March 20 UPDATE: Our response to COVID-19

Dear Fellow Executive Branch Workers,

As you may have seen, the administration has sent out guidance on COVID-19 protections relating to state employees. We appreciate the administration providing these answers to the questions many of us have been asking.

We want to take a moment to update you on the steps we are taking as a union to advocate for the health and safety of ourselves, our families, and our communities in this COVID-19 outbreak.

Hundreds of fellow state workers responded quickly to take action and share their stories in the last 24 hours. We’re continuing to urge the administration to release non-essential employees, with pay. We formally asked the administration to provide us with its most up-to-date info, including a list of services that will be considered essential and non-essential in this public health and economic crisis, and the corresponding job classifications.

In light of the administration’s guidance, we updated our Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs). We’ll continually update our FAQs as new info becomes available. Below are some of the highlights of our updates:

High-risk Essential Employees:
The administration’s guidance indicates high-risk employees are entitled to use sick leave to stay home unless they are deemed to be providing essential services. If you are high risk and you are potentially “essential,” we encourage you to reach out to HR and request accommodation to either work from home or take leave.

New Federal Law:
Many of you are asking if you are eligible for any of the benefits in the new federal law that just passed. Under the new federal law, effective April 2, the State will be required to grant everyone 80 hours of sick leave. We’re encouraging the State to voluntarily satisfy this obligation immediately. Those 80 hours of paid sick leave can only be used in certain circumstances relating to COVID-19, including if the employee is subject to a quarantine order, has been instructed to self-quarantine, has symptoms and is seeking a diagnosis, or is caring for someone who is quarantined, self-quarantined or has symptoms and is seeking diagnosis.

Additionally, it applies if the employee has a child who is unable to go to school or daycare due to COVID-19. This leave may not be at full pay, depending on the reason for the leave.
Another law expanded access to Family Medical Leave to provide partially paid leave for employees who are caring for a child under 18 who is unable to go to school or daycare due to COVID-19. Although these laws take effect on April 2, we have encouraged the State to implement them immediately.

Thank you to the many workers who have taken action, demanding the State protect you and your coworkers from COVID-19. Many state legislators have taken notice.

We know these are incredibly trying times for you and your families. We understand your concerns and fears. If you have questions or concerns, please share them with us using this official MSEA-SEIU link. We created that link to be able to track questions and concerns and respond accordingly.

We will follow up with new developments.

In Solidarity,
Dean Staffieri
President, MSEA-SEIU Local 1989

Updated: March 21, 2020 — 12:44 PM