As public safety employees, your job puts you on the frontlines of our fight against this pandemic. To help reduce the risk of COVID-19 exposure, we are working hard to ensure that employers are providing adequate paid time off to employees who are required to self-quarantine due to possible exposure to COVID-19.
Thanks to the efforts of many unions, including the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Congress passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). The Act requires public employers to provide two emergency leave benefits to employees:
Paid Sick Leave: Public employers are required to provide up to two weeks paid leave for employees to care for their own coronavirus related illness or quarantine, someone in their household who is ill with coronavirus or quarantined, a child that is home due to a coronavirus-related school closure or an unavailable child care provider.
Paid Family Leave: Public employers are required to provide up to twelve weeks of paid leave for employees if the employee is unable to work due to a need to care for their child because of a school or day care closure or because their child care provider is unavailable due to the Coronavirus public health emergency.
There is, however, an exception for emergency responders, a category that includes law enforcement, 911 personnel, and corrections employees. Congress allowed public employers to exempt emergency responders from the paid leave provisions of the FFCRA. In our view, that exemption was only meant to be used as a last resort to help avoid serious disruptions to vital public safety services. Unfortunately, some public employers have been denying emergency responders access to these important benefits simply to avoid having to provide administrative leave.
Together, we have been pushing back against those irresponsible practices and our efforts are already paying off. We are happy to announce that we have won commitments from the following public safety agencies to either allow their emergency responders to access FFCRA emergency paid sick leave or to provide another type of emergency paid leave for emergency responders:
- The City of Pacific Police Department
- Port of Seattle Police Department
- City of Redmond Police Department
- South Correctional Entity (SCORE)
- South Sound 911
- Town of Steilacoom Public Safety
- The University of Washington Police Department
However, there is more work to be done. With your help, we will continue to insist that employers provide our members with adequate paid administrative leave.
I also want to let you know that the International Brotherhood of Teamsters has released a Coronavirus Fact Sheet specifically for law enforcement officers. It includes information about recommended workplace policies. You can access many more COVID-19 resources on our Union's website.
If you have any concerns about your agency’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, please contact your Union Representative to report it.