On Monday, March 30, 2020, LA County’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO) sent a letter to all County employees announcing that two new leave programs – Emergency Paid Sick Leave (EPSL) and FMLA Emergency Leave – would be available to all County employees effective Wednesday, April 1, 2020.
Unfortunately, Department of Human Resource Managers were neither briefed nor prepared to respond to employee requests to utilize the new leave. They had no forms. They had no pay codes. They had no guidance. Today, as the week comes to a close, they still have no forms, codes or guidance.
To make matters worse, yesterday the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) informed SEIU 721 and all County unions that the County had decided to “exempt” health care and “frontline responder” employees in DHS, DPH, DMH, Coroner, Fire, Sheriff, Public Works, ISD, DCFS, DPSS, and Probation Departments. HR 6201, the “Federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act,” does not exempt such employees, but it does allow employers the option of applying the exemption on certain employees. As an employer, LA County has now announced that they have chosen to make this exemption applicable to some LA County departments.
Neither the CEO’s Monday letter to all County employees, nor the attached guidelines, made any mention of any “exempt” employees or Departments. This is a decision that LA County reached later.
What does it mean if I am “exempt?” Does it mean that I don’t get the 80 hours of EPSL or FMLA Emergency Leave?
NO. That is NOT what it means. All County employees will receive the additional 80 hours of EPSL and the FMLA Emergency Leave. It will show up on online pay statements beginning on April 7. But, if you are an “exempt” employee you must receive Department Head approval in order to use the new leave programs. From the Union’s point of view, leaving the decision of “who gets and who doesn’t get” to utilize those 80 hours solely to individual Department Heads may result in inequitable practices that can hurt our members.
So, rest assured that we understand that the pandemic has left many members in desperate situations – having to decide between their own health and safety, the safety of their children, and the need for continued income. And so, SEIU Local 721 will fight like hell to make sure that no requests to use EPSL or FMLA Emergency Leave are unreasonably denied!
We will provide further updates on this matter as soon as information is available.
Stay in touch. Stay calm. Stay safe.