Coronavirus FAQs

Updated 10/19/20

CSEA's Response to the Crisis

Q: What is CSEA doing to protect the health and rights of its members?
A: CSEA was instrumental in crafting the California Department of Education and Department of Public Health guidance for reopening schools, which placed an emphasis on outlining specific steps to ensure student and staff safety in the event schools reopened in the fall. The guidance also instructs Local Education Agencies to work with labor partners like CSEA to come to agreement at the table prior to reopening.


This summer your CSEA Governmental Relations team fought hard for protections for all classified staff:

  1. Full state funding the same as the 2019-2020 school year.

  2. Historic support from the legislature in SB 98, stating it was the Legislature’s intent that all classified staff should be retained.

Additionally, CSEA won complete layoff protection for three classifications for the 20-21 year for K-12 and community college employees:

  • Nutrition, Transportation and Custodial 

Initially, CSEA took proactive steps to ensure member safety, healthy working conditions and uphold chapter collective bargaining rights. CSEA took the lead early in the epidemic to bargain special agreements with districts to better protect our members. Many of these epidemic-specific agreements are now complete, and many more are in process.

On the statewide level, CSEA’s Government Relations department is advocating for classified employees in Sacramento as the situation continues to unfold.


Q: What communication will CSEA provide to its members?

A: CSEA will continue to send weekly Leadership Mail, as well as important email alerts and website updates. Local chapters will work to send frequent bargaining updates and/or chapter newsletters with any information they learn from meetings with their district.

Return to School 2020-2021

Q: Is distance-learning the same as the school closures we experienced in the Spring of 2020?
A: No. CSEA is currently working on coronavirus, return and distance-specific agreements with each district that will cover this issue. Talk with your Labor Relations Representative regarding pay during closure at your district.

Q: Some classifications are able to work from home and others are required to report to work. What can we do to seek equity?
A: We are in an unprecedented situation. The law requires certain functions still be performed. It’s important for chapters to try and negotiate over the impacts and effects for our members who are still assigned to come to work during this situation.

Q: What if a member is asked to perform work in sites known to have come into contact with students or staff who have been exposed to the virus, and the member does not want to carry out the assignment?

A: School employees may be disciplined for being insubordinate if they refuse to do assigned work. However, court decisions have affirmed the rights of workers to refuse assignments in situations where they reasonably believe imminent danger exists. Make sure to inform your supervisor that you are willing to perform other duties.

Be advised that if you decide to refuse an assignment, the appeal process is likely to take quite a while given the difficulty of every district and enforcement agency has in scheduling meetings at this time.


If you believe that you are at an increased risk due to personal health problems, you should first discuss the matter with your supervisor. This may constitute a reasonable concern.

Please contact your Labor Relations Representative if you have any questions or concerns.

Q: Can a district assign duties not normally prescribed to classified employees as "disaster service workers?"

A: Government Code § 3100 provides that all public employees in California are “disaster service workers” who are “subject to such disaster service activities as may be assigned to them by their superiors or by law.” The current COVID-19 epidemic falls within that framework.

However, our collective bargaining agreements have not been suspended, and Districts must still bargain under the Educational Employment Relations Act (EERA). If your district claims it can impose “disaster service work” without bargaining or refuses to bargain temporary changes to job descriptions, please reach out to your chapter leadership and Labor Relations Representative. At minimum, employers may need to address issues including “working out of class” and proper safety precautions.

In the meantime, classified employees who are directed to work outside of their usual job classification generally should not refuse to do the work assigned

Q: If a district increases custodial workload to reduce the spread of the virus, what can a chapter do for those workers?

A: Each chapter should negotiate the impacts of assignment changes. Work with your Labor Relations Representative.

Q: My district is asking non-bargaining unit members to perform bargaining unit work, what should I do?

A: ​Contact your Labor Relations Representative or Chapter Leaders.

Q: Does my school district or community college have to reimburse me for home internet, mobile phone, or other expenses if I am doing my job remotely from home?

A: ​Many CSEA members may be working from home and performing tasks that require an internet connection and/or mobile phone service. Education Code section 44032 (for public K-12 schools) and section 87032 (for community colleges) require the employer to reimburse employees for “actual and necessary” expenses incurred in the course of their employment. Check to see if your district or college has a reimbursement policy that provides details, or if your chapter has bargained an agreement detailing reimbursement. Contact your Labor Relations Representative if you believe you are entitled to reimbursement but aren’t able to get it.

Unemployment Benefits

Q: I had a reasonable expectation of working another job through the summer, but now that isn’t going to happen due to COVID-19. Can I collect unemployment benefits?
A: You probably cannot collect traditional UI benefits but instead quite possibly can collect the new federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) benefits: find out by applying through EDD.  When you apply, your claim will be stronger if you present records proving prior summer work and/or your having received an offer of summer work which has been rescinded. EDD’s website explains: “The PUA program is intended to provide assistance to individuals who do not qualify for regular UI if the individual’s unemployment is directly related to COVID-19. Where a school closes on the date the school year was originally scheduled to end, the school is not closing as a direct result of the COVID-19 public health emergency. As a result, most school employees who file for benefits during the recess period and are denied regular UI benefits due to the reasonable assurance provisions would not qualify for PUA benefits because their unemployment is not COVID-19 related. However, if a school employee normally works over the summer break and that employment has been impacted because of a COVID-19 related reason, the EDD will determine on a case-by-case basis whether such an employee is eligible for UI, and if they are not monetarily eligible for UI, then PUA. It should also be noted that if a school employee has non-school wages that can be used to qualify for a regular UI claim based solely on those wages then they may qualify for regular UI benefits during the recess period.”

Paid Leave Time

Q: What if a member is directed to leave work or not attend work for a period of time due to illness?
A: Members who are feeling ill should have leaves available to them as a result of chapter COVID-19 effects negotiations, the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), California Education Code and/or the new Families First Coronavirus Response Act (HR 6201). If a member has been sent home by the District as a precautionary measure, CSEA believes the District should not deduct the member’s leaves and instead maintain regular pay for the employee while they regain health. Your Labor Relations Representative can assist you.

Q: Can I use paid leave to take care of a sick family member?
A: Due to recent changes in law, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (HR 6201), a new minimum amount of leave for various reasons including family illness has been established during this crisis.

The Act provides that public employers must provide to all covered employees:

  • Two weeks (up to 80 hours) of paid sick leave at two-thirds the employee’s regular rate of pay (or state minimum wage, if higher) because the employee is unable to work because of a bona fide need to care for an individual subject to quarantine (pursuant to Federal, State, or local government order or advice of a health care provider. This pay is capped at $200/day.

The only job classifications not covered are health care providers and “emergency responders” (defined by the U.S. Department of Labor to include law enforcement officers and anyone designated in the future by the Governor as an emergency responder for these purposes).

Districts are also required by state law to allow you to use your accrued sick leave to take care of family members who are ill.

There may be other leaves available to you at the chapter level due to agreements negotiated by your chapter. Your Labor Relations Representative can assist you.

Q: How can members take time off to deal with a childcare crisis caused by a childcare center or school closing due to coronavirus?
A: Due to recent changes in law, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (HR 6201), a new minimum amount of leave for childcare problems has been established during this crisis.

The Act provides that public employers must provide to all covered employees two weeks (up to 80 hours) of paid sick leave at two-thirds the employee’s regular rate of pay (or minimum wage, if higher) because the employee is unable to work because of a bona fide need to care for a child (under 18 years of age) whose school or child care provider is closed or unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19, and/or the employee is experiencing a substantially similar condition.

In addition, an employer must provide to employees that it has employed for at least 30 days an additional 10 weeks of paid leave at two-thirds the employee’s regular rate of pay (capped at $200/day) where an employee is unable to work due to a need for leave to care for a child whose school or child care provider is unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19. Note that this is not additional leave on top of FMLA leave, so it will not be available to you if you have already used up some of your 12 weeks’ worth of FMLA entitlement earlier in the past 12 months.

The only job classifications not covered are health care providers and “emergency responders” (defined by the U.S. Department of Labor to include law enforcement officers and anyone designated in the future by the Governor as an emergency responder for these purposes).

Many districts also adhere to the provisions in Labor Code section 230.8 providing up to 40 hours of unpaid leave for childcare problems.

There may be other leaves available to you at the chapter level due to agreements negotiated by your chapter. Your Labor Relations Representative can assist you.

Q: Is paid leave available to employees caring for a child displaced by COVID-19 school closures?
A: HR 6201 was signed into law on March 18, 2020. It amends the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to cover COVID-19 related leaves for an employee who is unable to work due to a need to care for the employee’s minor child if the child’s school or place of care has been closed or the childcare provider is unavailable due to a public health emergency. This leave needs to be made available to you on an intermittent basis if you wish (that is, hourly or daily, not just in a weeklong period) according to a recent federal district court decision, which disagreed with a Labor Department regulation claiming employers have the option to deny intermittent leave. Contact your Field Representative for more information or if you have been denied intermittent leave under this new law.

Health and Safety Issues

Q: What additional training and supplies could be provided to members tasked with addressing the spread of the virus?
A: Each chapter should demand to bargain for safety training and adequate supplies appropriate for the chapter.

The OSHA website is good resources for available trainings, safety rule and regulations, and hazards materials. OSHA requires all employers have a hazard communications program to alert employees to the specific hazards at their workplace.  In addition, the California Department of Public Health has issued school-specific safety guidance that employers must follow.

Q: What can CSEA members do to protect their health?
A: Wash your hands regularly and do not touch your face. Wear a mask—the best type available to you.

If you work in foodservice, an Executive Order from the Governor (51-20) guarantees you the right to take a break every 30 minutes to wash your hands. Also, check out the recent Cal OSHA guidance for grocery employers. How both grocery stores and school foodservice facilities are supposed to protect worker safety is governed by the same general legal duties in the Labor Code. Cal OSHA recently published guidelines to these general duties for grocery stores, most of which would be equally applicable to school foodservice.

If your district is not adhering to these guidelines, let your Labor Relations Representative or Chapter leaders know right away. Please refer to the California Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention websites for more guidance and documentation on safety measures and/or concerns.

Ask your Labor Relations Representative about COVID Know Your Rights trainings hosted by your field office.

Q: What if I catch the COVID-19 virus from working?
A: If you think you have caught this virus, don’t be afraid to pay to be tested. The new federal CARES Act requires tests be provided free of charge. 

Additionally, CSEA fought hard for the passage of SB 1159, a law which creates a “rebuttable presumption” for school employees as it relates to contracting COVID-19 illness at work. 

SB 1159 creates a rebuttable presumption that applies to all employees, including school and community college employees, whose employers have five or more employees. This presumption is effective if there is a COVID-19 outbreak at the employee’s place of employment. 

Your Labor Relations Representative will help determine if an outbreak has occurred as defined in the bill.

Even if there is no outbreak, you may still be legally entitled to workers compensation benefits if you contracted the illness at work. These benefits include medical care and disability payments. 

If the District resists such a workers’ comp claim, contact your CSEA LRR who can refer you to attorneys who specialize in workers’ comp cases.

CalPERS Credit

Q: Will there be any impact to CalPERS credit during the school closures?
A: Only if members are unpaid and if members work under 1,720 hours per fiscal year (10 months/ 8 hours per day). If reported as unpaid and under 1,720 you would lose service credit. That’s why CSEA is actively working with districts to ensure our members remain in paid status during this time.

If you have any questions or concerns about your paid status, you should contact your Labor Relations Representative.

Q: Could the type of “leave” used, have any impact to CalPERS?
A: Only if the leave is an unpaid leave.  If the leave is PAID, the salary is reported as normal with no impact to service credit.

Q: My District is placing me on paid administrative leave. Will this have a negative impact on my CalPERS credit?
A: Paid administrative leave with the intent to return to work is reportable to CalPERS for service credit. If you have any concerns about how your leave is being reported, you should contact your Labor Relations Representative.

Information for Negotiating Teams

Q: We already negotiated an agreement. Why are we negotiating another?

A: We did negotiate closure agreements. A return to school, whether it is in-person or a distance learning model, will change working conditions and new health authority requirements require negotiation as well.

Q: Will new agreements require ratification from the membership?
A: All negotiated agreements are subject to the Policy 610 requirements for field office review and membership ratification. The CSEA Board of Directors has waived parts of Policy 610 to allow chapters to ratify negotiated agreements via electronic meetings or online poll. Chapters should not ask members to gather together in person to do union business so long as health officials are discouraging such gatherings due to the coronavirus pandemic. All Regional Representatives have been authorized by the Association President to obtain Zoom accounts at CSEA expense to conduct ratification meetings on Zoom if the chapter desires. Contact your Labor Relations Representative for further guidance.

Q: With safety measures taken by CSEA and districts, are we expected to convene the entire bargaining team for negotiations?
A: No. We urge you not to hold any in-person meetings at this time. Negotiations using phone or video conferencing resources ARE required. CSEA and the District will have to work together to find a method that works best for all involved.

Q: Can I just email the District our proposal?
A: As a general rule, do not mail or email the proposed agreements to districts without first having met with them via phone or video.

Q: When should our chapter be seeking agreements that settle the effects of school closure, distance learning, or changes in duties?
A: In coordination with the Labor Relations Representatives, chapters should be working to reach an agreement as soon as possible. CSEA will be clear with districts regarding rights to negotiate under the law.

Your Labor Relations Representative will schedule with your districts immediately to ensure the chapter reaches a fair agreement.

Q: When should we update our members?
A: CSEA encourages chapters to send regular updates to members to ensure they have the most up-to-date and accurate information.

Q: My district was on the State Watchlist—does the district have to implement the distance-learning model?

A: It depends.


Per CDPH guidelines, schools and school districts may reopen for in-person instruction at any time if they are located in a local health jurisdiction (LHJ) that has not been on the county monitoring list within the prior 14 days.


If the LHJ has been on the monitoring list within the last 14 days, the school must conduct distance learning only, until their LHJ has been off the monitoring list for at least 14 days.


A waiver of this criteria may be granted by the local health officer for elementary schools to open for in-person instruction.  A waiver may only be granted if one is requested by the superintendent(or equivalent for charter or private schools), in consultation with labor, parent and community organizations.  Local health officers must review local community epidemiological data, consider other public health interventions, and consult with CDPH when considering a waiver request. 

Q: What are the criteria for closing a school?

A: Per CDPH guidelines, individual school closure is recommended based on the number of cases, the percentage of the teacher/students/staff that are positive for COVID-19, and following consultation with the Local Health Officer.  Individual school closure may be appropriate when there are multiple cases in multiple cohorts at a school or when at least 5 percent of the total number of teachers/student/staff are cases within a 14-day period, depending on the size and physical layout of the school. The Local Health Officer may also determine school closure is warranted for other reasons, including results from public health investigation or other local epidemiological data. If a school is closed for in-person learning, when may it reopen? Schools may typically reopen after14 days and the following have occurred:

  • Cleaning and disinfection

  • Public health investigation

  • Consultation with the local public health department

Q: What are the criteria for closing a school district?

A: Per CDPH guidelines, a superintendent should close a school district if 25% or more of schools in a district have closed due to COVID-19within 14 days, and in consultation with the local public health department. If a school district is closed, when may it reopen? Districts may typically reopen after 14 days, in consultation with the local public health department.

Q: Do students have to wear masks?

A: Please see table below, per CDPH Guidelines:

**Face coverings are strongly encouraged for young children between two years old and second grade, if they can be worn properly. A face shield is an acceptable alternative for children in this cohort who cannot wear them properly.

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