Today, District Council 37 and the Department of Education announced an agreement for nearly 20,000 DOE employees from Harlem to the Hudson. District Council 37 members who have not provided proof of at least one dose of the vaccine will have the option to resign or take a leave of absence. Employees who wish to apply for a medical or religious exemption must do so by 5 pm on Tuesday, October 5. This deal follows weeks of hard-fought negotiations, including a lawsuit in New York State Supreme Court, on behalf of the rights of union members.
“This fight has always been about the right of individuals to make their own medical decisions without fear of retribution in the workplace,” said Henry Garrido, Executive Director, District Council 37, AFSCME. “Very few of our members remain unvaccinated, but for those who do, we do not believe their jobs should be on the line. This deal strikes the balance between public safety and fairness.”
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As of Sunday, October 3, 93% of DC 37’s almost 20,000 DOE workers had provided proof of at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. That is up significantly from 68% at the beginning of September.
For those who have yet gotten the vaccine, the following options are now available to them:
- Beginning today, October 4, 2021 through October 29, 2021, employees have the option to resign. Such employees will be eligible to be reimbursed for unused sick leave on a one-for-one basis, up to 100 days. Employees who choose this option will remain eligible for health benefits through September 5, 2022, unless they have health insurance available from another source.
- Employees can apply for a medical or religious exemption. If the application for a medical or religious exemption is denied, the applicant has 48 hours to appeal the decision unless additional time is requested and granted. While the exemption/accommodation review process and/or any appeal is pending the individual shall remain on leave without pay with health benefits. Those employees who are vaccinated and have applied for an accommodation will have the ability to use sick and/or annual leave while their application and appeal are pending, should the appeal be granted, these employees will be reimbursed any sick and/or annual leave used retroactive to the date of their initial application. Employees who receive an exemption will remain on payroll and maintain their health benefits. The DOE may temporarily assign these employees to work in non-school DOE buildings, such as DOE Central, or temporarily detail the employee to perform work for another City agency that is not subject to a vaccination mandate.
- Employees without proof of vaccination who do not opt for either of the above options will automatically be placed on a leave of absence without pay beginning today, October 4, 2021 through November 30, 2021 (or until proof of vaccination is provided). Employees will maintain their health insurance benefits during this time and are prohibited from engaging in gainful employment during the leave period. During the period of November 1 through November 30, 2021, any employee who is on leave without pay due to vaccination status may opt to extend the leave through September 5, 2022.
Any soon-to-be birth mother who starts the third trimester of pregnancy on or before October 1, 2021 (e.g. has a due date no later than January 1, 2022), may utilize sick leave, annual leave, and/or compensatory time prior to the child’s birth date, but not before October 1, 2021. Upon giving birth, they shall be eligible for paid family leave (“PFL”) or FMLA in accordance with existing law and rules. In the event that an eligible employee exhausts accrued leave prior to giving birth, that employee shall be placed on a leave without pay, but with medical benefits at least until the birth of the child.
A separate agreement with the same terms as above applies to all Department of Health and Mental Hygiene employees working in the Department of Education school system and represented by DC 37.
District Council 37 also represents close to 20,000 workers at Health+Hospitals. Per State order, for healthcare workers working inside hospitals, proof of vaccination was required by September 27. For those working in non-hospital-based clinics and Community Care Plus facilities, proof of vaccination is required by October 7. Any unvaccinated H+H employee may be put on leave if their respective deadline for proof is not met. Employees placed on leave will be without pay but will maintain health benefits through October 31, 2021. Employees who provide proof of vaccination before that date will be reinstated at their original worksite.
During the period of September 28, 2021 through October 29, 2021, any employee who is on leave without pay due to vaccination status may elect to resign from H+H. If an employee chooses to resign, resignation must occur no later than December 31, 2021. Upon resignation, the employee shall be eligible to be paid sick leave and any other accrued leave at the amounts provided for in any applicable collective bargaining agreement. The employee is also eligible for one week of pay based on regularly scheduled hours. Employees who select this option cannot be re-employed by H+H within six months of their separation date. No earlier than November 1, 2021, H+H will begin unilaterally terminating employees who have not provided proof of vaccination, been approved for a medical or religious exemption, or resigned.