Updated COVID Guidelines For State Employees

The latest set of COVID-19 guidelines for State Employees has been released and there are some noteable changes from prior guidance.  The key take-aways:

Testing:

The State will currently accept "home test" results to support quarantining and/or compliance with the Testing Mandate.  Those required to test should upload a picture of their test result to WellSpark.

Those who are under the Testing Mandate and Teleworking 100% do not have to test until their 100% Telework period ends.

Those who test positive for COVID-19 but are asymptomatic should immediately isolate for 5 days and may return to the office after 5 days but wear a mask and social distance for an additional 5 days.

Illness:

Those who are showing symptoms (even if not yet tested) should isolate and contact their agency about teleworking.  Those showing any symptoms of illness should get tested quickly.  For those who need to isolate due to symptoms or a positive test, the 80hrs of LOPD is still available (if you have utilized your 80hrs of LOPD, there may be an additional allotment of LOPD allowed under certain circumstances before utilizing your own accrued time)...but the default option is to telework if possible and to supplement that time with LOPD if necessary.  You can return to the worksite no sooner than 5 days from the start of symptoms but not until there are no signs of a fever for 24hrs.

Exposure:

If you have been in close contact with someone who tested positive but you have received your booster shot, you can still report to the office but should wear a mask for 10 days and social distance at all times.  Get tested 5 days after the exposure.

If unvaccinated or vaccinated but not boosted, you should quarantine out of the office for 5 days then you are able to return to the office (if asymptomatic) but continue to mask and social distance for an additional 5 days.  Get tested on day 5 from exposure.

The CDC continues to recommend vaccination/booster, wearing a mask in congregate/public areas, social distancing at all times, and washing/sanitizing hands.

Lastly, you may start to hear the different terms "isolate" and "quarantine"...in non-scientific language,  "isolate" refers to how a person with confirmed COVID should conduct themselves, while "quarantine" refers to the period of pre-cautionary separation prior to a confirmed result (either positive or negative).

View the guidance document released by DAS/OPM for more details.

-1/4/22

 

Telework Arbitration Decision (and short-term expansion)

TWO TELEWORK ITEMS:

(1) Telework Constraints Temporarily Relaxed

Josh Geballe, a.k.a Connecticut's Chief Operating Officer, has advised agencies to loosen up Telework constraints over the next couple of weeks.  This is for several reasons including that  testing requirements have been temporarily suspended and the COVID positivity rate is spiking. If you wish to expand your current telework schedule as a result, discuss this with your manager as directed by Josh Geballe, COO of CT.  His instructions to agencies reads as follows:

    • Consider situational telework.  Employees who wish to maximize their telework around the holidays should discuss with their managers, and managers are encouraged to accommodate such requests as much as possible.

(2) SEBAC Prevails in Telework Arbitration

In further Telework news, the arbitrator has ruled that the union's Last Best Offer governing telework caps was the most reasonable. As a result, employees may request any amount of Telework (consistent with job duties and operational needs).  The award provides that agencies can require one day of physical presence in the office per week.  An agency's determination that an employee must be in the office more than 1 day per week is subject to appeal...generally, this means that employee telework requests exceeding 80% telework can be denied without appeal. However, and more importantly, requests of 80% or less, if denied, can be pursued through the appeal process.

[We just received this Telework arbitration award and are still digesting it ourselves.  We know it is an important decision for our members so we wanted to let everyone know right away.  There will be more news on this as we implemented the agreement]

FULL AND FINAL TELEWORK AGREEMENT EFFECTIVE JANUARY 2022

-12/27/21

Mandatory Testing Requirement Temporarily Suspended

COVID-19 Testing: The State has temporarily suspended the COVID-19 Testing Requirement for State Employees who have not been vaccinated.  This is due to the high volume of demand on testing infrastructure and the desire to prioritize resources for symptomatic individuals.   The testing requirements have been suspended from thru January 3rd and enforcement of the testing policy will resume on January 11th.  However, Agencies that are currently conducting on-site testing will continue to do so, but there will be no enforcement action taken for non-compliance during the suspension period.

PL Time: A final reminder that your 2021 Personal Leave time expires on December 31, it is "use it or lose it"...please ensure that you use your PL time before the end of the year or it will be forfeited.

-12/21/21

Student Debt Forgiveness

In 2019, AFT filed suit against the US Department of Education (Weingarten v DeVos) over the US DOEs failure to properly manage the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program (PSLF). The US DOE settled this lawsuit entitling anyone who was previously denied student loan forgiveness under this program will now have an opportunity to have their loans re-evaluated for forgiveness. Further, the DOE has changed its policies to better serve those holding student debt rather than serving the loan management companies. 

This is of particular importance for CT State Employees as the PSLF guarantees that those who work in public service and consistently pay their monthly student loan bills will have the balance of their loans forgiven after 10 years. This means, state employees who consistently make student loan payments may now qualify for the elimination of any remaining debt.

AFT (A&R is a local of AFT) has committed to continue its fight to reduce the crushing impact that student can create and has also partnered with an online resource called Summer (www.meetsummer.org). AFT will provide this resource for free to all AFT/A&R members. The goal is to help union members reduce the impact of student debt but also to limit the all-to-often traps that have been set by student loan management companies. If you are an A&R member and you want to better manage your student debt, we encourage you to follow this link to the AFT website.

Open Budget Committee Meeting

The Budget Committee will be holding its annual Open Budget Meeting at the A&R Office on January 20, 2022  5:30pm.  This annual meeting is an opportunity for any A&R member to propose budget items for consideration and to view the upcoming budget as it is being prepared.  All members are invited to attend and participate or just simply listen.