Authority for COVID-19 pay is part of Hennepin County’s pandemic mitigation effort in recognition of potentially high absences due to an employee contracting COVID-19 or being a caregiver for a family or household member who has contracted it resulting in self-quarantine. Medical confirmation will be needed to utilize COVID-19 pay and employees should submit the confirmation as soon as they are able.
Hennepin County Board Resolution 09-0380 granted the County Administrator the authority to allow employees with insufficient paid leave hour balances to accrue a negative vacation/sick leave/PTO balance not to exceed 160 hours, under circumstances requiring employees to be off work due to a declared emergency. Increasing the not to exceed amount to 240 hours will give full-time employees six weeks pay. Employees should utilize COVID-19 hours according to their standard hours, e.g., 240 hours for a half-time employee will give 12 weeks pay. All other rules adopted pursuant to Resolution 09-0380 "negative leave balance" policy shall remain in effect.
Forgiveness of negative accruals on the one and two year anniversary dates of the end of declared emergency is recognition and appreciation of employees’ commitment to the county and its Mission as well as a retention and engagement tool.
An additional benefit for the following employees:
(1) “emergency workers,” as defined by the Governor in Executive Order XX, and any subsequent Orders; and
(2) other employees designated by Hennepin County as essential employees who are unable to work offsite and must interact face to face with the public as part of their essential job function. For example corrections officers, field social workers, and sheriff’s deputies.
These employees are entitled to 80 hours of paid time off or vacation if they have a medically confirmed diagnosis of or significant exposure to COVID-19 for the employee or one of their family or household members resulting in a request to self-quarantine. This additional benefit is in recognition of the need for these essential staff to continue to provide front-facing essential services without the ability to perform their functions remotely.
In addition to these actions, the county has already made a number of significant benefits and workplace changes in the past two weeks in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and is working diligently to anticipate COVID-19 developments and act accordingly to ensure the health and safety of residents.
As the county actively works to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, we have taken a number of interim steps to help employees navigate this unprecedented situation including:
- Cancelling/postponing public and internal events to promote social distancing;
- Closing all public-facing services at all 41 libraries, human service centers, and licensing service centers, effective March 17 through April 6;
- Authorizing employees to work from home;
- Allowing more flexibility for work from home arrangements, such as allowing parents/guardians to care for their children while working remotely;
- Authorizing operational changes at our facilities (e.g., stopping all visits at our correctional facilities; limiting certain library services);
- Working with the state to relax or eliminate other state law requirements regarding face to face interactions;
- Waiving testing fees and office visit co-pays related to COVID-19;
- Waiving the initial requirement to produce a doctor’s note BEFORE work accommodations can be made – in order to expedite requests immediately;
- Relaxing prescription refill restrictions so that employees have adequate stock of critical medications on hand if quarantined;
- Providing online resources through Virtuwell to help employees and their family members to determine if they should seek an in-person medical appointment for COVID-19 screening;
- Reviewing additional changes to the county’s employee benefit package to assist employees who are impacted by COVID-19; and
- Reviewing compensatory time waiver exceptions across the organization.
A focus in Administration's COVID-19 pandemic planning has been an issue related to high employee absentee rates due to an employee or household members having contracted COVID-19, school and day care closings, worksite closures, etc. Because these absences may be for extended periods of time, flexibility is important to help employees manage as they could potentially use all accumulated sick leave, vacation, paid time off, compensatory time, etc.
Policy provides that Hennepin County may close worksites or reduce services if the health, safety, and/or security of county employees and residents are threatened. The County Administrator, in consultation with the County Board Chair has initiated closing procedures and other strategies to limit social interactions between county employees and the public. This is consistent with CDC, MDH and other public health directives.
It is requested that the County Administrator be authorized to allow all employees who are medically impacted by COVID-19 to utilize up to 80 hours of COVID-19 pay when employees are unable to work due to, a medically confirmed diagnosis of or exposure to COVID-19 for the employee or one of their family or household members resulting in self quarantine. Medical confirmation should be submitted as soon as conditions permit.
It is requested that County Administrator’s authority to grant 160 hours of negative leave time be increased to 240 hours for employees with insufficient paid leave hour balances, under circumstances requiring employees to be off work due to a declared emergency.
It is requested that employees in good standing are forgiven 40 hours of their negative accruals on both the one and two year anniversary dates of the end of declared emergency.
It is requested that essential employees as identified in departmental Continuity of Operations Plans who cannot perform their job duties offsite, and who have a medically confirmed diagnosis of or exposure to COVID-19 for the employee or one of their family or household members resulting in self-quarantine, be granted an additional 80 hours paid time off or vacation for use in the future.
All of these requests are compensation tools that will assist employees in weathering the financial challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.