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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: 1152

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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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: 1799

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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Get Involved! - ACSS Elections Web Portal and Open Nominations

Posted: 12/2/2020 Tags: ACSS elections election events Tags Views: 819

Make your voice heard and get involved! Nominations are now OPEN!

  • Are you a natural leader?
  • Are you passionate about ensuring your fellow excluded employees' voices are heard?
  • Do you want to stand up for the rights of all excluded employees?
  • Do you want to help make ACSS a better organization?

Now is the time to act and become a more important part of ACSS! Nominating yourself for a Chapter Position or as a Delegate is a great way to get involved and become a part of positive change.

Why should I become a Chapter Officer or Delegate?

  • Helps you develop leadership skills
  • Allows a safe space for your opinions and ideas to be shared
  • Lets you experience networking opportunities and camaraderie with fellow excluded employees in your local Chapter
  • Involves you with positive changes that can help excluded employees in the workplace

Are you interested, but not sure where to start? If you have never been involved with the leadership of an association, a great place to start is to become a Delegate. Delegates have the unique experience to attend and participate in all the events and opportunities at Delegate Assembly. Your vote and your voice matters. Many Delegates go on to become even more involved with the organization and with their own Chapter Leadership. Once you have familiarized yourself with the process of ACSS Leadership, many opportunities for advancement can open up for you!

Visit the new ACSS Elections Web Portal and Nominate yourself TODAY!

Nominations are open from December 1, 2020 through February 1, 2021.


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ACSS Members - Update your information!

Posted: 11/17/2020 Tags: Tags Views: 1033

In 2020, have you made any changes to your contact info? If so, use the easy Update My Info form on our website to update your information!  With this form, you can update your:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Phone number
  • Email address
  • Work contact info
  • Work department or work location
  • Classification

Make sure we have your most current contact information so that we can provide up-to-date news and information to you. 


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CalHR Suspends Employee Leave Reduction Policies

Posted: 10/21/2020 Tags: benefits policy Tags Views: 2916

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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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: 1884

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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Open Enrollment for Health, Dental and Vision Begins September 21, 2020

Posted: 9/14/2020 Tags: benefits health policy Tags Views: 1621

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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CalHR Announces the State will Continue to Collect Payroll Taxes

Posted: 9/3/2020 Tags: policy Tags Views: 1665

CalHR Director Eraina Ortega has announced the Administration will not implement a deferral of the withholding and payment of the employee's portion of the Social Security payroll taxes. This means payroll taxes will continue to be withheld from all state employee paychecks.

The federal policy allows the deferral of payroll taxes from September 1 through December 31, 2020, but the employee taxes are still owed and would be recovered from employees by April 30, 2021. To avoid a double withholding for state employees in 2021 to recover the taxes due, the Administration has declined to participate in the deferral program.

Director Ortega's September 2, 2020 message states:

"On August 8, 2020, President Trump issued a Presidential Memorandum directing the IRS to allow the deferral of withholding, deposit, and payment of payroll tax obligations for certain employees effective September 1, 2020. IRS guidance provided on August 28, 2020, clarifies employers can, but are not required to, participate in this program. After evaluation and consideration of the IRS guidance, the Administration is concerned that while the employer withholding obligation would be deferred in 2020, employees would experience a double withholding in 2021 to recover the taxes due. Further, if an employee separates from state service before the deferred tax was collected, the state may be required to pay the tax from state funds. For these reasons, the Administration has determined the program will not be implemented for State of California employees."

Please contact your ACSS Labor Relations Representative with any issues or concerns regarding this matter.


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Excessive Heat Warning Prompts State Offices to Close Early – Aug 17 - 19

Posted: 8/17/2020 Tags: policy Tags Views: 1400

CalHR Director Eraina Ortega has issued office closures in the afternoon hours for the next few days due to excessive heat and to conserve energy resources.

In a message on Sunday August 16th, she states:

“Due to multiple Excessive Heat Warnings issued throughout the state and the need to reduce energy demand during peak hours, state departments are directed to close at 3pm starting on Monday August 17 through Wednesday August 19 (“heat period”). Departments providing critical public safety and health care functions during the heat period are exempt from the closure and should reduce energy consumption as much as safely possible.

Building managers should work to reduce energy consumption throughout the day by, for example, turning off all unnecessary lights and equipment and closing blinds and other window coverings. After 3pm, please ensure air conditioning and other large equipment use is reduced as much as possible while maintaining health and safety.

Employees currently scheduled to telework during this period of excessive heat should continue to do so. Employees on telework are encouraged to reduce energy consumption, especially during peak hours.

An employee who is paid on an hourly basis and who is scheduled to telework, but is unable to perform any work due to a blackout during this heat period shall notify management and be provided Administrative Time Off (ATO) for that day for those unworked hours.

All employees working on site will end their workday at 3pm. Employees who are paid on an hourly basis will be provided ATO for the balance of their work hours. Please remind employees to reduce energy consumption at home, more information about how to save energy can be found here.

If a state office loses power at any point during business hours during this heat period, the office should close and ATO shall be provided to hourly-paid employees who cannot telework.

In administering any time off or office closures due to this heat period, state departments should refer to existing laws and rules, policies, and applicable labor agreements.

Please contact CalHR’s Personnel Services Branch at PSB@calhr.ca.gov for any questions about ATO.”

Please contact your ACSS Labor Relations Representative for any issues or concerns regarding this matter.


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ACSS Board of Directors Cancels All In-Person Meetings Through 2020

Posted: 8/10/2020 Tags: Board Meeting chapters COVID-19 meeting Tags Views: 896

The ACSS Board met via conference call on August 1, 2020. The primary issue discussed by the Board was the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on ACSS members, including those effects in the workplace and by the adoption of PLP days and the State Budget.

The number one issue of importance was the health, safety and welfare of ACSS members. The Board also discussed how best ACSS can continue it’s hard work in advocating for our members and providing member service.

As a result of these discussions, the ACSS Board of directors has unanimously determined that it is in the best interest of our members, and our organization as a whole, that all in-person meetings of ACSS members be cancelled through the end of the year. This includes all chapter and board meetings. ACSS is actively investigating technological alternatives to in-person meetings to ensure communication and networking opportunities continue in a safe manner the future.

During this time, ACSS remains fully operational in advocating for the interests of our members and in representing those members in the workplace and statewide.


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