Coronavirus FAQs

CSEA's Response to the Crisis

Q: What is CSEA doing to protect the health and rights of its members?
A: CSEA has already taken and will continue to take 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 unfolds. For example, it secured an Executive Order N-26-20 telling districts their continued ADA funding is intended for keeping all their staff on full pay, and secured an immediate $100 million in state funding for protective equipment for school employees and cleaning, as well as playing a key role in negotiating the Framework for Labor-Management Collaboration among state leaders, including the California Department of Education and Governor’s Office.

 

Read more about the Framework for Labor-Management Collaboration.

 

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.

School Closures

Q: How will members be paid during a school closure?
A: Your chapter’s contract may contain language ensuring members get paid in the event of an emergency closure. If it does not, this must be bargained. CSEA is currently working on coronavirus-specific agreements with each district that will cover this issue.

The Governor’s Executive Order N-26-20 will assist us at the bargaining table. The Governor has encouraged all members of the school community, including administrators and employees, to communicate and consult with one another as they plan and implement their strategies for serving students and families.
 

Additionally, Education Code 41422 (California Code of Regulations § 58146 for Community Colleges) allows districts to receive the full apportionment from the State if they are unable to operate a full school year, due to an epidemic.

In addition, Education Code 45199 gives the district discretion to grant paid leave due to an epidemic without deducting from the employee’s accumulated leave.
 

If the District notifies you that you will not get paid, contact your Chapter President or Labor Relations Representative for assistance.

Q: How does the Governor’s Executive Order affect the situation?
A: Governor Newsom has ordered that all schools continue to receive funding during closures. The Governor also told school districts they need to pay all staff during this time. The order strengthens our positions at the bargaining table, but it does not answer all questions related to the impacts of closure. Each chapter will need its own agreement.

Q: Some classifications are being dismissed 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.
 

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.
 

Some districts have been announcing that they might designate staff as “disaster service workers” in the future but have not yet made specific assignments. Don’t be alarmed by this type of announcement—there is no reason to worry about something that hasn’t happened yet and might never happen. But do make sure your Labor Relations Representative knows about it, so CSEA can take steps to protect member rights.

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.

2020 Economic Impact Payments (Stimulus Checks)

Q: When will I receive my Economic Impact Payment?
A: Economic Impact Payments will be distributed automatically to millions of Americans. Payment distribution began in April. Eligible taxpayers who filed tax returns for 2019 or 2018 will receive the payments automatically. Automatic payments will also go in the near future to those people receiving Social Security retirement, survivors and disability (SDDI).
 

Eligible taxpayers who filed tax returns for either 2019 or 2018 and chose direct deposit of their refund will automatically receive an Economic Impact Payment of up to $1,200 for individuals or $2,400 for married couples and $500 for each qualifying child, depending on income. The U.S. Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service also launched a new web tool allowing quick registration for Economic Impact Payments for those who don’t normally file a tax return.

 

To help everyone check on the status of their payments, the IRS created a web page called Get My Payment to provide people with the status of their payment, including the date their payment is scheduled to be deposited into their bank account or mailed to them.
 

An additional feature on Get My Payment will allow eligible people a chance to provide their bank account information so they can receive their payment more quickly rather than waiting for a paper check. This feature will be unavailable if your Economic Impact Payment has already been scheduled for delivery.
 

Eligible retirees and recipients of Social Security, Railroad Retirement, disability or veterans' benefits as well as taxpayers who do not make enough money to normally have to file a tax return will receive an automatic payment in the near future. This also includes those who have no income, as well as those whose income comes entirely from certain benefit programs, such as Supplemental Security Income benefits. For more information, visit IRS.gov/coronavirus.

H&R Block, a CSEA Member Benefits provider, also has information on their website.

Q: How much will I receive in my stimulus check?
A: More than 90 percent of American adults qualify for a stimulus payment. Get an estimate of how much money you may expect from your 2020 stimulus payment using this Online Calculator.

Q: Will my stimulus check be taxed?
A: Your stimulus check is not considered taxable income.

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 foran 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 is a new law, and there are still some unanswered questions about it. For more information, please contact your CSEA Labor Relations Representative.

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.

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, a new 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.

Q: What if I catch the COVID-19 virus from working?
A: If you think you have caught this virus, don’t be afraid of having to pay to get tested: the new federal CARES Act requires tests be provided free of charge. If you did catch the virus from work, you are legally entitled to workers compensation benefits: these benefits include medical care and disability payments. If the District resists such a workers’ comp claim, let CSEA know: CSEA can refer you to attorneys who specialize in workers comp cases. Contact your Labor Relations Representative.

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: Will agreements require ratification from the membership?
A: CSEA's Board of Directors has waived Policy 610 for MOUs concerning COVID-19: these MOUs require submission to the Field Office and approval by the chapter executive board but not the entire membership. All other negotiated agreements are subject to the Policy 610 requirements for field office review and membership ratification, except the Board has waived the requirement for secret balloting unless a member affirmatively requests this. If secret balloting is requested, it can be done by confidential polling at a ratification meeting held in Zoom Webinar format or through similar services. All RegionalRepresentatives 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?
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.

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