Home|Blog | BREAKING NEWS: MEA Successfully Defeats City’s Attempt to “Furlough” Hundreds of City Workers Without Pay

BREAKING NEWS: MEA Successfully Defeats City’s Attempt to “Furlough” Hundreds of City Workers Without Pay

As we previously updated you on Sunday, MEA filed a grievance against the City as a result of the instruction to hundreds of employees by e-mail or over the phone that, as of April 4th, they would no longer get paid unless they used their own accrued leave balances.  These employees are in Library, Parks and Recreation, City Treasurer, Transportation and Storm Water, and other City Departments.  Our grievance asserted that these directives to employees who are otherwise ready, willing and able to work amount to a unilateral and unlawful “unpaid furlough” which violates MEA’s contract, the City Charter, Civil Service Rules and State law related to collective bargaining for public employees.

After days of vigorous and contentious discussions with City leaders, we have resolved the grievance restoring all City employees who are otherwise ready and willing to work to FULL PAID STATUS back to April 4 and going forward.

We appreciate the tireless work of many at MEA and the City — especially MEA attorney Ann Smith — who helped accomplish this result. 

To be clear, this means that any full time, three-quarter time or half-time employee who is ready, able and willing to work CANNOT be placed on an unpaid “leave of absence” or otherwise have their pay or hours reduced – even if their work facility is closed, or their supervisor said they were not needed or “not essential,” or for any other reason.  Any employee who was instructed last week that this would be the case and that they must fill out their timecard or entries into SAP using their own accrued leave, will be made whole and will not be forced to burn their own accrued leave.  Any employee who is still being instructed in this way should call MEA immediately.

Please note that MEA’s grievance and this resolution applies to employees who are ready, willing and able to work and not to those employees who are not willing or able to work due to one of these COVID-19-related circumstances:

1. Confirmed COVID-19 diagnosis;
2. COVID-19 symptomatic;
3. COVID-19 exposed or potentially exposed;
4. Recently traveled;
5. Age 65 or over;
6. Serious underlying health conditions;
7. Caring for others with COVID-19; or
8. Impacted by school or childcare closures

For employees who fall into any one of these categories, you should consult the City’s latest “COVID-19 Protocol” or call MEA to understand and discuss a number of good options at your disposal based on federal legislation in response to this pandemic.  The difference for these categories of employees is that, to be in compliance with MEA’s MOU and State law, the City is not required to keep you in a paid status beyond the specific entitlements otherwise defined by law.

The bottom line is that if you are willing and able to work, you will continue to get full pay.  However, it is also important to understand that, during this crisis, the City DOES have the right to assign you to do work that has not previously been part of your normal job duties and may even re-assign you to perform duties outside your job classification, division or department.   These assignments must be appropriate in terms of your health, safety and training.  The City is supposed to be communicating with MEA about those assignments before they are made but that communication has been lacking to date.  We expect the City to correct this as part of our grievance resolution.

Accordingly, please contact MEA if you are assigned a job that is different than your normal work duties AND you believe that the assignment is something that you are not qualified or trained to do; or that it jeopardizes your health or safety; or that you have not been provided proper personal protective equipment; or any other reason.

MEA regrets that the City put so many employees through the stress and distress these directives caused.  We credit the Mayor and City leaders for recognizing and promptly resolving this issue.  We have assured the City that all employees remain committed to the public service they have always provided.  We have emphasized, however, that you deserve – and have a right to expect – that the City will act thoughtfully and lawfully during these challenging times.

We are very gratified for the result we were able to achieve to keep every employee willing to work in a paid status.  MEA will continue to vigorously protect your rights during this crisis and keep you posted on any developments.  The City’s policies and practices related to COVID-19 are ever-changing and complicated.  Please don’t hesitate to call MEA if you need help navigating these rules!

Stay strong and stay safe.