MAPE’s COVID-19 FAQ

Publish Date

Per Gov. Walz’s orders, state agencies are responsible for adopting the COVID-19 Leave policy. If you have concerns, please contact your MAPE steward

We will continue to update this Q&A as more information becomes available.

*last updated on July 13, 2020

NOTE: To conform with Federal law, as of July 22, Covid Leave was revised. You can find the revised policy here: https://mn.gov/mmb-stat/policies/1440-covid-19-leave-policy.pdf

COVID-19 Leave

Starting July 22 you have 80-hours of COVID-19 Leave available. This counts against FMLA if it is a FMLA-covered leave (but this does not limit your use). Everyone starts fresh with an 80-hour bank on July 22nd, regardless of previous use. The 80 hours are prorated for part-time employees.

Does COVID-19 Leave end if the Governor’s Peacetime Emergency ends?
No, COVID Leave has been approved through December 31, 2020 regardless of the state of the Peacetime Emergency,

When does the updated COVID-19 Leave go into effect?
The updated policy begins on July 22, 2020.  There are now two policies, COVID-19 Leave and Extended FMLA for School/Daycare Closure (EFMLA)

Do I need to do anything to remain on COVID-19 Leave and/or EFMLA?
Yes, you should resubmit your COVID-19 request form.

As with the current policy, Priority 1 & 2 employees must get it authorized. Priority 3 & 4 will need to fill out the forms, but if you meet the criteria you should get it.

How do I submit my request/documentation for COVID-19 Leave or EFMLA?
Your agency should have a clear process for requesting these leaves; follow that. You should submit the leave request to your supervisor and include this form. If you are denied, please contact MAPE.

Is COVID-19 Leave a paid leave?
Both COVID-19 Leave and EFMLA are paid leaves, but the amount of hours you can take and the amount of pay you receive are now limited.

What happens to my accruals on COVID-19 leave?
You will not accrue sick or vacation while on COVID-19 leave.

What changes if I’m taking COVID-19 Leave for health reasons?
Health leave (for the employee) covers these situations:

  • Have symptoms of COVID and are seeking a diagnosis (only the actual time spent getting the diagnosis)
  • Have been told to quarantine by a healthcare provider or by a government order
  • In all cases, you will need medical documentation

Pay: Full pay, max $511/day

What changes if I’m taking COVID-19 Leave to provide care?
Care leave covers “caring for an individual who depends on the employee to care for them” who, according to a healthcare provider:

  • Has COVID
  • Is quarantined
  • “may have COVID-19 due to known exposure or symptoms”
  • “is particularly vulnerable to COVID-19”

Pay: 2/3 pay, up to $200/day.  May supplement pay with vacation or (as applicable) sick to make up full pay

Can I use COVID-19 Leave for school/daycare closure?

  • Yes: School/daycare closed and “no other suitable person available” to care for the child
  • If child is older than 14, employee must certify that “special circumstances” exist during daylight hours

Pay: 2/3 pay, up to $200/day.  May supplement pay with vacation or (as applicable) sick to make up full pay.

  • Employees may still mix childcare and telework, as currently (some states are rolling this rule back, not Minnesota)

How does EFMLA work with COVID-19 Leave?

EMFLA covers the same kind of school/daycare closures are COVID-19 Leave.  It is 12 weeks of leave, but the first two weeks are unpaid (it is assumed you would use COVID-19 Leave for those first two weeks.  After two weeks, the pay is the same as COVID-19 Leave, above.

Does EFMLA count against my FMLA time?

Yes. You can only use EFMLA if you have FMLA time available, and if you run out of FMLA you will not able to use EFMLA.

Will someone who has been with the state for more than 30 days but less than 12 months will be eligible to be approved for EFMLA?
Yes.

If yes, will hours of EFMLA used prior to the employee being eligible
for FMLA be counted against that employee’s FMLA balance?

Yes, since EFMLA is just another qualified reason for use of FMLA. If an employee becomes eligible for regular FMLA sometime within this leave year (2021 fiscal year), any EFMLA they used during this fiscal year would count against the employee’s FMLA bank for this leave year.

What if I believe it would be unsafe for me to return to work, but I do not have a condition that falls within the policies in health leave, care leave or daycare leave?
If you live with a family member with a compromised immune system, pregnant spouse, provide care for elderly parents, etc. you can attempt to get medical documentation. Work with immediate supervisor and HR and give them as much heads-up as possible. If those efforts aren’t successful contact your MAPE steward. We may not be able to resolve the issue but we will try.

Must I exhaust my sick and/or vacation leave before I can take COVID-19 leave?
No. MAPE urged MMB to ensure that accrued vacation and sick time will stay intact, and they listened.

If I am vulnerable to COVID-19 and need to stay home, but am unable to work from home, can I use COVID-19 Leave?
Yes, if a healthcare provider supports that need. The Policy states that you can use COVID-19 Leave if a health care provider has determined that the employee’s presence in the workplace may jeopardize the employee’s health because the employee’s underlying health condition renders the employee at greater risk of serious illness if exposed to COVID-19. Review the CDC’s high-risk list here.

Can COVID-19 leave be used intermittently if I need to balance my time between caregiving and teleworking?
Yes, you may continue to use partial COVID-19 Leave with reduced telecommuting hours with employer permission.

Are “non-traditional” employees - like temporary unclassified, part-time, Connect700 or probationary - eligible for COVID-19 Leave and telework provisions?
Yes.


Teleworking

What if I can complete my work via telework, but my supervisor denies my request?
Try to work with your supervisor and make sure to put this request in writing. Situations are changing daily. If you have concerns or continue to be denied, please contact your 
MAPE steward. 

If my job is not conducive to teleworking, is my supervisor responsible to find work I could do via teleworking?
No. 

What telework accommodations and resources are state agencies required to provide?
If the agency requires/requests telework, employees should put their technology needs in writing and the employer is responsible for meeting them. If the employee is requesting telework that is not required, they need to get prior approval of personal expenses.

What if my childcare facility is not closed, but I prefer to keep my child home in the best interest of social distancing precautions – am I eligible for COVID leave?
MMB has advised agency HR that an employee choosing to have their children home but, not connected to daycare closure can explore telework options, which now allows dependents to be at home, or utilize other leave options. If the child is high risk due to a health condition then COVID leave is applicable. 


Workplace Safety

How will I be informed if someone in my worksite has been exposed to or tested positive for COVID-19?
This is being handled at the agency level. Different agencies are handling this differently, so we encourage you to read your agency’s reopening plans carefully.  Please also see current contract language for DHS and DOC which addresses infectious and contagious diseases.

I work in a job that has a lot of public contact but isn’t an “emergency” position. What can MAPE do advocate for member safety in the workplace during COVID-19?
First, be sure to document any safety concerns in writing to your supervisor. If you think you need special equipment or changed work rules, ask for them. If you feel like you're still being put at risk unnecessarily, then contact your MAPE steward.

MMB says employees may be redeployed to different work sites. What does this mean?
MMB will only redeploy workers if necessary. It is our understanding this could mean within and across state agencies. If you are being asked to be redeployed and have concerns, please contact your MAPE steward. If you are being asked to re-deploy, please let us know by sending an email to action@mape.org so that we can keep track of it. 

 

Teleworking and Potentially Unsafe Working Conditions

The Governor’s Executive Orders say that “Any worker who can work from home must do so.”  Does that mean if an employee thinks they can do their job from home, they can do so regardless of what the employer says?

No.  Employers retain the right to determine the essential functions of the job, and if they decide that showing up in person is part of those functions, that’s their decision.  Refusing to follow an order from your supervisors can leave you open to discipline for insubordination, even if you think they’re wrong.

If an employee has been ordered to stop teleworking and return to the workplace, we encourage you to communicate your desire to telework.  Remind the employer of the Executive Orders, and ask specifically why it’s necessary to come in when you’ve been successfully working remotely for so long.  However, do not refuse a direct order.

If you exhaust your efforts to talk with your employer reasonably, reach out to a MAPE steward and we’ll work with you.

What if I have been working from home due to COVID-19 Stay at Home orders? Doesn’t that mean that I can work from home?

Though this is a very good point and one that should be part of any discussion with your supervisor, please remember that there is a difference between what can be done in the short term versus long term duties. There may be duties that were not done during the Stay at Home orders that need to be resumed now.

Again, we encourage conversation with your supervisor and reaching out to your MAPE steward when that seems ineffective.

What if I am at heightened medical risk?  Can I demand they let me work from home in those circumstances?

In cases where you are personally vulnerable, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Minnesota Human Rights Act (MHRA) may apply.  Bear in mind that fear of COVID-19, in and of itself, doesn’t constitute heightened risk.

However, if there is a medical reason why you are more vulnerable, and want to continue working from home to be safe, contact your employer, briefly explain the situation, and ask for continued teleworking as a “reasonable accommodation.”  Your agency may have a designated ADA person in Human Resources, and you can contact them directly if you do not wish to reveal personal medical information to your supervisor. 

We urge you to make the request as early as possible, make it in writing, and follow-up rapidly to get a response.  An employer is within their rights to ask you to provide reasonable medical documentation to back up your claim, but you do not necessarily need to have it in hand at the time you make the request for a reasonable accommodation. 

In 2015 we won the right in our contract for people to have a union steward helping them in conversations about ADA with the employer, so we can help you if you need it.

Does the ADA/MHRA apply in a situation where someone else in the home is vulnerable, and I want to stay home and telework so as not to put them at risk as I come and go?

No. Again, we encourage dialogue wherever possible: talk the situation over with your supervisors and managers and see if you can work something out.

If you have documentation from a medical provider that says you ought to stay away from work in order to protect someone else in your household from possible exposure, and if your employer is unwilling to allow you to telework, you are likely eligible for Unemployment Insurance benefits if you are laid off or otherwise separated (temporarily or not) from your job.

If you can’t get such medical documentation, and you can’t seem to have a productive dialogue with your supervisors, contact a MAPE steward for assistance, but be aware that you may be required to come to work even if in your judgment you don’t think it’s a good idea.

If I return to work and the workplace isn’t being made safe, do I have the right to refuse to work?

Yes, but this is not a right to be exercised carelessly.  You must first follow the appropriate steps laid out in Governor Walz’s Executive Orders and in Minnesota Statute Section 182.654, Subd.11:

  1. You should document the specific COVID-related safety concern in writing, and you must ask the employer to correct the situation.  It is important to remember that the mere possibility that the workplace is unsafe isn’t enough – you have to have a good faith, reasonable belief that particular working conditions are unsafe due to COVID-19.
  2. The employer must be given a reasonable opportunity to do what is necessary to make the workplace safe.
  3. If the employer has not done so, an employee may decide to refuse to do the assigned work.  Do not take this step lightly
    1. Talk to a MAPE steward before acting
    2. Notify your employer again, before acting, that you believe certain working conditions are unsafe due to COVID-19 and that they have not remedied the situation.
    3. You must immediately notify the MN Department of Labor and Industry’s (DLI) OSHA Compliance department at osha.compliance@state.mn.us, 651-284-5050 or 877-470-6742.  They will investigate the situation.
    4. If the Minnesota DLI determines you were within your rights to refuse that work, you are entitled to any wages you should have been paid but were not.
  4. Refusing to do unsafe work does not exempt you from doing other tasks if assigned by your employer – if they shift your duties to something safe, you have to do them or risk discipline for insubordination.

We encourage our members to be responsible and careful with this.  Do not skip steps – follow the whole procedure, and talk to MAPE before putting yourself at risk of discipline for insubordination or job abandonment.
 

Benefits, etc.

What if an employee just started and is not on insurance yet?
If a new employee began work before the executive order was signed and needs health insurance, SEGIP will waive the 35-day waiting period. Contact SEGIP directly.

Has there been any discussion with MMB about increasing vacation rollover limits given the denial or inability to take vacation during COVID-19?
MAPE and MMB signed a Memorandum of Understanding to lift vacation caps for Priority 1 and Priority 2 workers, as well as to any employee who has been redeployed (which MMB defines as movement between agencies, not within agencies).  Since the new fiscal year has already begun, talk to a MAPE steward about this is if you still have a concern.

What if I want to change my Dependent Care (daycare) Expense Account contributions now that daycares are closed? 
Employees can change their pre-tax contributions to their Dependent Care Expense Account if there is a change in how they use this care. To make changes, employees must complete this 121 Benefits form and email it to segip.mmb@state.mn.us. It may take up to two pay periods for changes to go into effect, depending on when an employee submits the form.

What about my Transit Expense Accounts contributions or paid parking costs?
Throughout the year, employees can change their pre-tax contributions to transit expense accounts that help cover parking, bus pass, or vanpool costs. To make changes, employees must complete 
this 121 Benefits form and email it to mmb@state.mn.us. (This is not for parking or transit passes purchased through the Dept of Admin or your agency.) If you are telecommuting and no longer needing parking for work, ask your agency or private parking lot to put a hold on your parking services/charges.

What access do I have to tele-medicine services?
Members should go to their medical plan’s website to find out which tele-medicine company is covered by your plan. Tele-medicine is covered 100% if you use the approved vendor. 

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