Human Resources FAQs Regarding COVID-19

During this time as we try to manage regular business, we realize that many of you have questions regarding carry-over vacation time, reduced hours, unemployment, benefit coverage, and other questions about working through the COVID-19 pandemic. We would like to address some of these topics as our normal operations and processes are affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Some of these processes will be effective approximately through June 30th, 2022. However, this date may be subject to change at any time.

Accrued Vacation Time

I am approaching my anniversary date, and I cannot take my vacation at this time. Can I carry-over more than 10 days?

Yes, due to the COVID-19, we are waiving our vacation policy for carry-over days through June 30, 2022.

What about my discretionary days, will I lose any of those days?

No, we are waiving the process of losing discretionary days that are not used by June 30, 2022.

Reduction in regular hours

My supervisor has informed me that my regular work schedule is being reduced due to COVID-19. Am I eligible for unemployment?

Yes. If you are an hourly employee and experience a reduction in hours due to a lack of work, you are considered a furlough employee, and may be eligible for partial unemployment.

Should I inform HR that my hours have been reduced, and what do I need to apply for unemployment?

You should inform HR that you will be furloughed due to a reduction in hours due to COVID-19. Human Resources will provide you with a letter stating that your hours have been reduced, which you can present to the unemployment office.

Is there a waiting period when I apply for unemployment?

Due to COVID-19, the Department of Labor has waived the waiting period.

How can I apply for Unemployment?

You can apply for unemployment on-line. According to which state you are working in you will need to apply to the appropriate unemployment agency.

For New York employees, visit the New York State Unemployment/Department of Labor website at: https://labor.ny.gov/unemploymentassistance.shtm for more information and to file a claim.

For New Jersey employees visit the Department of Labor and Workforce Development website at: https://www.nj.gov/labor/ for more information and to file a claim.

Can I be assigned to perform work that is not normally part of my position?

During this COVID-19 pandemic, we hope that employees will remain flexible if asked to do work outside of their normal duties. Employees may be asked to perform work in a place of absent workers.

If my work schedule has been reduced due to a suspension of a program, can I be placed to work in another program, so that I can maintain a regular work week?

Yes.  If your work schedule has been reduced and you are interested in working in another program, please communicate with your supervisors and we will try to accommodate you. 

Benefit Coverage

I work in New Jersey, and I am not enrolled into Empire Blue Cross benefit plans. Are there any other New Jersey State health plans that I may be able to enroll into now?

During this time, Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Human Services, Carole Johnson has made several healthcare options available for New Jersey residents during the COVID-19 pandemic. Please visit the following websites to see if you may qualify for any healthcare plans:

  • NJ FamilyCare – New Jersey’s publicly funded health insurance program – includes CHIP, Medicaid and Medicaid expansion populations. For more information visit: Njfamilycare.org
  • Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHCs) – You don’t need health insurance to receive care at a health center. They serve the uninsured as well as patients with Medicaid, NJ FamilyCare, Medicare and private insurance.  For more information visit:  https://www.nj.gov/health/fhs/primarycare/fqhc/

I work in New York and I am not enrolled into Empire Blue Cross benefit plans. Are there any other New York State health plans that I may be able to enroll into now?

  • The New York State Individual marketplace provides a variety of low-cost health insurance options. The website will also identify if you qualify for free or low-cost coverage through Medicaid, the Essential Plan or Child Health Plus or if you qualify for a subsidy to offset your monthly premium. Costs for coverage is based upon the type of plan you elect, the number of covered individuals and income. Special enrollment is through April 15th. Visit: https://nystateofhealth.ny.gov/ to see if you qualify for any of the healthcare plans.

COVID-19

WHAT IS CORONAVIRUS DISEASE (COVID-19)?

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a respiratory illness that can spread from person to person.

How does COVID-19 spread?

Close personal contact, such as touching or shaking hands • between people who are in close contact with one another when an infected person coughs or sneezes • by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it, then touching their own mouth, nose or eyes with unwashed hands.

What if I begin to experience acute respiratory illness or flu-like symptoms while at work, what should I do?

You should immediately inform your supervisor on how you are feeling. You must go home and seek medical advice.

Are the COVID-19 guidelines that we are following pertain to CFS’S policies?

No, the guidelines that we are adhering to are not CFS policies. We are following guidelines from the CDC and State Health Departments. However, these guidelines are subject to change at any time.

I have been absent for more than three days, when I return to work, do I need a doctor’s note to return to work?

Yes, CFS sick leave policy does require an employee to bring in a doctor’s note after being absent for more than three days.

Are Direct Support Professionals considered “Essential Workers”?

Direct Support Professionals are essential and integral employees to Office for People With Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD)’s provision of services, and that is especially true during this public health emergency. OPWDD has remained in close consultation with our partners at the New York State Department of Health and the New York State Education Department, as well as with those at the federal and local level, to ensure the health and safety of all staff.

In guidance issued by the NYS Education Department, found at: Additional Guidance on Statewide School Closures Due to Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) Outbreak in New York State – March 17, 2020, DSP’s are classified as essential health care workers:

“Essential health care workers may include licensed health professionals such as physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, registered nurses, LPNs and nurse assistants or laboratory personnel and direct support professionals. First responders may include paramedics, emergency medical technicians, police officers, and firefighters.”

Should I wear a mask or face covering in the office or in my office cubicle?

CDC recommends that people wear cloth face coverings in public or community settings and especially when other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain. Cloth face coverings may help prevent people who have COVID-19 from spreading the virus to others. Cloth face coverings are most likely to reduce the spread of COVID-19 when they are widely used by people in public settings.

All office staff are required to wear a mask when walking in open areas of the office, (kitchen, bathrooms, reception area). Those in a closed office are not required to wear a mask, behind closed doors, but must wear a mask when coming out of his or her private office.

What is antibody testing?

According to the CDC, Antibody tests check the blood by looking for antibodies, which may determine if you had a past infection with the virus that causes COVID-19. Antibodies are proteins that help fight off infections and can provide protection against getting the disease again, which creates an immunity to the disease. For additional information, click on the link: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/testing/serology-overview.html.

What is an “Employee Oath of Responsibility Form”?

An Employee Oath of Responsibility are guidelines that are a set of responsibilities that all employees must follow when preventing the spread of COVID.

  • Office Staff and Community Staff completes the Oath of Responsibility
  • The Employee Oath of Responsibility is available for Office and Community Staff to complete by a form provided by HR and the Community Services Director
  • All NY Residential staff completes the form via Therap
  • All NJ Residential staff completes the form via EVERO
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