Union, DOE, NYC Health+Hospitals Reach Agreement on COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate for Employees

District Council 37 and the New York City Department of Education announced an agreement for nearly 20,000 DOE employees regarding the COVID-19 mandate, which initially had a deadline of 5 p.m., Friday, Oct.1.

Under the new agreement, DC 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 may also apply for religious or medical exemptions. Exemption applications must be submitted by 5 p.m. on Tues., Oct. 5. DOE employees can submit for an application here.

This deal follows weeks of hard-fought negotiations, including a lawsuit on behalf of the rights of union members in the New York State Supreme Court.

“This fight has always been about the right of individuals to make their own medical decisions without fear of retribution in the workplace,” said DC 37 Executive Director Henry Garrido. “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.”

As of Oct, 3, 93% of DC 37’s almost 20,000 DOE employees had provided proof of at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. This is a significant increase from 68% at the beginning of September.

Yet for those who have not received the vaccine, there are options now available to them:

  • Beginning today, October 4 through October 29, 2021, employees have the option to resign. Such employees are 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 review process and/or any appeal is pending the individual shall remain on leave without pay, but with health benefits. Vaccinated employees who have applied for an accommodation will now 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 for any sick and/or annual leave time used retroactive to the date of their initial application.

Employees who receive an exemption will remain on payroll and maintain health benefits. The DOE may temporarily assign these employees to work in non-school 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.

  • Beginning today, DOE 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 through November 30, 2021–or until proof of vaccination is provided.

During this time, employees will maintain their health insurance benefits but are prohibited from engaging in gainful employment during the leave period.

From Nov. 1 through Nov. 30 of this year, any employee who is on leave without pay due to vaccination status may opt to extend their leave through Sept. 5, 2022.

Also under the agreement, 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.

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 their accrued leave prior to giving birth, that employee shall be placed on leave without pay, but maintain 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 represented by DC 37.

District Council 37 also represents close to 20,000 employees at NYC Health+Hospitals. As by order by New York state, proof of vaccination was required by Sept. 27 for healthcare employees working inside hospitals. For employees in non-hospital based clinics and Community Care Plus facilities, proof of vaccination is required by Oct. 7.

Any unvaccinated NYC H+H employee may be placed on leave without pay if their respective deadline for proof is not met. However, they will maintain their health benefits through October 31.

NYC H+H employees who show proof of vaccination before Oct. 31 will be reinstated at their original worksite.

From Sept. 28 through October 29 of this year, those on leave without pay due to vaccination status may elect to resign from NYC H+H. If an employee chooses to resign, the resignation must occur no later than December 31, 2021.

Upon resigning, an employee is eligible to be paid sick leave and any other accrued leave at the amounts provided for in applicable collective bargaining agreements. 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 NYC H+H within six months of their separation date. Beginning on November 1, 2021, NYC H+H will begin unilaterally terminating employees who have not provided proof of vaccination, or have been approved for a medical or religious exemption, or have resigned.

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