to protect the interests of supervisors and managers.

ACSS’ legislative advocates will work to ensure the Legislature approves an appropriation to fund the telework stipends for excluded employees. We will keep you apprised of the progress and expected timing of retroactive telework stipend payments for eligible excluded employees.

If you have questions about telework, contact your ACSS Labor Relations Representative.


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Health and Human Services Agency Secretary Urges State Employees to Get Vaccinated; ACSS to Meet with CalHR Over COVID-19 Testing Direction to State Agencies

Posted: 9/30/2021 Tags: COVID-19 health policy representation Tags Views: 293

On September 28, 2021, the California Department of Human Resources (CalHR) shared a letter with ACSS drafted by Dr. Mark Ghaly, Secretary of the California Health and Human Services Agency. Dr. Ghaly’s letter urges all state employees who have not yet been vaccinated to reconsider and get a COVID-19 vaccine. Click here to read Dr. Ghaly’s letter.

State departments continue to develop protocols and provide notice to ACSS over the weekly mandatory COVID-19 testing of unvaccinated employees working on site. The statewide roll-out of this mandatory testing is slower than expected because of the limited availability of testing kits.

ACSS has consistently taken the position that no excluded employee should be mandated to be a COVID-19 “Test Administrator”, responsible for handling potentially infectious swabs, over their objection. The current policy direction of CalHR to state departments is to “highly recommend” the use of supervisors and above to perform these testing duties. ACSS has requested to meet and confer with CalHR over the COVID-19 Test Administrator selection process. ACSS has made a series of proposals to CalHR to strengthen the testing process and protect the interests of excluded employees. We await the scheduling of a meeting with CalHR to discuss ACSS’ proposals.

While awaiting clarification of statewide policy direction from CalHR, ACSS is requesting that all departments select only volunteers to perform the COVID-19 testing functions and that the volunteer pool not be limited to only excluded employees.

If you have questions about vaccine verifications or mandatory COVID-19 testing, contact your ACSS Labor Relations Representative.


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Vaccine Mandates: Ordered for Health Care Facilities; Under Review by Federal Court for CDCR Institutional Settings

Posted: 8/11/2021 Tags: COVID-19 policy representation Tags Views: 691

ACSS has been informed of two recent developments concerning COVID-19 vaccination mandates for employees in “health care facilities” and employees at CDCR institutions.

Emergency Order Requiring Vaccinations in Health Care Settings

On August 5, 2021, the California State Public Health Officer ordered mandatory vaccinations for employees in all “health care facilities” in the state by September 30, 2021. ACSS has requested information from CalHR clarifying the scope of this order as applied to excluded employees. ACSS has also requested information from CalHR regarding the expected employment status of any employee who does not establish proof of vaccination or receive an exception for religious beliefs or a qualified medical exemption by the September 30 deadline.

Court Considers Mandatory Vaccinations for CDCR Employees

On August 9, 2021, a U.S. District Judge ordered briefing over whether COVID-19 vaccinations should be mandatory for CDCR institutional staff. The underlying lawsuit involves medical care in state prisons. The Federal Receiver overseeing medical care in state prisons recommended to the court “that access by workers to CDCR institutions be limited to those workers who establish proof of vaccination (or have established a religious or medical exception to vaccination).” The court has asked the parties whether they agree or disagree with the public health conclusions supporting the Receiver’s recommendation.

There is also some uncertainty over which CDCR employees are covered by the August 5th order of the State Public Health Officer saying that all workers in “health care facilities” must be vaccinated. The court has asked the parties to weigh-in on whether the August 5th order applies to some or all of CDCR’s employees. The matter is tentatively set for a hearing on September 16, 2021.

As additional information is received from CalHR and the courts regarding mandatory vaccination orders, ACSS will continue to evaluate the orders and exception process to ensure the interests of supervisors and managers are protected.

If you have questions about vaccine mandates, contact your ACSS Labor Relations Representative.


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Update on CalHR Vaccine Verification and COVID-19 Testing Direction to State Agencies

Posted: 8/4/2021 Tags: COVID-19 policy representation Tags Views: 984

On July 26, 2021, the California Department of Human Resources (CalHR) announced a policy requiring state departments to have a process for vaccine verification and requiring mandatory COVID-19 testing of unvaccinated employees working on site. On August 3, CalHR Director Eraina Ortega provided a vaccine verification and testing update.

CalHR and the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) are developing a testing program that will be implemented first in four departments - CHP, CalFire, Caltrans and DMV. CalHR and CDPH will meet with those departments later this week. Following the implementation in those departments, CalHR will create the “playbook” for state departments to expand the testing program to all departments. Based on that schedule, it may take some time for testing to be done in all state departments.

CDPH has developed a draft “Antigen Testing Playbook” which is expected to form the basis for the state employee testing process. As the testing protocols are developed for state departments, ACSS will review the testing process (e.g., self-collecting swabs, test results, next steps related to positive tests, data collection) to protect the interest of members. Testing roles and responsibilities and are likely to differ based on the size of departments or worksites.

State departments will receive instructions for reporting both the percentage of employees who have verified their vaccine status and how many employees working on-site are anticipated to be tested at least weekly. Employees without a vaccine verification who telework full time will not be required to test unless they come into the office.

CalHR has confirmed to ACSS that as testing protocols are developed, departments will provide notice to ACSS and an opportunity to meet and confer over the impact to ensure the interests of supervisors and managers are protected.

If you have questions about vaccine verifications or the testing requirements, contact your ACSS Labor Relations Representative.


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CalHR Issues COVID-19 Testing Direction to State Agencies

Posted: 7/27/2021 Tags: COVID-19 policy representation Tags Views: 1730

The California Department of Human Resources has provided direction to state departments requiring mandatory COVID-19 testing of unvaccinated state employees working on site. The CalHR direction follows an increase in case rates tied to low vaccination rates in some communities and the increased transmissibility of the Delta variant.


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CalHR Issues Pay Letters Ending the PLP 2020 Reduction and Implementing Salary Increases

Posted: 7/9/2021 Tags: benefits budget legislation policy representation salary Tags Views: 2088

This week CalHR issued two pay letters impacting excluded employees. Pay Letter 21-18 ends the pay reductions (generally 9.23%) from the Personal Leave Program 2020. Pay Letter 21-19 increases salaries for most excluded employees through General Salary Increases and includes a number of Special Salary Adjustments. The State Controller’s Office is implementing these changes with the July 2021 pay period warrants.

All excluded employees are receiving the same General Salary Increases as related rank-and-file employees and from ACSS’ initial review, it appears all Special Salary Adjustments have been passed along to related supervisors and managers.

ACSS awaits a pay letter for the July 1, 2021 General Salary Increase (5.06%) and Special Salary Adjustments for S19 and M19 employees. ACSS will keep impacted employees apprised of the expected timing of these salary adjustments.

CalHR has informed ACSS that the resumption of the “OPEB/CERBT” employee contribution is now expected to also take effect with the July pay warrant. This employee contribution to prefund retiree health care benefits was suspended during the PLP 2020 pay reductions with the state picking up the employees’ portion. The employee contributions generally range from 2 percent to 4.6 percent of salary.

With salaries restored, ACSS now looks forward to working in earnest with CalHR and impacted departments to address a number of supervisory and managerial pay and classification issues.

Pay Letter 21-18 ending the PLP 2020 reductions can be read here.

The portions of Pay Letter 21-19 affecting excluded employees can be read here. (page 14 through 45.)

If you have questions about the salary increases or the prefunding of retiree healthcare, please contact your ACSS Labor Relations Representative.


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CalHR Issues Face Covering Direction to State Agencies

Posted: 6/22/2021 Tags: COVID-19 policy representation Tags Views: 1099

On June 21, 2021, California Department of Human Resources (CalHR) Director Eraina Ortega provided updated requirements for the use of face coverings to state departments. The CalHR direction follows June 17, 2021 amendments to the California Occupational Safety and Health Board regulations.

Face coverings are not required for fully vaccinated individuals except in certain settings including correctional facilities, health care settings, school and childcare settings and public transit.

Face coverings are required for unvaccinated individuals in state offices, with exceptions for employees who cannot wear a face covering due to a medical condition or disability, employees who are hearing impaired where the ability to see the mouth is essential to communication, or wearing a face covering creates a workplace safety guideline risk. Face coverings are limited to surgical masks, medical procedure masks, a respirator, or at least two layers of tightly woven or non-woven material. Scarfs, bandanas, and single layers of fabric are excluded.

Upon request, departments must provide unvaccinated employees with an N95 respirator. Departments are directed to establish a procedure to provide N95 coverings to employees requesting one.

Documenting Vaccination Status

“Fully vaccinated” means the employer has documented the employee has received, at least 14-days prior, the second dose of a two-dose vaccine or a single dose vaccine.

Departments are directed to implement a procedure where employees can self-attest to their vaccination status. No verification is required and the voluntary attestation record will not reside in an employee’s personnel file. No medical information should be revealed and departments should not ask questions of employees who choose not to provide vaccine status information.

Departments are directed to update policies on workplace bullying/violence to address issues such as commenting about mask/non-mask wearers or not respecting a request for social distance.

As departmental policies are developed, ACSS will meet-and-confer where appropriate to ensure the interests of supervisors and managers are protected. If you have questions about face covering policies, contact your ACSS Labor Relations Representative.

The CalHR direction can be read here.


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Leave Buy-Back Program Authorized for Excluded Employees

Posted: 4/20/2021 Tags: benefits legislation policy representation salary Tags Views: 2215

CalHR and the Department of Finance have authorized the Excluded Employee Leave Buy-Back Program for 2020-2021. Employees designated Exempt, Supervisory, Managerial or Confidential may elect to be paid at their regular salary rate in exchange for up to 80 hours of unused leave (vacation or annual leave, voluntary personal leave, personal holiday or holiday credit). Note that Personal Leave Program 2020 leave (or prior PLP leave) may not be cashed out. Payment is out of existing appropriations, so each department’s participation is subject to the availability of departmental funds.

No later than May 1, 2021, your department should notify you whether the department has funds to participate and how much leave (up to 80 hours) that you will be able to cash out. The notification will include a deadline to submit your request to cash out leave. Departments may issue payments as early as May, but no later than June 30, 2021.

Authorization of the leave buy-back program is welcome news and reflective of the vastly improved state budget situation over last year’s pandemic related budget predictions. ACSS members are encouraged to evaluate their accrued leave status and consider cashing out leave as part of an overall strategy to remain compliant with leave caps.

Click here to view the CalHR policy manual covering leave buy-back.

If you have questions regarding leave buy-back program issues, please contact your ACSS Labor Relations Representative.


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CalHR Issues Telework Update to State Agencies

Posted: 4/7/2021 Tags: COVID-19 legislation policy representation Tags Views: 2294

On April 6, 2021 California Department of Human Resources (CalHR) Director Eraina Ortega provided a telework update to state departments. Director Ortgea confirmed the Administration’s direction is to continue keeping eligible employees on telework schedules and that the emergency telework policy remains in effect. Within that framework, each department is directed to assess the appropriate level of telework that it will maintain, based on operational needs and employee safety.

Director Ortega’s message noted the Administration continues to support telework as a long-term strategy to decrease office space, allow flexibility for employees, and provide resiliency in the case of future emergencies. Departments are encouraged to think about work culture for the near future including hybrid workplaces, hoteling strategies, and ways to improve communications and collaboration. Departments are also encouraged to get feedback from employees on their telework experiences to help make decisions going forward.

Telework remains a prominent topic of decisions in ACSS’ meetings with CalHR. Director Ortega has informed ACSS that CalHR plans to introduce more telework training in the near future for supervisors and managers.

The state is continuing their effort to update the statewide Telework Policy. It is anticipated that once the statewide policy is finalized, that individual departments will adopt their own telework policies. ACSS has been involved with CalHR throughout discussions in regards to this topic. ACSS will continue to meet with the state over proposed departmental telework policies to protect the interests of excluded employees.

If you have questions about telework, please contact your ACSS Labor Relations Representative.


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ACSS Call with CalHR and Finance - No Federal Funds to Reverse Employee Compensation Cuts

Posted: 10/15/2020 Tags: budget COVID-19 policy representation salary Tags Views: 2103

On October 14, ACSS joined CalHR Director Eraina Ortega and Chief Deputy Paul Starkey on a call with labor unions and employee organizations providing an update from Director of Finance Keely Bosler on the efforts to secure additional federal funding.

Triggers to Restore Employee Compensation Not Met

The 2020-2021 State Budget Act (AB 89) includes trigger language that would restore 18 categories of budget cuts if additional federal funds are available by October 15, 2020.

In a surprise to no one, Finance Director Bosler reported that no additional federal money was received by the deadline and therefore none of the Budget Act cuts will be restored.

Under Section 8.28 of the Budget Act, if $14 billion were received, the restored funding for employee compensation would add up to $1.89 billion which would end the PLP 2020 program (Section 3.90) and potentially restore the suspended general salary increases for state employees (Section 3.91). With receipt of federal funds by October 15 of more than $2 billion, but less than $14 billion, the restoration among the 18 budget categories would be proportional.

Although this means the PLP 2020 program will likely remain in place at least through the end of the budget year in June 2021, no additional state employee compensation cuts have been authorized by the Legislature.

Deficits Remain and Expenditures Up, but Budget Outlook Not as Dire as Projected in April 2020

Finance Director Bosler noted the Administration is continuing the effort to obtain needed federal funds as deficits are projected for the next few years. With any funds received after the October 15 Budget Act deadline, it is likely the Administration would work with the Legislature again to allocate those funds.

The Finance April 2020 economic forecast was bad, but thankfully was wrong with several months of revenue coming in higher than anticipated. At the same time expenditures related to wildfires have been higher than expected. While deficits will continue to be projected as the Governor’s 2021-2022 proposed budget is put together, they will be smaller deficits than originally projected.

There is no hard state hiring freeze as they want to continue to have flexibility to hire where needed. State departments will be getting instructions through a Finance budget letter to plan to reduce operating expenses by 5 percent for FY 21-22.


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