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CalHR Orders Most State Offices Closed in Response to the New Stay at Home Order

Posted: 12/4/2020 Tags: benefits COVID-19 legislation policy Tags Views: 1468

On December 3, 2020 California Department of Human Resources (CalHR) Director Eraina Ortega notified state department leadership that effective Monday, December 7, with some exceptions, state offices will close in response to the California Department of Public Health’s new Stay at Home Order. Offices will remain closed for at least three weeks.

Departments must immediately review their Continuity of Operations/Continuity of Government plans and determine which critical functions require staff to continue to report to the workplace. The CalHR direction provides that “all staff not performing critical functions at the workplace should remain at home teleworking, or if no telework is available, provided Administrative Time Off (ATO).”

The “critical functions” of essential government services has not changed and includes:

  • Government Leadership
  • Emergency Management
  • Social Services/Education
  • Information Technology/ Communication
  • Public Safety/Regulatory Enforcement
  • Medical/Health
  • Critical Infrastructure
  • Food Supply
  • Environmental Protection
  • Public Information
  • Unemployment Insurance Claims Processing
  • 24/7 Institutions (prisons, state hospitals, veterans homes, etc.)
  • Essential Government Services

The CalHR instruction includes prioritizing telework for at risk employees (age 65 or older and those with chronic health conditions) and providing telework for all employees eligible for telework. ATO is only provided as a “last resort.” When ATO is approved, it is approved regardless of an employee’s available leave balance.

If you have questions about the new Stay at Home Order and CalHR direction, please contact your ACSS Labor Relations Representative.


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CalHR Suspends Employee Leave Reduction Policies

Posted: 10/21/2020 Tags: benefits policy Tags Views: 2580

On October 20, 2020, CalHR Director Eraina Ortega issued an order to state departments to suspend policies that require leave balances be reduced below the vacation/annual leave cap.  Departments are directed to not require employees to implement leave-reduction plans until the 2020 Personal Leave Program (2020 PLP) ends or July 1, 2022, whichever is sooner.
 
This is welcome news for ACSS members and consistent with ACSS’ requests to CalHR to address the leave-cap for excluded employees during the duration of the 2020 PLP.  With the additional 2020 PLP time off, many excluded employees would have a difficult time meeting leave-reduction plans.  CalHR’s action recognizes this difficulty and gives employees and departments more flexibility to meet critical work demands during the ongoing pandemic. 
 
If you have any questions about leave policies or CalHR’s direction to departments, please contact your ACSS Labor Relations Representative.
 
 
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Open Enrollment for Health, Dental and Vision Begins September 21, 2020

Posted: 9/14/2020 Tags: benefits health policy Tags Views: 1369

Open Enrollment for health, dental and vision coverage starts September 21 and ends October 16. This is your opportunity to evaluate your health care selections and make any changes to your health, dental or vision plans and add or drop dependents effective January 1, 2021.

Dental and vision premiums remain unchanged, but health premiums are increasing. Basic Health Maintenance Organization health plans will increase by an average of 4.44% while Basic Preferred Provider Organization plans will see an average increase of 8.54%.

The 2021 Consolidated Benefits (CoBen) allowance to be used for health, dental and vision benefits effective January 1, 2021 will decrease slightly to $693 (Single)/$1340 (2-Party)/$1723 (Family). The employer contribution is calculated based on the weighted average premium of the four largest enrolled health plans. Even though health premiums are increasing, because one of the lower cost plans moved into the top four enrolled plans, this results in a slightly lower employer contribution for 2021. The new 2021 CoBen amount for supervisors, managers, and confidential employees is $52 per month higher than the state employer contribution for most rank-and-file employees.

If you would like to explore different health plan options, CalPERS has a tool that allows you to search plan availability and premium rates based on your zip code. Visit the CalPERS website.

CalHR is expected to update the “Benefits Calculator” portion of the CalHR website for comparison of plan costs and calculating your exact out of pocket costs, or your CoBen cash back if your selections are lower than the CoBen Allowance. Visit the CalHR Benefits calculator and select “2021” and “Excluded Employee” before entering your options.

Be on the lookout for Open Enrollment forms from your department. If you are not making changes, no action is needed.


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Paychecks and a California Supreme Court Pension Ruling

Posted: 7/31/2020 Tags: benefits legislation pension policy representation retirement salary Tags Views: 2356

Pay Warrants

Not all of the July 1, 2020 adjustments and increases have made it into state employee pay warrants. Excluded employees related to the SEIU bargaining units (1, 3, 4, 11, 14, 15, 17, 20 and 21) will see the $260 health affordability payment in a separate pay warrant, which appears to be on track to issue within approximately two weeks.

As expected, the pay warrants of excluded employees related to IUOE units 12 and 13 contain the “OPEB/CERBT” deduction for prefunding retiree healthcare. We await the pay letter and differential providing pay to offset this deduction. ACSS also expects implementation of a special salary adjustment for employees in the criminalist series and an adjustment to longevity pay for some S07 and M07 excluded employees.

An error at the State Controller’s Office resulted in too little being withheld from July paychecks for the employee portion of the required contribution toward retirement. The amount of the error varies based on salary, but is estimated to be near $100 for the highest earners and less for other employees. Next month’s paychecks will have the correct amount deducted for retirement. Next month will also include an additional one time employee deduction labeled as “*PERS ADJ” to collect the rest of the July employee retirement contribution. This means that state employees will not likely see the “correct” amount of their take home pay checks until the September pay period.

There are a very small number of ACSS members who were excluded by CalHR from expected special salary adjustments. ACSS will continue to work with CalHR to address these exclusions and other issues arising in connection with salary adjustments.

Pension Ruling Preserves the Core of the “California Rule”

The California Supreme Court issued a unanimous ruling on July 30, 2020 in Alameda County Deputy Sheriff's Association v. Alameda County Employees’ Retirement Association. This significant pension case concerned pension cuts for local public employees following the Public Employees’ Pension Reform Act of 2013 (PEPRA) where overtime, callback and vacation pay were eliminated from pension calculations.

Although it is a local pension case, the legal issues concerned the long standing “California Rule.” Since 1955, the courts have held under the California Rule that once pension benefits are granted to a public employee, they are vested and cannot be modified for the duration of an employee’s career.

ACSS joined in the requests for the high court to hear this pension case to preserve the long-standing California Rule to protect from the possibility of your pension being changed by future legislation or through an initiative measure. With this California Supreme Court ruling, that goal was largely accomplished.

Although the court allowed the pension modifications challenged by the local unions, it did so by finding the changes closed loopholes to eliminate pension spiking. This narrow approach rejected the arguments to rescind or modify the California Rule and broadly allow changes to vested pension rights.

The ruling may present an opportunity for narrow pension modifications, but any modifications still have to meet stringent constitutional standards protected by the contracts clause. In short, the core defined benefit formulas and provisions governing state employee pensions and retirement calculations remain protected and unaffected by this decision.


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CalHR Issues Pay Letters and Pay Differentials Adjusting Pay

Posted: 7/17/2020 Tags: benefits budget COVID-19 legislation policy representation salary Tags Views: 4472

This week CalHR issued a series of Pay Letters and Pay Differentials adjusting pay for excluded employees. CalHR confirmed to ACSS that the expectation remains that the State Controller’s Office will implement the major changes with the July pay period. This means the next paychecks are expected to include the following:

Personal Leave Program 2020 – a reduction in pay of 9.23% (equivalent to two days’ pay) and accrual of 16 hours of personal leave credit, to be used in the same manner as vacation/annual leave and before any other paid leave (except sick leave).

Suspension of “OPEB/CERBT” Employee Contribution – excluded employees will not pay the contribution to prefund retiree healthcare. The contributions range generally from 2 percent to 4.6 percent of salary. Excluded employees related to bargaining units 12 and 13 will continue to see the deduction, but will receive a pay differential in an equivalent amount. (This pay differential has not yet issued, but is expected to be retroactive to July 1, 2020 if not implemented with the July pay warrant.)

Although General Salary Increases effective July 1, 2020 were suspended or deferred, Merit Salary Adjustments for employees not at the top step of their classifications are unaffected and will continue.

Exempt and Excluded Employees Associated with SEIU Bargaining Units (1, 3, 4, 11, 14, 15, 17, 20, and 21)

  • $260 per month taxable cash benefit to improve access and affordability of healthcare
  • Geographic Pay of $250 per month for employees working in Orange, Santa Cruz, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo Counties
  • Special Salary Adjustments (generally 5%) for employees in nearly 100 classifications

>>Click here to review the Pay Letter listing the excluded employee classifications receiving the SSA increases.

Exempt and Excluded Employees Associated with Unit 18

  • A General Salary Increase of 2.75% retroactive to January 1, 2020
  • A Special Salary Adjustment at the top step of 2.5%, effective July 1, 2020 (S18 and M18 employees at the top step of the class for 12 months or more will receive the increase immediately; others will receive the increase through Merit Salary Adjustments when eligible)

As of today, ACSS awaits a Pay Letter implementing expected salary adjustments for S07 and M07 excluded employees related to the Criminalist series and changes to longevity pay, and a change to a pay differentials for DSH Police Officers and S16 and M16 employees for Continuing Medical Education expenses.

ACSS’ initial review has identified a few anomalies in the Special Salary Adjustments. We will pursue clarification and possible corrections or potential amendments to the Pay Letters with CalHR.


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Excluded Employee Compensation Plan for 2020-2021


The Department of Human Resources (CalHR) has released the outline of the excluded employee pay plan for the 2020-2021 fiscal year. We are pleased that the outline contains most of the items ACSS has advocated for in light of the Administration’s mandated state employee compensation decreases due to the large state budget deficits related to the ongoing pandemic.

The exempt and excluded pay plan effective July 1, 2020 includes:

  • Two day-per month Personal Leave Program (PLP) reducing compensation by 9.23% and providing 16 hours of leave credit per month. The PLP credit will not need to be used in the month it is accrued, but taken before other paid leave (except sick leave).
  • Suspending employee payments to pre-fund retiree health care. The deduction is shown on your pay warrant as “OPEB/CERBT”. The deductions for employees related to units 12 and 13 will continue, but be offset by a pay differential.
  • General Salary Increases are suspended.
  • Special Salary Adjustments and Pay Differentials will be extended to exempt and excluded employees where appropriate.
  • All employees related to the nine SEIU Local 1000 bargaining units (1, 3, 4, 11, 14, 15, 17, 20, and 21) will receive a $260 per month taxable cash benefit to offset health care costs.
  • The Vacation/Annual Leave Cap is increased by the amount of the PLP accrued for excluded employees related to bargaining units 2, 9, 10 and 19.

CalHR is working on pay letters to implement the details of the leave program and special salary and pay differential adjustments. CalHR expects to issue a series of pay letters “in the coming weeks” and has informed ACSS they are working with the State Controller’s Office to try to implement the majority of the salary adjustments in the July pay period.

As the pay letters are developed, ACSS will continue advocacy with CalHR to ensure excluded employees receive all appropriate special salary adjustments and pay differentials and will keep you informed regarding the expected timing of the pay adjustments.


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Excluded Employee Compensation Update – Personal Leave Program


The employee compensation reductions called for by the Governor and reflected in the state budget are coming into focus. The Legislature encouraged rank-and-file groups to agree to reductions through collective bargaining. Without those agreements, the Legislature would authorize employee compensation reductions. Two groups have reached agreement, including SEIU Local 1000 representing nine of the State’s 21 bargaining units and the California Correctional Peace Officers Association (CCPOA), representing Bargaining Unit 6.

The Local 1000 agreement gives a road map to other bargaining units and sets the expectations for likely excluded employee compensation adjustments – a two-day per month “Personal Leave Program” offset in part by suspending the employee contribution to pre-fund retiree health care. This framework is consistent with the approach ACSS has advocated for in light of the excluded employee compensation reductions required by the recent COVID-19 related budget deficits being addressed by the revised state budget.

SEIU Local 1000 Agreement

The tentative agreement or “Side Letter” to modify the Local 1000 labor contract includes the following for rank-and-file employees:

  • Two day-per month Personal Leave Program (PLP) reducing compensation by 9.23% and providing 16 hours of leave credit per month for two years
  • Suspending employee payments to pre-fund retiree health care for two years; employees will not pay this contribution which would otherwise increase to 3.5% effective July 1, 2020
  • All employees will receive $260 per month to offset health care costs
  • Defers the 2.5% July 1, 2020 general salary increase for two years (the 2% increase scheduled for July 1, 2021 is not impacted)
  • Special Salary Adjustments (generally 5%) for 176 classifications of employees will still be paid effective July 1, 2020
  • If federal money is received and/or state budget revenue allows, the cuts and deferrals could end early

Under the PLP, employees work their full schedules. The reductions do not change salary ranges and do not impact benefits or retirement calculations. PLP credits do not count toward the vacation/annual leave cap and need to be used before other paid leave, except sick leave.

With the $260 per month and suspension of the retiree health contribution, the PLP reductions of 9.23% will be significantly mitigated for most employees. Some employees receiving special salary adjustments will still see small increases in their paychecks despite the PLP reductions.

What This Means for Excluded Employees

The Administration has made clear it intends to tie excluded employees to their related bargaining units in achieving salary savings. It is expected that other bargaining units will reach agreements for two-days of PLP, offset in part by suspending the employee contribution to pre-fund retiree health care.

CCPOA representing Bargaining Unit 6 (correctional officers) agreed to a one-day PLP and to different compensation reductions including holiday pay reductions and suspension of night and weekend shift differentials. It is not likely that other units will be able to find enough cost savings to meet the required reductions to avoid a second day of PLP.

ACSS has pushed for any compensation cuts for excluded employees to be offset in part by suspending the pre-funding of retiree health care. ACSS has also made clear to CalHR that the $260 per month health care affordability payment and the special salary adjustments must also be provided to all related excluded employees to avoid salary compaction issues.

With the SEIU Local 1000 Side Letter tentative agreement, we have reached out to CalHR to reiterate these requests and to also ensure that a fair package is in place for excluded employees not directly related to a bargaining unit. Should any rank-and-file unit not reach agreement and instead allow salary reductions to be imposed, ACSS will work to ensure that the reductions for related excluded employees are equitable.

As bills approving agreements reached by rank-and-file organizations are presented to the Legislature for approval, ACSS will continue its aggressive advocacy in protecting the employment interests of excluded employees. ACSS will also keep you informed with the latest information regarding your salaries and benefits.


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ACSS Seeks to Mitigate Impact of Employee Compensation Reduction Proposals

Posted: 5/22/2020 Tags: benefits COVID-19 legislation policy representation salary Tags Views: 4162

As the state budget moves forward in the next few weeks, it is very likely that excluded employee compensation reductions and a delay of anticipated salary increases will be part of the budget solutions.

While ACSS cannot collectively bargain over these proposed reductions, the Administration’s planned salary reductions cannot be achieved without legislative approval. ACSS is therefore taking active steps to mitigate the impact of reductions through the legislative process and with CalHR. Mitigating the reductions includes:

  • Avoid Straight Cuts in Pay 
    If salary has to be reduced, it should be through a temporary furlough or personal leave program that provides leave in exchange for the salary reduction and does not change salary ranges, nor negatively impact retirement calculations.

  • Flexibility in a Furlough Program 
    If excluded employees are furloughed, there must be flexibility for supervisors and managers to continue meeting the workload with reduced staff. ACSS is requesting that CalHR implement the program in a way that allows maximum flexibility for excluded employees by not requiring the leave be used in the same month it is accrued.

  • Suspend Employee Contributions to Pre-fund Retiree Health Care 
    Each month excluded employees have a deduction labeled “CERBT” which stands for California Employers’ Retiree Benefit Trust. This deduction is to pay the employee share of pre-funding retiree health care. Most ACSS members are scheduled to pay between 3.5 to 4.5 percent of salary per month. Suspending the payment for at least the duration of the salary reductions will mitigate the reduction in take home salary with no impact on eligibility for health care benefits in retirement.

  • Health Care Affordability Payment 
    SEIU Local 1000 negotiated a $260 per month payment for employees enrolled in a health plan. ACSS asked that this payment be provided to all excluded employees. The current proposal is to allow the $260 per month payment to go forward July 1, 2020 for both SEIU rank-and-file employees and related excluded employees.

    For some ACSS members, suspending the retiree health care deduction and providing the $260 per month would almost completely offset the salary reduction of a two-day furlough. For others, getting one or both would partially offset the temporary salary reduction.

  • Federal Trigger Language 
    The Administration is proposing that the salary reduction authority would end if federal money is received. While this is positive, the details have not been developed. ACSS will push for language to directly address the impact of federal funding on excluded employees.

  • Salary Adjustments 
    Most ACSS members were scheduled for general salary increases and thousands anticipated special salary adjustments (SSA) July 1, 2020. The Administration is proposing no increases. While the treatment of delaying these raises will certainly be impacted by rank-and-file bargaining, it needs to be acknowledged that SSAs were planned to address recruitment and retention issues. Delaying these increases, and exacerbating recruitment and retention problems by cutting pay, will almost certainly lead to more attrition through retirement. The SSAs need to be paid as soon as possible to address likely retention issues.

ACSS is aware that other groups have proposed retirement incentives as a cost saving measure and that nothing in the Administration’s current proposals address incentives for those excluded employees providing front line COVID-19 response. If there is room to advocate on these issues, ACSS will do so through the state budget deliberative process and with CalHR.

We will keep you apprised as these significant budget decisions and proposed reductions move forward.


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California Supreme Court Hears Argument in Local Pension Case

Posted: 5/5/2020 Tags: benefits legislation pension policy retirement Tags Views: 1177

The California Supreme Court held oral argument on May 5, 2020 in Alameda County Deputy Sheriff's Association v. Alameda County Employees’ Retirement Association. This is one of the two significant pension cases pending before the state high court concerning pension cuts for local public employees following the Public Employees’ Pension Reform Act of 2013 (PEPRA).

Although it is a local pension case, the legal issues argued may impact the long standing “California Rule.” Since 1955, the courts have held under the California Rule that once pension benefits are granted to a public employee, they are vested and cannot be modified for the duration of an employee’s career. ACSS joined in the requests for the high court to hear these types of pension cases to preserve the long-standing California Rule to protect from the possibility of your pension being changed by future legislation or through an initiative measure.

In Alameda, the Deputy Sheriff's union and others challenged the elimination of overtime pay, on-call pay, call-back pay, vacation and sick leave sold back, recruitment bonuses, and other items from pension calculations. The lower appellate court had ruled that many of these pension cuts for current employees were legal, but ruled some pension benefits required further review under the California Rule. Allowing the pension reductions for current employees is a significant deviation from the California Rule. Both sides had asked the high court to review the case.

At oral argument, the county retirement boards argued that including these “pension spiking” items in a pension calculation was never lawful and that employees had no reasonable expectation that they would be included in a pension calculation for future service. The unions argued that this deferred compensation cannot be changed for existing employees during their public employee careers.

It is unclear whether the Supreme Court’s decision in this case will be decided on broad constitutional grounds with possible impacts on the California Rule and implications for all public employees and their pensions, or will be decided on a narrow basis, affecting only the parties to the litigation or local employers and employees. The matter was taken under submission with a decision expected in the next month or two.

ACSS will continue to keep you apprised of important pension issues and inform you of actions taken to protect the interests of excluded state employees.


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CalHR Increases Commute Reimbursement for ALL Excluded Employees; ACSS Advocacy on Salaries Continues

Posted: 2/20/2020 Tags: benefits legislation policy representation salary Tags Views: 1905

CalHR has announced the reimbursement amount for transit passes and vanpools will increase by $35 per month for all supervisors, managers, and confidential employees. Effective February 1, 2020, excluded employees will be eligible for 75% reimbursement for public transit passes, up to $100 per month. Vanpool riders will be reimbursed 75% of the monthly fee, up to $100 per month, and vanpool drivers will receive $135 per month.

When SEIU Local 1000 representing rank-and-file bargaining units negotiated an increase in commute reimbursement amounts, ACSS immediately proposed that CalHR extend the increases to all excluded employees. After several meetings with CalHR where this topic was discussed, we are pleased that CalHR has adopted ACSS’ proposal and extended the increased commute reimbursement amounts to all excluded employees, regardless of bargaining unit affiliation.

What’s Next for the Remainder of the 2019-2020 Fiscal Year?
CalHR is expected to implement adjustments to bilingual pay, recruitment & retention for the Correctional Case Records series, and an increase in the call center differential. ACSS has met with CalHR and requested these same increases for excluded employees. CalHR will soon implement salary adjustments for Bargaining Unit 18. ACSS has requested CalHR provide at least the same salary increases for supervisors, managers and confidential employees, in addition to correcting standing salary inequities and compaction issues.

What About July 1, 2020 Increases?
Sixteen of the state’s 21 bargaining units are scheduled for salary increases July 1, 2020. The other five will be in negotiations this spring to adjust salaries. In addition to continued advocacy with CalHR for salary increases and corrections to salary inequities, ACSS is working to ensure the state budget contains funding for salary and benefit increases for excluded employees. While the state budget remains subject to the May Revise and legislative approval, at this point we are optimistic that the budget will adequately fund general salary increases and many special salary adjustments for excluded employees.


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