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Watch out for use-it-or-lose-it leave deadlines

By SHERRY HALBROOK

With time running out in 2020, the state denying PS&T employees access to the Productivity Enhancement Program in 2021, and COVID-19 beginning a resurgence in New York state, PEF is strongly encouraging members at risk of losing vacation or personal leave accruals to request time off as soon as possible.

The extension for using vacation leave that would otherwise have expired March 31, 2020, now ends December 31, 2020.

“We want the state to extend all leave rollover until 2023,” PEF President Wayne Spence said, “but the state has not responded to our request.”

“We are encouraging all members to use their time, instead of losing it. PEF is prepared to take legal action if anyone is denied time off and then lose their time, but you must have asked for the time off in writing and be denied in writing, so there is proof to present to a judge. Accruals have a monetary value and any loss of leave is monetary harm to a member.”

Save your written requests and the written responses you receive regarding use of your vacation and personal leave and then share that information with your PEF division leader and PEF field representative.  This is essential, because your union needs to know whether your rights are being respected or not.  Your information will be added to that of other members throughout the state so that PEF will have a clear and documented factual base statewide to assess and act upon if necessary.

PERSONAL LEAVE

“We also are strongly encouraging members at risk of losing personal leave accruals to request time off as soon as possible,” Spence said. “You should save all of your requests to use personal leave, along with the responses you receive. This will enable us to determine whether requests to use personal leave are generally being honored and accommodated and, if not, we can take appropriate action.”

If your personal leave anniversary was after August 31, 2020, you will lose any unused personal leave on your upcoming personal leave anniversary date.

While the date for forfeiting personal leave accruals was extended by one year for certain members with anniversary dates between March 9 and August 31 (details below), the state has not expanded this to include members with anniversary dates after August 31.

If your 2020 personal leave anniversary date is or was after August 31, you are not covered by this extension.

In a memorandum of understanding (MOU) dated May 15, 2020, it was agreed that under certain conditions employees would be able to keep their unused personal leave until their next anniversary date. In general terms, the MOU applied to employees who were unable to use their personal leave due to the state’s response to the coronavirus and who had a personal leave anniversary date between March 9 and August 31, 2020. Instead of forfeiting their personal leave on their 2020 personal leave anniversary date, as would normally happen, they would be allowed to carry over their unused personal leave until their next personal leave anniversary date, at which time it would be forfeited if not used.

Here is the pertinent text from the MOU on personal leave:

Employees engaged in the response efforts or who are unable to utilize “Personal Leave” (PL) due to ongoing response efforts who would otherwise forfeit unused PL on their anniversary date shall be allowed to carry such unused PL forward. This shall only apply to unused PL that was or would have been forfeited by bargaining unit members between the dates of 3/9/20 through 8/31/20. (For example, a bargaining unit member has an anniversary date of 3/24/20, they still have 1 remaining day of PL as 3/23/20 and due to the response effort is unable to use the PL day. In this case on 3/24/20 this member would be allowed to have 6 PL days. Five (5) new PL days in addition to the 1 carried forward). All personal leave standing to the employee’s credit on their anniversary date falling from 3/9/20 up to and including 8/31/20 (in this example 3/24/20) would expire on the day before their following anniversary date, if unused.

This shall be applicable to all bargaining unit members who earn personal leave.

VACATION LEAVE

A memorandum of agreement (MOA) was signed March 11, 2020, that extended the date of the forfeiture of excess vacation leave accruals from close of business (COB) March 31, 2020, to COB December 31, 2020.

The extension applied only to circumstances in which an employee could not use their vacation leave accruals because of the state’s response to the coronavirus.

“Despite our repeated attempts to obtain another extension, the state has not taken any action,” Spence said.

Here is the pertinent text from the MOA on vacation leave:

  1. Employees engaged in the response efforts or unable to utilize vacation leave due to the ongoing response efforts who would otherwise forfeit accrued vacation leave on April 1, 2020 pursuant to Article 12.4(c) of the 2016-19 State/PEF Agreement will be given until the close of business on December 31, 2020 to use such excess vacation credits. Any such unused excess vacation credits as of the close of business in December 31, 2020 will be forfeited by employees. Thereafter, forfeiture of vacation credits shall be governed by operative language from the applicable collective bargaining agreement between the State and PEF. Nothing herein shall affect vacation credits accrued by eligible employees after April 1, 2020.
  2. Should the parties mutually agree to further extend the deadline for forfeiture of excess vacation credits beyond December 31, 2020, nothing herein shall prohibit such agreement. Any such agreement must be made in writing and finalized prior to December 31, 2020.