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Articles for tag COVID-19


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: 292

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 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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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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CalHR Implements COVID-19 Supplemental Paid Sick Leave for 2021

Posted: 4/2/2021 Tags: benefits COVID-19 policy Tags Views: 1215

The Department of Human Resources (CalHR) has issued a policy implementing Senate Bill 95 which provides up to 80 hours of COVID-19 related supplemental paid sick leave to all employees retroactive to January 1, 2021. This supplemental sick leave (SB 95 SPSL) is available to employees who are unable to work or telework for any of the following reasons:

  1. The employee is subject to a Federal, State, or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19 as defined by an order or guidelines of the State Department of Public Health, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or a local health officer who has jurisdiction over the workplace; or
  2. The employee is advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine or self-isolate due to concerns related to COVID-19; or
  3. The employee is attending an appointment to receive a COVID-19 vaccine; or
  4. The employee is experiencing symptoms related to receiving the COVID-19 vaccine that prevent the employee from being able to work or telework; or
  5. The employee is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and is seeking a medical diagnosis; or
  6. The employee is caring for a family member as defined in the California Labor Code, section 245.5 subdivision (c), who is subject to an order or guidelines under number 1 or 2; or
  7. The employee is caring for a child as defined in the California Labor Code, section 245.5, subdivision (c), whose school or place of care is closed or otherwise unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19 on the premises.

Departments cannot require an employee to use other leave before SB 95 SPSL. If the request is retroactive, an amended timesheet will be required. Substantiation is required for school or child care closures. Departments are expected to issue directions to document SB 95 SPSL as “ATO” on timesheets.

The supplemental leave expires September 30, 2021, except that a covered employee taking SB 95 SPSL at the time of expiration can take the full amount to which they would be entitled.

If you have questions or need assistance with SB 95 SPSL issues, please contact your ACSS Labor Relations Representative.


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Ongoing ACSS Meetings with CalHR Result in Gains, Progress, and Benefits for Members

Posted: 3/26/2021 Tags: benefits compaction COVID-19 legislation policy salary Tags Views: 2816

Throughout the pandemic, ACSS has been meeting regularly with CalHR on a quarterly basis and more frequently, as needed. ACSS has been at the forefront of action, working closely with CalHR and the Newsom Administration by providing proposals on behalf of ACSS Members prior to the rank-and-file bargaining talks leading to the personal leave program and preceding the negotiation of new labor contracts. ACSS has a proven success record and we continue to make progress advocating on behalf of Members during these trying and unprecedented times.

On March 16 and 19, 2021, ACSS met with CalHR Chief of Labor Relations Paul Starkey to continue discussing salary and benefit issues for the State’s excluded employees. These ongoing meetings were agreed to as part of Mr. Starkey and CalHR Director Eraina Ortega’s commitment to ACSS President Todd D’Braunstein to address long-standing salary inequities and other issues affecting supervisory and managerial employees.

Some highlights from the meeting include:

  • CalHR has agreed to adjust salaries for certain supervising Administrative Law Judges retroactive to March 4, 2021. ACSS advocated for these salary adjustments to correct salary compaction with rank-and-file ALJs.
  • CalHR and the California Department of Public Health are reviewing ACSS’ request to realign the excluded employee Health Facilities Evaluator classifications bargaining unit affiliation to reflect the nursing status of all incumbents and to address related salary equity issues.
  • Salaries for the Food Services Supervisor classification will be reviewed to determine whether raises in July 2020 for subordinates created compaction that should be remedied through salary increases for supervisors.
  • CalHR and ACSS reviewed the status of pending ACSS’ proposals for various pay adjustments to correct salary inequities, create a new Peace Officer III classification at the Department of Developmental Services, and to provide state safety retirement for employees in the Nursing Consultant Program Review classification. CalHR’s review of these proposals continues.

ACSS strongly advocated for supervisory and managerial employees to be included among those provided “premium pay” as essential employees in responding to COVID-19. The $1.9 trillion federal American Rescue Plan Act relief package contains funding which may be used to provide “premium pay” to essential employees, not to exceed $13 per hour or $25,000 per worker. The Governor has wide discretion to provide this additional pay to workers he deems eligible. The Administration has indicated it will begin the process of determining eligibility with the “May Revise” to the proposed state budget. ACSS urged CalHR to provide the state supervisors and managers who have maintained the continuity of essential services during the pandemic with this additional pay. ACSS continues to engage in discussions with CalHR on this topic and advocate on behalf of members.

With the state budget situation vastly improved over the projections at the beginning of the pandemic, ACSS and CalHR discussed the likely end of the Personal Leave Program 2020. CalHR will be at the bargaining table with rank-and-file organizations to discuss the possible end of the PLP 2020 program and to negotiate new labor contracts with two bargaining units. Prior to those negotiations, ACSS will provide proposals for related excluded employees, as has been done before each round of bargaining during the Newsom Administration.

ACSS will continue to meet with CalHR on these issues and advocate for excluded employees interests as the state budget process continues.


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COVID-19 Vaccination Clinics for Eligible State Employee Job Classifications

Posted: 3/1/2021 Tags: COVID-19 policy Tags Views: 1605

The Department of Human Resources (CalHR) and the Government Operations Agency are launching a pilot program of COVID-19 vaccine clinics for eligible state employees to supplement existing vaccine providers across the state. For the pilot, eligible employees are those in Phase 1B, Tier 1 job categories as outlined by the California Department of Public Health, including emergency services, food and agriculture, and education and child care.

Accessing the vaccine through these clinics is completely voluntary. Eligible employees will be given state time (ATO) to participate. Eligible employees will receive an email from their department with the date, time and location of the vaccine clinic in their county. The email will include a link to the enrollment page for the company, Color, which is administering the vaccines at the site.

The first clinic will be held March 4 and 5 in Fresno County. Impacted departments include the California Highway Patrol, CAL FIRE, CalOES, California Department of Food and Agriculture, Military, Department of Justice, Department of Parks and Recreation, Department of Fish & Wildlife, Caltrans, Department of Rehabilitation, and Department of Education.

Vaccine availability will determine when and where future state employee clinics are made available.


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CalHR Issues Guidance to State Agencies in Implementing New CalOSHA COVID-19 Prevention and Response Standards

Posted: 12/22/2020 Tags: COVID-19 legislation policy Tags Views: 1417

The Division of Occupational Safety & Health (CalOSHA) recently adopted new emergency temporary standards for COVID-19 prevention and response in workplaces. On December 18, 2020 California Department of Human Resources (CalHR) Director Eraina Ortega provided guidance to state departments to ensure the temporary CalOSHA standards are part of each department’s written plan to prevent and respond to COVID-19.

The CalOSHA emergency regulations require most California employers to adopt COVID-19 prevention programs and policies to ensure safe distancing, require face coverings, and adhere to new testing and reporting requirements.

State departments have already implemented many of the new standards. CalHR’s direction highlights potential changes as follows:

  • to ensure confidentiality of employees, departments should not identify the specific number of cases if fewer than 11 are reported
  • face coverings are required in open cubicles and can only be removed when alone in a room
  • departments must provide testing to all employees in an “exposed workplace” defined as three or more COVID-19 cases in a 14-day period (an exposed workplace is not the whole building or department, but the area where cases were present)
  • testing must be on state work time with no out-of-pocket employee costs with testing continuing until the workplace outbreak is over
  • major outbreaks (20 or more cases in 30-days) require additional testing
  • employee screening processes are required for all departments (self-screening is allowed)
  • employees with a “COVID-19 exposure” (within six feet from an infected person for a total of 15 minutes in 24 hours) are excluded from the workplace and provided telework or ATO

Director Ortega’s direction to departments contains links to relevant guidance, CalOSHA standards, FAQs, etc. The CalHR direction can be viewed here.

If you have questions about the guidance or impact of the CalOSHA regulations, please contact your ACSS Labor Relations Representative.


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