General News
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PBPA/PBLC COVID-19 Member Update:

As you undoubtedly know, on Friday, March 20th, the Governor of Illinois, J. B. Pritzker, issued a “Stay at Home Order “ for the entire State starting at 5 p.m. on Saturday, March 21st and lasting until April 7th.   To comply with the order our office will be closed during this time

We are committed to maintaining the quality of your service while taking every precaution possible to protect the health and safety of our employees, clients, partners, friends, and families. 

We have set up our team to work remotely.  We have the systems in place that allow our team to work remotely and to access the office as necessary.  Our team members will still have access to phones, voice mail, and emails.

We know that each of you are facing your own challenges based on the impact of COVID-19 on workplaces, schools, family, and market circumstances. We are thinking of you and are here to support you in any way we can.  Like all evolving challenges, we will work through issues on a day-by-day basis and appreciate you working with us as we strive to provide the service you have come to expect from our team.

The current crisis with COVID-19 calls upon public employees to serve and protect our communities.

But, part of protecting the public is ensuring that you are healthy and have the support you need to do your work. 

To that end, we are encouraging public employers around the state to implement, to the fullest extent practicable, best practices which allow non-essential employees to work from home, or alternatively, absent themselves from worksites without loss of pay or benefits.

Of course, in public safety agencies this may not be entirely possible.  And, in some cases employers may require non-sworn employees to work, or use accrued benefit time if you stay at home. This is a very fluid situation, but in an effort to help you plan for the days ahead, here is where the law and your employee rights currently (3/24/20) stand:

Collective Bargaining Agreements

  • You retain all your rights under the contract. Your union contract supersedes local county or city ordinances that may be passed in response to COVID-19.  A declaration of emergency by a county or municipal official likewise doesn’t excuse your employer’s obligations to you under the contract.

  • PLEASE NOTE: Many public safety contracts include “Emergency” or “Disaster” clauses which allow employers to modify or suspend terms included in the contract for situations like the one we are facing now.  

  • Absent such language - If your employer proposes or institutes any new policies that effect your wages, hours, benefits, shift, or other term or condition of employment, contact your Labor Representative immediately.

 

Paid Sick Time

  • Currently, there is no law in effect that provides you with paid sick leave. In Illinois, as it currently stands (3/24/20) you only get the sick days that you have bargained for in your collective bargaining agreement. 

  • HOWEVER, the Federal Government just passed Emergency Legislation that enhances the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to award paid sick leave (before this emergency legislation, FMLA leave was unpaid unless you used your own benefit time) in two major scenarios.

    Scenario One: Paid Time Off to Care for Children 

    • Eligibility: You must have worked for a government employer for at least 30 days to be eligible for these new leave benefits, AND

    • You are unable to work or telework due to a need to care for your child (under 18 years of age) if the child’s school or place of care is closed or the childcare provider is unavailable due to a public health emergency. (If you have in-home or informal childcare arrangements, it is our opinion you still qualify, and the employer should not inquire into your personal childcare arrangements).

    • Beginning April 2, 2020- you may take FMLA leave to take care of your child. The first ten days will either be unpaid or you’ll use your accrued sick time. Check your contract to see if there is a specific provision on whether you must use accrued sick time.

    • After the first ten days, the employer must provide you with paid sick leave, calculated as follows:

      • Based on the number of hours you would normally work

      • Not less than 2/3 of your regular rate of pay

      • The amount paid under this new law cannot exceed $200/day, or $10,000 total

    • Your collective bargaining agreement does not supersede this law. Meaning, your employer cannot tell you “you don’t get this because you have a union contract.” This applies to every government employee, whether they are covered by a contract or not. These new days don’t replace, but are in addition to, any benefits you receive through the contract.

      Scenario Two: Paid Time Off Due to COVID Exposure/Diagnosis 

  1. The employee is subject to a Federal, State, or local  quarantine or isolation order related to the COVID-19

  2. The employee has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine due to concerns related to the coronavirus; or 

  3. The employee is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and seeking medical diagnosis; or

  4. The employee is caring for an individual who is subject to a quarantine or isolation order or advised to self-quarantine by a health care provider; or

  5. The employee is caring for a child whose school or care provider is closed or unavailable due to coronavirus precautions; or

  6. The employee is experiencing any other condition substantially similar to the coronavirus, as specified by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

  • Beginning April 2, 2020 the employer must provide an additional 80 hours of sick leave, immediately, in addition to other accrued benefit time.

  • The 80 hours of leave must be paid at the employee’s regular rate.

    Note: An employer may pay only 2/3 of the rate for this additional sick time IF the reason is for reasons 4, 5 or 6 above. However, as long as the Governor’s “shelter in place” order is in effect, reason 1 should apply to everyone that isn’t considered “essential” under the Governor’s order.

  • While the 80 hours must be paid at the employee’s regular rate, there is a cap for this leave of $511/day or $5,110 total. 

  • THIS CAP DOES NOT APPLY TO THE NORMAL SICK/BENEFIT TIME YOU HAVE ACCRUED UNDER THE UNION CONTRACT

  • This additional leave will not carry over into 2021.


Essential Employee Status:

  • Governor Pritzker’s Executive Order to “shelter in place” gives broad exemptions to “essential operations” of which includes “Essential Government Functions.”

  • The Executive Order requires each governmental body to identify which employees it considers “essential” which the Order defines as: “employees necessary to the performance of Essential Governmental functions”.

  • What that means for you is if you are: a health department worker, maintenance worker, law enforcement and emergency personnel (including dispatchers, jail staff etc.), and court personnel (though this may not apply if the Chief judge shuts down the circuit court), you are likely to be considered essential. 

  • If you believe that your job title should not be included in the essential employee list produced by your Employer, you should contact your labor rep. Remember, being deemed “non-essential” is only in the context of this Executive Order and has no bearing on your rights under the contract. 


Other Important Considerations

  • Most of our members are public safety professionals, and therefore will likely not be able to “work from home.”

  • However, if there is a question about why you are required to report to the workplace, if you are a civilian especially, you should not just accept an employer’s declaration that you are “essential” and therefore must come to work.

  • As local governments step up their efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19, they may decide to take precautions, including giving you a cursory medical “examination” as you enter government facilities.

  • While this precaution is reasonable under the circumstances, you are still legally protected from certain practices.

    • An Employer, under the ADA, may ask you if you are experiencing symptoms similar to those caused by the disease (currently: fever, chills, cough, shortness of breath, or sore throat). Normally, such questions are prohibited under state and federal law.

    • Employers may measure your body temperature. They should not announce the result in a way that others can hear, and this medical information must be protected in accordance with ADA confidentiality requirements.

    • If you do not have any symptoms of the virus, Employers cannot ask you if you have a medical condition that could make you especially vulnerable to COVID-19.

Final Reminder: Please remember to take care of yourself.  These are extremely stressful times and it is very important to be mindful of your own physical and mental health.  Don’t hesitate to ask for help if you need it.  

We have linked additional information and resources on our website ( www.pbpa.org ) and Facebook Page ( https://www.facebook.com/illinoispbpa ) and will attempt to provide information on changes to CDC guidance, state and federal law, and benefits as it becomes available. 

Thank you for all you are doing to keep us safe and to keep crucial government functions operating during this crisis.

Stay safe & stay healthy - 

Sean Smoot
Director & Chief Legal Counsel
217/523-5141 Ext. 203

 

 

 

 

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