Union-LSNYC Covid-related agreements

LSNYC and the LSSA union are engaged in ongoing negotiations over policies for safeguarding the health of our staff, our families, and our clients, pursuant to our Covid-19 collective bargaining agreement side letter. Below you will find the agreements that we have negotiated. At the bottom of the page you will also find the commitments that LSNYC has made that are important to memorialize even if they fall short of what the union believes is necessary. This page will be updated as new agreements are reached or policies are modified.

Fully Voluntary RTO Pilot (7/20/21-9/30/21) Extended on 9/21/21 thru 10/31/21

For the period through September 30, 2021, we are commencing a new volunteer pilot project:

  • Staff will work from LSNYC’s offices full or part-time on a voluntary basis, and will otherwise continue to be based at home during this period.
  • DAs/Central Facilities Manager or designees will oversee office scheduling to ensure that occupancy limits are observed and to maintain adequate coverage, and will come up with a protocol that prioritizes health and safety for employees, including use of individual offices when practicable, client needs, and equity.
  • To facilitate coverage of tasks that are essential during this period of partial office reopening[1], LSSA and management recognize that volunteers may be willing to cover some tasks that they do not normally perform when all staff members are working from the office. To the extent that any staff member volunteers for out-of-home work that is other than and/or beyond their usual job, it is understood those tasks do not become a part of that employee’s regular job, and there is no expectation they will continue performing those tasks beyond the duration of this pilot project.
  • LSSA, primarily via the program Covid committees, will work with management to administer a volunteer solicitation system for these tasks. The LSSA and management program COVID committees shall confer at least every 2 weeks to monitor the efficacy of this pilot. Each such meeting shall include discussion of the status of Microecologies’ reinspections and implementation of health and safety measures in each of the program’s locations. The initial meeting will take place within two weeks of commencement of this pilot and will continue at least once every two weeks thereafter.
  • Microecologies will be asked immediately to revisit each of LSNYC’s offices to review changes made, or underway, based on their recommendations. Microecologies will be asked to schedule these visits as soon as they are available. A union representative may join each visit.
  • Effective immediately upon reaching agreement, occupancy limits for each office location shall be 40% of the number of staff who worked at each location prior to closure.
  • Occupancy limits for each office location may be increased to 50% of the number of staff who worked at each location prior to closure after:
    • Each office is reinspected by MicroEcologies and a union representative, and
    • MicroEcologies confirms that necessary health and safety measures have been effectively implemented, and
    • Each office develops an ongoing air-safety monitoring and maintenance plan
  • 100% of occupancy will be defined as the number of employees who were based at a given location in March 2020 prior to Covid closures. See Appendix B [listing occupancy numbers by location]. Visitors, clients and all employees will be calculated as part of occupancy.
  • Masks will continue to be required in the offices at all times, unless this requirement is modified by a borough Covid Committee after sign-off by MicroEcologies.
  • Those volunteering as part of this pilot project are eligible for reimbursements as per the CBA, including but not limited to reimbursement for transportation to sites other than the office. In addition, after submission by the employee of documentation of actual paid expenses in the form of a letter, receipt, or other similar documentation, childcare and eldercare costs will be reimbursed at their actual cost of up to $15 an hour.
  • This pilot may be terminated by either side after providing two weeks’ notice that includes the reasons for termination, during which time the borough Covid Committees will meet and confer and make good faith efforts to resolve any outstanding problems. If terminated, any volunteer responsibilities are terminated and the parties will return to the table to negotiate a new agreement.
  • This proposal does not cover in-office and in-court appearances and appearances in other adjudicative forums.

[1] Essential tasks during this period include but are not limited to those attached in Appendix A.

Out-of-Home Work Assignments:
Interim Pilot Collaboration (12/23/20-1/31/21) Extended to 4/15/21 on 3/12/21; Further extended to 5/15/21 on 4/7/21

For work planning purposes, LSNYC will ask all employees (managers and union members alike) whether, while we all remain based out of our homes, they consent to perform limited out-of-home work tasks (such as visiting other venues to pick up and deliver documents, copying court and other files, opening and scanning mail) that are necessary to maintain client service and organizational operations. It is understood that an employee may be willing to engage in some types of out-of-home work but not others, and the tasks an employee may or may not be willing to perform may be subject to change, and LSNYC will honor each employee’s decisions about the out-of-home tasks that the employee is willing to perform. LSNYC will not ask for disclosure of the employee’s reasons for not performing out-of-home work. LSNYC commits that no blame, retaliation, or negative employment consequences will be meted out if an employee does not perform out-of-home work.

LSNYC will solicit volunteers in a manner that minimizes the risk that employees may feel pressured to volunteer and that seeks volunteers from the widest possible pool; therefore requests for volunteers will be sent to all, and not just to individuals or to members with specific job titles. Out-of-home tasks shall be distributed equitably among volunteers in a way that is not overly burdensome to any volunteer or group of volunteers.

Staff who volunteer for out-of-home work tasks will be scheduled as needed. No employee will be asked to work out-of-home on more than a limited part-time basis. Inter-borough cooperation will be explored when appropriate but not required. LSNYC will provide staff with appropriate equipment, training, and resources to maximize the tasks that can be performed at home and minimize those that must be performed out of the office. If staff cover out-of-home work that is other than and/or beyond their usual jobs, some work that they have been doing from home may be transferred to others as a matter of equity. To the extent that any staff member volunteers for out-of-home work that is other than and/or beyond their usual job, it is understood those tasks do not become a part of that employee’s regular job, and there is no expectation they will continue performing those tasks beyond the duration of this pilot project.

Safety standards and occupancy limits will be maintained throughout the pilot period. Unless and until the Microecologies health and safety expert makes any different recommendations:

  • LSNYC shall provide PPE at the KN95 level or better to anyone in the office or performing other out-of-home work.
  • PPE in the form of a mask covering the nose and mouth will be worn at all times in the offices. It is understood that, in an extremely limited number of circumstances, there may be times when advocacy staff and clients will need to remove their masks to present oral arguments to or conference cases with a judge or hearing officer. In those circumstances advocates and clients will always be in separate rooms.
  • Interim measures, including but not limited to occupancy limits and scheduling protocols, will be established by December 18th by each program’s committee and enforced by each LSNYC program so that those volunteering are assured that they are entering an environment that is as safe as possible. This pilot project may be implemented in a program when – and not before – occupancy limits and scheduling protocols are set for that program by its joint union-management Covid committee. 

LSNYC shall provide volunteers with the Microecologies final report (once available); until then, LSNYC shall provide volunteers with the Microecologies preliminary report (once available); and until then, LSNYC shall provide volunteers with a spreadsheet of information reflecting all available information in its possession about the ventilation/HVAC  for the location where the volunteer will be.

Those volunteering as part of this pilot project are eligible for reimbursements as per the CBA and for the reimbursements outlined in the Covid-specific Childcare, Eldercare, and Transportation Supports policy for In-Person Appearances and Virtual Proceedings. Staff volunteering as part of this pilot project are encouraged to avail themselves of the LSNYC Lyft account so as to avoid having to front payment for transportation.

LSNYC will assess the efficacy of the pilot on an ongoing basis and determine no later than January 31, 2021 April 15, 2021 May 15, 2021 whether we should continue, modify, or change this approach.

This proposal is intended to cover all out-of-home work except court appearances and appearances in other adjudicative forums.

Office Screening Procedures for Staff, Clients and other Visitors (12/18/2020)

Management is currently developing a procedure and mechanism to pre-screen anyone (staff and visitors) who plans to physically enter any of our office locations. The screening tool(s) will require staff and visitors to answer a number of standard questions, including the minimum required by NYS and the CDC, within 24 hours prior to coming into the office. Staff responses will be viewed by HR designees, who will either approve or disapprove the visit. We are exploring a means by which to use SharePoint for our intraoffice use and visitors will use Survey Monkey or another tool that can be accessed by external users. SignupGenius will be used to track who actually comes to the office. As staff and others are currently coming into our offices on an as-needed basis, we will implement screening as soon as possible.

Additionally, LSNYC management and the union will work together to enhance the minimum screening promptly, with the assistance of a health and safety expert, for both staff and others.

These procedures will include the following aspects or considerations, among others:

  • Accessibility to clients with limited English proficiency, those who cannot read or write in any language, and those with any physical or cognitive barriers to understanding and completing the survey;
  • Accessibility to clients without access to the internet and/or text-messaging capability;
  • Details about the process for distributing, conducting, and reviewing surveys, including technology under consideration;
  • Identification of the proper set of symptoms or exposures that the survey will inquire about;
  • Any involvement of LSNYC employees in the screening process;
  • The steps LSNYC HR or other agents would take to disapprove of a particular visit and what explanation and intervention clients receive as a result;
  • How to preserve clients’ interests in the event that clients are denied access to their casehandler;
  • How a LSNYC employee can be assured a screening was completed;
  • How these screening tools might be used for contact tracing;
  • Privacy and security concerns;
  • And other such issues.

Covid Sick Leave Policy (11/16/2020)

  • For staff who have Covid: covered by Covid Sick Leave during the time they are actually ill. Staff are required to complete the Guardian Life Insurance sick leave request form within 10 business days. (If this completed form is not provided within 10 business days, “Covid Sick Leave” ends.) If employee remains unable to work, the employee transitions to Long Term Disability after 180 days and Covid Sick Leave ends.  
  • Until December 31, 2020 February 28, 2021 April 15, 2021 August 15, 2021 September 30, 2021 October 31, 2021, staff who are quarantining, or caring for a household member who has Covid or is quarantining because of Covid: covered by Covid Sick Leave under this policy during the time of illness or quarantine period. Documentation is not required under this provision unless you become unable to work, in which case you become covered under the first bullet point above.
  • If an employee gets a vaccine and side effects render them unable to work, they can take Covid Sick Leave.
  • “Covid Sick Leave” will not be deducted from your sick leave balance. Your sick leave accruals will continue as normal.

*The time period for bullet #2 was extended from Dec 31 to Feb 28 on 12/23/2020, further extended on 3/12/21 to April 15 (retroactive to 2/28), further extended on 4/7/21 to August 15, further extended on 7/22/21 to September 30, 2021; further extended on 9/21/21 to October 31, 2021.

**Bullet 3 providing Covid Sick Leave for employees with vaccine-related symptoms was added to this policy on March 25, 2021

***Please note that as per New York State law (S. 2588-A/A. 3354-B) signed into law March 12, 2021, all New York State public and private employees will be granted up to four hours of excused leave per injection to receive the COVID-19 vaccination that will not be charged against any other leave the employee has earned or accrued.

Contact Tracing Policy (11/16/2020)

Due to the possibility that someone who has contracted COVID-19 may visit a LSNYC office or an office housing a LSNYC office, the union and LSNYC will establish a contract tracing joint committee to enhance current procedures for implementing the NY Forward Safety Plan requirements of tracing and notifying close contacts. The committee will develop procedures for the following purposes:

  • Identifying anyone who was in the office at the same time, and if appropriate, anyone in the building at the same time
  • Notifying those who have been possibly exposed
  • Protecting the confidentiality of the COVID-positive person(s)
  • Ensuring compliance with NYS requirements, including the requirement that if a worker tests positive for COVID, LSNYC must immediately notify state and local health departments and cooperate with tracing efforts, including notification of potential contacts, such as workers or visitors who had close contact with the individual, while maintaining confidentiality required by state and federal laws and regulations  
  • Ensuring contact tracing activities are thorough and timely
  • Periodically reviewing of the efficacy of office screening and tracing procedures
  • Identifying potential outside resources to conduct contact tracing should LSNYC reach Phase 3 of the RTO plan, at the discretion of the committee, or should LSNYC need additional resources. 

LSNYC commits that no blame or retaliation will be meted out and appropriate care and follow up plans will be initiated. 

All workers will be notified of the contact tracing committee members through a periodic broadcast communication from management and through regular communications channels.

The committee will identify training(s) designed for organizations on contact tracing policies, procedures, and ethics. Committee members and Human Resources/Directors of Administration points of contact will complete the training program(s) that the committee determines appropriate based on the committee members’ or HR/DA point of contact’s respective role in contact tracing policy or practice.

While LSNYC offices remain in stages 0-2, bi-weekly reports on contact tracing effectiveness and any potential work-related exposures will be supplied to the joint Citywide COVID Committee. Weekly reports on contact tracing effectiveness  and any potential work-related exposures will be supplied to the joint Citywide COVID Committee when LSNYC offices enter stage 3 and beyond. Reports will be supplied whether or not any incident(s) requiring contact tracing occurred during the period.

Childcare, Eldercare, and Transportation Supports for In-Person Appearances and Virtual Proceedings (10/23/2020)

This section describes childcare, eldercare, and transportation reimbursements. Until October 30, 2020, after submission by the employee of documentation of actual paid expenses in the form of a letter, receipt, or other similar documentation: 

–Additional childcare and eldercare costs will be reimbursed at their actual cost of up to $15 an hour [note: union has made a demand for $35/hour, which we have not dropped] for in-person appearances or for virtual proceedings or other essential job functions that must be performed out of the home to directly support those appearances or proceedings; 

–Transportation costs for mileage, tolls and parking will be reimbursed from and to the employee’s location when necessary to make an in-person appearance or for virtual proceedings or other essential job functions that must be performed out of the home to directly support those appearances or proceedings. If a privately owned car is not available, transportation costs for a for-hire car will be reimbursed. Reimbursement for either mode of transportation will not exceed $100 each way. 

Expense reimbursement requests will be administered pursuant to the requirements set out in 17.3C of the CBA. 

On or before October 30, 2020, union and management will meet to review and adjust this policy as necessary.

[Note: this reimbursement section is resolved other than the outstanding disagreement about the maximum reimbursement for childcare and eldercare.]

Side Letter on Covid-19 (7/14/2020)

During the COVID-19 pandemic, given the uncertainty with regard to virus transmissibility and immunity and rapidly changing public health recommendations, the employer and the union shall meet upon demand of either party to negotiate and/or update policies for safeguarding the health of our staff, our families, and our clients. Potential subjects include but are not limited to: provision of personal protective equipment (PPE), office sanitation, staggered work schedules, reduction of number of staff on-site on a given day, adequate physical space between staff member seating, social distancing measures in the office, ensuring fairness and equity for staff in-office who may be called to cover for a staff member working remotely, considerations for staff in high risk categories or with high-risk family members, sick time policies, identifying triggers for closing offices or re-opening offices (resuming remote work for all or resuming in-office work), and other appropriate subjects.

For the purposes of this Side Letter, the resolution process described in Article 8.2(D) applies, with the following exceptions:

  1. Bargaining shall take place with the Executive Director or their designee(s);
  2. If the Parties are unable to agree on how to resolve an issue following good faith negotiations, either Party may submit the dispute to arbitration. Each party shall submit a “Final Offer” to the arbitrator. After considering the valid interests of all parties, the arbitrator shall choose one of the proposed resolutions without modification, or may craft a resolution solely from elements of the two Final Offers. The decision of the arbitrator shall be final and binding upon the parties.
  3. The decision of the arbitrator shall be issued within 7 days of the hearing date.

In the event of a disagreement about a particular topic, pending the arbitrator’s decision the parties shall make best efforts to proceed with negotiations on other topics and to find a mutually acceptable interim solution on the topic that is the subject of arbitration. Should no such solution be reached within 14 days of the date the notice of demand for arbitration is delivered to LSNYC, and only if implementation does not violate any of CDC, New York State or New York City guidelines for health and safety, the employer, after serving a Notice of Intent detailing their proposed policy, specifically how it does not violate said health and safety guidelines, and the specific staff affected by the policy, may implement the policy detailed within the Notice of Intent provided.

Within thirty (30) days of the execution of this Agreement, the Employer and the Union shall designate jointly a panel of arbitrators from which the arbitrator to hear a grievance pursuant to this section shall be chosen.

All terms of the CBA not explicitly modified by agreements under this side letter remain unaffected by this provision.

This Side Letter remains in effect until the ratification of the next contract.

LSNYC Commitments

LSNYC Commitment re Hiring LSNYC Health & Safety Expert (9/3/2020)

In order to obtain the necessary information to determine the safety of LSNYC’s offices,  LSNYC will engage an expert or certified technician in occupational safety and health, with a focus on industrial hygiene, ventilation assessment, and infectious diseases. The expert will be jointly selected by the union and management no later than 9/18/20, and their role will include consulting with the Covid 19 Side Letter bargaining team and inspecting LSNYC offices.

[Note: the union maintains that this expert should assess the safety of the courts and other forums in which we practice, not just offices.]

Not-Before Date (9/3/2020)

Management agrees that LSNYC will not move to Stage 3 of our Return to Office Transition Stages until at least January 2021.

[Note: the union has taken the position that no staff should be required to return to the office before July 2021.]