Below are updates from MCO concerning the COVID-19 pandemic, going back to March 31. For more information and the latest updates, dues-paying members may join our Facebook group. For the latest count of how many MDOC staff and inmates have been diagnosed with COVID-19, visit this post from the MDOC.
Thank you, Corrections Officers and FSAs, for your continued dedication during this time of crisis.
The final hazard payments were on yesterday’s paychecks.
Beginning next week, the Department will now go back and correct errors in payments that occurred due to timekeeping and payroll program issues. MDOC will send out a Department-wide email that will direct employees to report errors and shortages for correction. The makeup payments will come as a gross pay adjustment on your check once approved.
When checking for errors, please note that if you used any type of leave, including comp time, you do not get hazard pay for the days on leave. Also, hazard payments were two pay periods behind, so make sure you’re looking at the right pay period and paycheck.
There were two primary errors to watch for: hazard pay for working on Memorial Day and hazard pay when working voluntary overtime prior to your assigned shift.
Hazard pay ended June 27 because federal funding for it expired. Unless additional federal funding is approved, return of hazard pay is unlikely.
MDOC administration has lifted the COVID-19 transfer freeze and routine transfers may resume. The WHV transfer freeze for women is still tied up in federal court.
Use of Leave Credits:
MCO has filed a grievance related to the use of leave credits for virus-related absences. MCO maintains our position that absences forced by the MDOC should have been covered by administrative leave.
Hazard pay expired on June 27. A second extension was not approved. While MCO leaders believe that another extension was warranted, we are pleased we were able to secure these payments for our membership for the past 12 weeks.
There have been questions on whether or not the hazard pay was tied directly to the general state of emergency issued by the Governor and the answer is, no, it was not based solely on that order. Many members also questioned whether or not the mask requirement and the move to 100% mandate lists were directly tied to the hazard pay and the answer is, no, they are not. Those were actions taken by MDOC Director Heidi Washington separate from the hazard pay. MCO leaders are discussing those topics with her office. It is our position that the 50% mandate lists should be restored at all facilities that are back to the staffing levels they had prior to the virus outbreak and heavy staff quarantines.
There have been widespread errors on recent hazard pay amounts. We have addressed those issues with the MDOC and they are working on correcting them. MDOC will soon be emailing all employees asking staff to report hazard pay errors. Please watch for the email and report shortages. Keep in mind that the hazard payments are two pay periods behind.
Prison staff won’t have to prove where they contracted COVID-19 to be eligible for workers’ compensation, according to an executive order the governor issued this week.
“Due to the possibility of asymptomatic transfer of COVID-19, requiring a worker on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic to demonstrate they contracted COVID-19 in the course of their employment unfairly shifts risk to the worker,” the governor’s statement said.
As essential workers who have been on the frontlines keeping citizens safe, COs deserve this assurance. Read a statement from Andy Potter, MCO’s Executive Director and the SEIU Michigan State Council President.
MCO and the state have agreed to an extension of the hazard pay premium to continue it through June 27.
If another extension isn’t agreed to, this would mean that the final hazard payment would be received on the July 23 paycheck due to the two pay period delay on these payments.
As reported earlier, MCO and the state are currently working on identifying and resolving hazard pay errors made on the last couple of checks.
The 100% mandate list and mask requirement is not part of the hazard pay agreement. Those are MDOC policies set by Director Heidi Washington, and she has not yet indicated when they may expire.
We are waiting on clarification from the Governor’s office on whether or not the provisions of her latest Executive Order qualify to extend the hazard pay. The original order was number 2020-21, which included the continued state of emergency order and the stay at home order. As of now, we have not been notified that it has expired. As soon as we receive notification one way or the other, it will be posted.
There have been questions about the hazard pay being related to the mandatory wearing of masks and the temporary 100% mandate lists. They are not related. The wearing of masks and 100% mandate lists were not part of the Letter of Understanding that we signed with the Office of the State Employer for the hazard pay. Those decisions were made by the MDOC administration.
The Office of the State Employer is now working on correcting errors made on hazard payments for officers that were shorted pay during pay periods that they did not use any leave in. The error occurred with officers that worked their full 80 hours of regular days and also worked voluntary overtime in the pay period. If this happened to you, please document your earnings and leave for the pay period in question and make sure you notify your local reps that you were shorted so we can get it corrected.
MCO is backing several bills introduced in the Michigan legislature and the U.S. Congress to support workers on the front lines during COVID-19. And, we are in discussions with legislators on the language of these bills to make sure corrections officers are specifically included.
If passed, these bills would give a tax holiday to certain first responders; enable governments to balance budgets to keep people like health care workers and law enforcement working; ramp up production of PPE, ventilators, tests, and other medical equipment; and more.
The initial hazard payment is on the May 14 paycheck. This payment is from the April 5 to April 18 pay period only. The hazard pay for the April 19 to May 2 pay period will be on your May 28 paycheck, etc.
A flaw has been discovered in the payroll system which may have affected some members’ initial hazard payment. Here is what to watch for: If you worked all of your regularly scheduled days in the April 5 to April 18 pay period and also worked voluntary overtime on the shift prior to your assigned shift, the computer program for payroll will automatically designate any time worked past eight consecutive hours as overtime. For example, if a day shift person worked a double by coming in for night shift and worked from 10 p.m. until 2 p.m. the next day, those day shift hours are registered as overtime, not as regular time, which means they may not receive hazard pay for that day.
MCO leaders brought this problem to the Department and they have identified a fix for this issue. They will run a report on all hours worked in a pay period going back to April 5. The report will filter out any leave time used, so it will only show regular time and overtime. This will enable them to make sure that everyone who worked all their regular days doesn’t get dinged on hazard pay on a day that they worked more than eight hours. If you worked all your days in a pay period and had overtime, but got shorted on your hazard pay, you will still receive the hazard pay for the day or days that you were shorted. The Department is currently working out how corrective payments will be sent. They will begin running the corrective report this coming week.
Since these payments are coming on a four-week delay, it’s important that everyone keep track of voluntary overtime prior to your own shift and any leave used in the pay period. The Department is going to provide MCO a list of people that were affected by this payroll flaw when they have it figured out.
This issue was initially discovered at ARF. The affected members and the ARF chapter reps did a great job pursuing an investigation into it. With the info they provided, the MCO Executive Board was able to bring the issue to the Department and get it fixed.
Also, as of now the hazard payment will continue through the expiration of the Governor’s Executive Order 2020-77, which currently runs until May 28.
MCO has compiled a list of rapid COVID-19 testing sites around the state. For each site, there’s info about the logistics of testing at that location. This document only lists rapid-testing sites; for a list of all testing sites, go to this State of Michigan website.
To find the nearest site, download the PDF, then search the document for your county or a neighboring county.
We will be updating this document as more sites open and as we are able to confirm details.
Use of Leave Credits:
This update just went out to everyone who submitted a form concerning use of leave credits due to COVID-19.
Here are recent news articles with comments from MCO leaders:
Infection rate at Michigan prison exceeds New York, Chicago jail hot spots (Detroit Free Press)
Michigan corrections officers push for emergency bargaining, compensation for COVID-19 screening (Lansing State Journal)
Contact with Legislators:
MCO leaders spoke with five Upper Peninsula and three Jackson and Lansing area legislators, as well as staff from three additional legislative offices on Monday and Tuesday about the effects the COVID-19 pandemic is having on the corrections officers here in Michigan.
MCO President Byron Osborn and Executive Director Andy Potter spoke with legislators about the lack of proper protective equipment (such as N-95 masks), hazard pay, issues with the implementation of screening protocols in prisons, the need for an immediate mechanism to restore leave credits for officers who have been ordered to quarantine as a precautionary measure, and other issues.
These were the first in a series of regionalized conference calls MCO leaders will be having with legislators to make them aware of the issues our officers are facing on the ground as essential front line workers, inform them of the work MCO has been doing to address these issues, and begin collaborating with them on solutions.
We have heard some personnel offices may be telling members they cannot file a workers’ compensation claim after testing positive for COVID-19. This is not true. You are entitled to file a claim.
Personnel offices may have told members that corrections staff are exempt from an emergency rule that generally allows first responders to get workers’ comp benefits if they are diagnosed with the virus. This is false.
Here’s what’s actually going on: corrections staff are excluded from the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which provides emergency sick leave to workers. This act has nothing to do with workers’ comp, but this seems to be the source of the confusion.
If you have tested positive for COVID-19, insist upon filing a worker’s comp claim. Stand firm. If your personnel office says no, the MCO Legal Department needs to know. Email details to firstname.lastname@example.org. It’s very important that you include details: who wouldn’t allow you to apply for worker’s comp; when you were denied; explanation given; etc.
We are still asking member who have tested positive to contact our outside law firm. Please contact The Law Offices of Charters, Tyler, Zack & Shearer, P. C. at (248) 321-4474. Advise them that you are a state corrections officer and contracted the virus. They will screen your case to determine if you are entitled to benefits. Please fill out The MCO Legal Department’s reporting form, then call the law office.
Share your story:
We have heard some MCO members are living in campers or hotels to make sure they don’t bring COVID-19 home to their families. Others are living in their basement or garage, but still wearing masks in the house, or staying several feet away from their spouse and children.
If you have made alternate living arrangements like this or have made the tough decision to distance yourself from your loved ones, MCO wants to hear your story. We want the public to understand the extraordinary sacrifices corrections officers are making to prevent the virus from spreading.
Email a few paragraphs about your experience and your phone number to MCO Communications Director Anita Lloyd. Please email relevant photos or videos. If we decide to use your story, we will let you know before publishing. We will only share information that you’re comfortable with us sharing.
Thanks, members. Stay safe.
Members, if you have been diagnosed with COVID-19, you may be eligible for workers compensation.
According to an emergency rule issued March 30, the Worker’s Disability Compensation Agency will presume that first-responders diagnosed with the virus contracted it at work. Corrections officers are included.
The rule states, “Unless proven otherwise, a first response employee suffers a personal injury that arises out of and in the course of employment if the first response employee is diagnosed with COVID-19…” Read the emergency rule.
Under Michigan’s worker compensation law, employees must be off work for longer than 7 days before benefits are given. On the 8th day, benefits are paid going forward. On the 15th day, benefits are awarded going back to day 1.
MCO has been working with an outside law firm to assist members with COVID-19-related workers compensation claims. Please contact The Law Offices of Charters, Tyler, Zack & Shearer, P. C. at (248) 321-4474. Advise them that you are a state corrections officer and contracted the virus. They will screen your case to determine if you are entitled to benefits. Please fill out the MCO Legal Department’s reporting form, then call the law office.
If you tested positive:
MCO has partnered with an outside law firm to assist members who have or had a confirmed case of COVID-19. Please contact The Law Offices of Charters, Tyler, Zack & Shearer, P. C. at (248) 321-4474. Advise them that you are a state corrections officer and contracted the virus. They will screen your case to determine if you are entitled to benefits. Please fill out The MCO Legal Department’s reporting form, then call the law office.
College credit deferral:
The Michigan Correctional Officers’ Training Council has supported the Department’s request to extend the period for obtaining necessary college credits to 24 months from date of hire.
This change is effective immediately. Officers who are deficient in their college credits will now have 24 months from their date of hire to complete the required college credits, rather than 18. This change allows officers extra time during this period of uncertainty. COVID-19 may influence how officers can obtain college credits as well, resulting in more online/distance learning for the necessary courses. The Department will continue to support and monitor the progress of officers in the deferral program.
The Department will notify affected officers who are currently in the deferral program. The training council retains the authority to alter or eliminate the college credit deferral program in the future and/or as recommended by the Department.
The department will provide further information as it becomes available.
(Info from the Michigan Department of Corrections)
MCO is demanding emergency bargaining in accordance with Article 12.
Union leaders are asking the state for a meeting immediately. Our areas of concern include protocols for sending staff home or denying them entry; COVID-19 testing; restrictions on hazard pay; and comp time and annual leave caps; and more.
Premium payments will show up on the May 14 check. There will be one payment per check until the hazard pay time frame ends. That means whenever hazard pay stops, members will still get premium payments on the following two checks.
In addition to fighting for hazard pay, demanding emergency bargaining, and other efforts at the state level, MCO and its corrections partners are working at the federal level to get protections for all corrections officers.
For example, we have secured important changes in a federal act that allows the survivors of officers who die from COVID-19 to receive benefits.
The Public Safety Officers’ Benefits (PSOB) Act provides assistance to law enforcement and their families if an officer is disabled or killed in the line of duty. It is part of the US Department of Justice – Bureau of Justice Assistance.
Originally, the act would have required survivors to prove an officer contracted the virus at work in order to receive benefits. Now, thanks to our advocacy, it will be presumed that the virus was contracted in the line of duty, unless there’s evidence that suggests otherwise. Read more.
Quarantine and Precautions:
Please make every effort to stay six feet from other staff at work. This will reduce the likelihood of you being put off work to quarantine.
Testing and treatment:
The Michigan Department of Insurance and Financial Services (DIFS) announced that the state has received agreements from nearly all of the state’s health insurance companies to waive cost-sharing, including copays, deductibles, and coinsurance for coronavirus (COVID-19) testing and treatments. Read more.
The MCO Legal Department is keeping a record of members who are sent home for a potential COVID-19 exposure or for failing the health screening to enter their facility.
If either of those situations happened to you, please fill out this form. It is very important that you give detailed answers. We need to know the who, what, where, when and why related to you being sent home or denied entry into the facility. MCO staff may reach out to you if we need additional information.
A Michigan company is producing masks for COs to use. If members say they are preferable to MSI masks, MCO leaders will order enough for all officers.
MCO President Byron Osborn and Vice President Ray Sholtz delivered the first shipment of masks to the hardest hit facilities. They were dropped off to chapter officials and they will distribute. These masks should be hand washed and line dried.
MCO has filed an Et al. grievance related to the mandatory health screening protocols that have been instituted prior to the beginning of shifts. MCO leaders believe these qualify as Pre-Shift meetings per Article 34 of our contract, which states in part that Pre-Shift can consist of verifying that employees are physically fit for duty.
This grievance was just filed. Members will be updated on any developments.
We’ve heard some members don’t want to return home after their shift and risk possibly spreading the virus. MCO staff have been calling hotels around the state to get discounts for these members.
Overtime and assignments:
We have received notice from Director Washington that effective tomorrow, April 6, all mandate lists will consist of 100% of shift at every facility on a temporary basis as the COVID-19 pandemic impacts the Department. It is likely that the mandate lists will not be reset to zero and the top half will be added on.
The 120 hour rule for overtime will be increased to 160 statewide.
Green tags are all waived for voluntary and mandatory overtime.
As reported earlier, these emergency conditions can result in reassignments and changes to procedures on short notice. This is temporary and not subject to negotiation. Please keep our brothers and sisters at our struggling chapters in your thoughts and prayers, they are facing extreme adversity with double shifts, quarantines, infected prisoners, stressed coworkers, supervisors and family members.
As reported, MCO has signed a Letter of Understanding with the State that secures temporary hazard pay for MCO bargaining unit members in the amount of $750 per pay period commencing on Sunday, April 5. As you all know from earlier reports, MCO initiated inquiries on hazard compensation to the Office of State Employer and Governor’s office right after the beginning of the declared state of emergency and continued pursuing an agreement over the past two weeks.
The hazard pay premium is based on regularly scheduled hours worked in the 80-hour pay period (84 for the 12-hour shifts). Use of leave credits in the pay period results in proration of the premium payment, the state will only compensate the hazard pay for your regular days worked in the pay period. Overtime hours worked do not count toward the premium. In order to earn the full $750 amount, all scheduled days in the pay period must be worked.
Use of leave credits:
The obvious issue we have is the Department’s current practice of sending people home on mandatory precautionary quarantine status and forcing them to use leave credits, which will impact their hazard premium. Our desired resolution was to have Employer mandated sick leave count toward the premium, but it could not be secured. To address this problem, we are still pressing forward with the Department and the Governor’s office for relief on this issue and are also insisting that the Department arrange for immediate COVID-19 testing of any member that is subject to mandatory precautionary quarantine so the member can return to work as soon as possible if tested negative.
The protective face masks from MSI are now being distributed to facilities. You can use your personal masks if you have them, as long as they only cover your nose and mouth. MCO has secured a supply of surgical style masks for members and the first shipment is due in soon. We will begin by delivering them to our hardest hit chapters for members who don’t have their own masks to see if they prefer them over the MSI masks. If they are preferred, we will proceed with a steady supply to roll out to all chapters for members that want them.
This afternoon MCO has signed a Letter Of Understanding with the state for hazard pay beginning April 5, 2020. MCO bargaining unit members will receive $750 per pay period beginning Sunday.
Demanding better protections:
One Voice and the American Correctional Officers Intelligence Network have joined forces to send a list of demands to the National Governors Association. We are requesting corrections staff receive adequate masks, gloves, and PPE, in addition to hazard pay and the restoration of leave credits used due to the virus. Read the letter and resolution. MCO encourages all corrections staff to sign the resolution.
President Osborn, MCO Executive Director Andy Potter, and Thumb Officer LaRonda Velaga spoke at a virtual press conference today about the letter and the perilous conditions COs are walking into every day.
Here are two articles covering the news conference:
Michigan prison guards concerned about dangers of COVID-19 (Macomb Daily News)
Why coronavirus is running rampant in Michigan prisons (Detroit Free Press)
Here are news articles from this week with comments from MCO leaders:
Michigan speeds parole reviews but few prisoners qualify (Detroit News)
As a Mom Working In a Prison, I Worry About Bringing Coronavirus Home (The Marshall Project)
As coronavirus spreads in Michigan’s prisons, fear brews among families, officers (Detroit Free Press)
Corrections Transportation Officer Damon Burton passed away this week due to complications from COVID-19.
CTO Burton worked out of the Detroit Reentry Center. He had been with the MDOC since 1989. He was well-known around the Detroit area and had a reputation as being professional and friendly.
A memorial service will be streaming at 11 a.m. April 8. Find out how to watch.
Please pray for peace for his family and friends. Rest in peace, CTO Burton.
Use of leave credits:
Today the Department announced that all staff working at a correctional facility are exempt from the provisions of the newly passed Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which provides an allowance for certain employers to grant up to 80 hours of paid sick leave for absences associated with the COVID-19 virus. The Act has an exemption clause that allows employers to exclude health care providers and emergency personnel from the leave provision, which in this case includes us along with all of the rest of the non-custody staff still coming to work. This exclusion does not put us in any different position than we were before the passing of the act. We are still pursuing the restoration of any and all leave credits used by our members during this pandemic.
Use of leave credits and hazard pay:
MCO President Byron Osborn wrote a letter to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer today asking for restoration of leave credits used due to the pandemic and for hazard pay. From the letter:
“The commitment being made by our members and their families to persevere every day and continue to provide critical service to Michigan’s citizens during this time of crisis is, in my opinion, a great testament to their dedication and professionalism. As this pandemic continues to spread, these employees will be under extreme pressure and anxiety as the risks associated with our work increase far beyond the usual risks that are inherent in our profession.”
Read the entire letter in our members-only Facebook group.