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Legislative News

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: 1153

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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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: 1885

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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Paychecks and a California Supreme Court Pension Ruling

Posted: 7/31/2020 Tags: benefits legislation pension policy representation retirement salary Tags Views: 2589

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: 4844

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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