Judicial Branch Employees COVID-19 FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions for Judicial Branch Employees COVID-19

We are here to respond to your needs and concerns as more COVID-19 cases are reported. Below you’ll find answers to common questions about COVID-19, formerly known as the novel coronavirus, or 2019-nCoV.


What is MSEA doing to address COVID-19 related issues with the Administration?
MSEA has asked the Judicial Branch to begin immediate preparations for telecommuting, to look at issues relate to leave time, quarantines, and childcare, and to prepare for an eventual closure of the courts.

What leave time can I use for COVID-19?
  • The Judicial Branch has indicated that employees will be allowed to use accrued sick, vacation, personal, and compensatory leave for absences relating to COVID-19. We are currently determining what other forms of leave may be available and under what terms.
  • The Branch is relaxing the process around unpaid leave requests and approvals, allowing Selecting Authorities or managers to make the decisions during this emergency situation.
  • Employees will be allowed to access their July 1 personal leave early.
  • The Branch is setting up an Emergency Leave bank, similar to the Catastrophic Leave Bank.
  • The Branch is determining whether employees can use sick time due to childcare needs due to school or childcare closures

What should I do if I feel my job is putting me at greater risk for exposure to COVID-19?
We are reaching out the Branch to determine what measures can be taken to limit exposure and protect employees. We will update this section once we have received additional information from the Branch.

What are the Branch’s plans to contain exposure at my worksite?
The Branch has indicated that it intends to implement social distancing and follow other CDC guidelines. This includes limiting gatherings to 10 or fewer people, asking employees and others to maintain a 6 foot distance between people, washing hands frequently and frequently disinfecting surfaces such as doorknobs.

What happens if I get sick?
Under no circumstances should you report to work if you become ill, regardless of whether you have been tested for COVID-19. You should immediately self-isolate, call your health care provider and follow their instructions.

What happens if someone in my household gets sick?
  • If a household member is sick with symptoms consistent with COVID-19 (see above), you should call your health care provider and follow their instructions. You are allowed to use sick leave for this time.
  • What do I do if I am quarantined or told to stay home and self-monitor?
    • If an employee is quarantined or told to stay home by a medical provider or a public health official, the employee shall be required to do so and should record sick leave for this time.
  • Can a supervisor send me home if I am displaying symptoms of respiratory illness (coughing, sneezing, fever, difficulty breathing)?
    • Yes. An employee who is sick should not come to the workplace. If an employee reports to the workplace exhibiting symptoms, the employee should be sent home immediately.
    • A manager/supervisor must send an employee home when they have a reasonable belief, based on objective evidence, that the employee’s present medical condition would:
      • Impair their ability to perform essential job functions with or without reasonable accommodation, or
      • Pose a direct threat (i.e., significant risk of substantial harm that cannot be reduced or eliminated by reasonable accommodation) to safety in the workplace.
      • The employee should not be allowed to return to work until they are free of fever, signs of a fever, and any other symptoms for at least 24 hours, without the use of fever-reducing or other symptom-altering medicines.
  • If my supervisor sends me home, and I required to use my sick leave?Yes. Employees are required to use sick leave or other leave if they are sick.

Should an employee file a First Report of Injury if exposed to COVID-19?
If an employee who tests positive for COVID-19 and attributes that to the workplace, the employee should complete a First Report of Injury Form.

How should an employee report potential COVID-19 cases?
  • If an employee encounters a situation at where they reasonable feel they have been exposed to a person with a confirmed case of COVID-19 while in a court building, the employee should notify a Deputy Judicial Marshal on-site, who will take a statement and file an incident report that will be shared with the appropriate individuals. If the employee is off-site, they should report it to their supervisor.
  • Should an employee report a confirmed or suspected case of COVID-19 for themselves or for a family/household member, the supervisor should report this to the Human Resources Office, who will share non confidential information with Facilities and others as needed.

Do I have to use my leave time?
Yes, currently you must use some form of leave time if you do not want to report to work.

What if I do not have enough sick leave to cover my absence(s)?
  • Effective immediately, the Branch will temporarily be allowing employees to substitute other available leave, if they have exhausted their sick leave, without requesting individual permission of your Selecting Authority.
  • If an employee has exhausted all available sick leave, they may request an advance of up to 2weeks of sick leave by submitting a request through hr.help@courts.maine.gov (pro-rated for part time employees).
  • The Judicial Branch is setting up an emergency leave bank.
  • Currently, we cannot assure you that there will not be consequences if you do not report to work and you do not have sufficient leave time to cover your absence. However, we encourage you to comply with social distancing and other CDC guidelines.

What if I exhaust all available leave options?
  • If you have exhausted all paid leave available to you, you must submit a Leave Without Pay Request Form. Please contact the Human Resources Office through hr.help@courts.maine.gov for more information.
  • The Branch is working on setting up an Emergency Leave Bank, similar to the Catastrophic Leave Bank.
  • MSEA is pushing for no employee to suffer a loss of pay due to COVID-19.

Can I work remotely?
  • Managers have already begun assessing which positions will be able to work remotely and may reach out to employees about working from home. Given the nature of the work of the court, not all positions will be eligible for remote work at this time.
  • If an employee would like to request to work remotely, they may ask your supervisor/manager to be considered for remote work.
  • No employee is permitted to work remotely without being approved for remote work. Any and all time worked from home must be recorded as worked time.

What do I do if K-12 Schools or Child Care/Daycares is closed?
  • If K-12 schools or childcare/daycares are closed, and you need to take leave to care for a child, please notify your supervisor as soon as possible. In this case, an employee can use vacation leave, personal leave, compensatory leave, or approved leave without pay.
  • Some employees may be able to work remotely during this time and should contact their supervisor/manager for guidance.

Are the courts going to close?
Currently the courts are open and employees are expected to report to work.

Which MSEA represented classifications does the Branch consider essential/emergency workers?
We are working with the Branch to determine who will be considered essential and who will not.

Will the Branch continue paying insurance premiums during period of administrative closure?
We expect that insurance premiums will continue to be paid; we are seeking clarification on that currently.

What would happen to my prescription drug coverage during the shutdown period?
This remains unknown at this time.

What if I have pre-approved vacation during the period of administrative closure?
This remains unknown at this time.

If employees are laid off as a result of an administrative closure, would they be eligible for unemployment benefits?
The Legislature is taking up an emergency bill to address unemployment relating to COVID-19, which would cover employees who were unable to work or laid off due to the pandemic. We will update this section when there is more information on that bill.


About MSEA

Is the MSEA office open?
  • Our staff is working and ready to assist you. To help protect public health, we’re practicing social distancing and not accepting visitors at this time.
  • We recommend reaching out to staff and/or officers by email first, if possible
  • MSEA will remain accessible to members even if the office closes – information on closures and accessibility during any period of closure will be posted on our website and our Facebook page

If I am sick, can I access my benefits through the MSEA-SEIU Income Protection Plan?
Benefits offered through the MSEA Income Protection Plan remain available to members on the same basis as they are now. Any person “under the care of a medical provider” who has been diagnosed with a non-work related illness or injury leaving them medically disabled for a period of more than 14 calendar days will be eligible for benefits after the 14 day non-paid waiting period. For further information, please call IP at 207-622-3151 or email Luanne and Andy at luanne.collins@mseaseiu.org and andy.wing@mseaseiu.org.

Updated: March 18, 2020 — 12:46 PM