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Beginning in March of 2020, the City allowed some employees to Telecommute as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic for those classifications that were able to Telecommute.  At various times in the last two and half years since March 2020, the City has frustratingly gone back and forth between encouraging Telecommuting, to pronouncements that Telecommuting may no longer be allowed, and just about everything in between.

During this time, MEA has advocated for more Telecommuting options for employees, and has repeatedly and successfully convinced the City to abandon its plans to remove Telecommuting as an option altogether.

Over the last several months MEA has also been engaged with the City on developing guidelines (AR 95.95) that would establish how employees can request to Telework, how and when the City can require an employee to return to work when Teleworking, and identifying what the City is responsible for and what employees are responsible for while Teleworking.

It is important to note that while MEA has negotiated many benefits of Telecommuting as well as making a successful case for the City to not abandon it, Telecommuting is not a right or a guarantee that is negotiable.  MEA’s role has been to communicate and advocate with the City about the benefits of Telework as an option for many classifications.  But at the end of the day the City has the ability to dictate if and under what circumstances Teleworking will be permitted.

Teleworking schedules are now in the hands of individual Departments.  Many Departments are putting forward instructions regarding Telework, and some Departments are including limitations to Telework to only 1 or 2 days a week at a maximum for those that are able to do so.

MEA’s concern is and will continue to be both the availability and equity of Teleworking.  This is why MEA negotiated and fought for the favorable employee benefits in AR 95.95, which includes Departments being responsible for identifying why someone is being denied Telecommuting.  With the why we can ensure that the process is not being used for favoritism or being utilized in a discriminatory way.  Again, AR 95.95 is only a guideline and not a guarantee for Telework for any employee.

Every Department is handling Telecommuting differently, even down to the divisional and employee level.  It is each Department’s responsibility to identify whether it wants to allow Telecommuting, and how many days per week of Telecommuting it will allow.

While frustrating that a system that was working relatively well over the last two and a half years is being drastically modified, MEA continues to engage with individual Departments and the City stressing the importance of Telework as an option for employees.  Times are changing, and while the City is at times reluctant to change with them, MEA is committed to continuing these conversations and challenging the City to change its philosophy from the once traditional office working environment.

Your voice is needed as we continue our discussions with City management.  We are strongly encouraging employees to share their very legitimate concerns with the reduction of Teleworking opportunities with their management teams.  Please share your concerns with your Department Directors, because the particulars of Telework in your Department is your Director’s decision to make.  Robust Teleworking options are beneficial to employees and the City, and MEA will continue to make this case.  But your voice directly with your management is also very important.

If you are being denied Telework after submitting your Telework form, please reach out to your Labor Relations Officer at 619-264-6632 or info@sdmea.org.