More than two months after the deadline for all employers to offer workers pandemic-related emergency paid sick leave, three unions say the agency is violating the law.
Oficials at three federal employee unions have filed formal complaints against the Social Security Administration for refusing to fully implement a law providing emergency paid sick leave to workers related to the coronavirus pandemic.
The American Federation of Government Employees and the National Treasury Employees Union both filed internal grievances this week accusing the agency of not complying with the sick leave law and refusing its collective bargaining obligations over the implementation of the new leave category. And the Association of Administrative Law Judges has filed an unfair labor practice complaint with the Federal Labor Relations Authority.
The Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act was signed into law in mid-March as part of Congress’ first bill responding to the COVID-19 outbreak. It provides employees in both the public and private sectors with up to 80 hours of paid sick leave, as well as up to 10 weeks of paid leave at two-thirds of their regular pay for workers who have child and dependent care responsibilities due to school and daycare closures related to the pandemic.
This new benefit was to take effect April 1, and the Labor Department announced it would give employers a “non-enforcement period” until April 17 to allow employers to make changes to their payroll system to offer the leave. But to date, union officials said the Social Security Administration has dragged its feet.
The agency has faulted the Interior Business Center, which does payroll for Social Security and several other agencies, for being unable to implement the coding changes needed until July. In the interim, officials have insisted that employees should file for weather and safety leave, but only if they first sign a form acknowledging that they could become “indebted” to the agency via overpayment and limiting their right to seek an overpayment waiver.
For its part, the Interior Business Center disputes Social Security Administration officials’ laying of blame.
“All of IBC’s customers can use EPSLA,” a spokesperson told Government Executive. “IBC has provided guidance to our client agencies about how to code employees’ time sheets using an interim process while IBC is working to develop new coding in our systems that will precisely calculate the new EPSLA leave payments.” ( SHUTTERSTOCK.COM )