Employee Resources

Extension of FFCRA Leave and New COVID-19 Leave Programs

Published:  January 6, 2021

Dear County Employees,

As we begin 2021, the COVID-19 pandemic and its impacts to employees continue.  The Federal, State, and Sonoma County governments responded in 2020 with various laws and benefits to provide employees additional leave options in order to help prevent the spread of the COVID virus and aid in managing the new demands on working families.  In order to continue to address those impacts, the Board of Supervisors approved the following programs for Sonoma County and Agency employees.

This email is a high-level overview of the programs; further details regarding the programs are located on the Employee Resources page of the County’s website found here:

https://sonomacounty.ca.gov/HR/Employee-Resources/Covid-19/Covid-19/

  1. Extension of Time to Use Leave Benefits under FFCRA
    Federal and State government have not extended the timeline to use FFCRA leave benefits past the current expiration of December 31, 2020, or adopted similar measures. In response, the County’s Board of Supervisors acted to extend the timeline to use Emergency Paid Sick Leave (EPSL) and the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act (EFMLEA) benefits through March 31, 2021. Any federal or state legislation that extends or replaces the FFCRA leave benefits of EPSL and EFMLEA will supersede and replace the County’s extension of leave benefits. Employees who qualify and who have not yet exhausted these benefits may continue to access benefits already approved under EFMLEA and EPSL, or apply to receive these benefits if they have not yet used these benefits.

    During the time of the County’s extension of EFMLEA benefits, the County reserves the right to immediately exclude employees from the EFMLEA benefits based on service and operational needs impacted by COVID-19 quarantines and illnesses. 
  2. OSHA Emergency Leave
    On November 30, 2020, the State of California approved emergency temporary Cal-OSHA standards on COVID-19 infection prevention. The regulation provides that employers continue to pay employees their normal wages (for their regularly scheduled hours) when they must quarantine due to workplace exposure to COVID-19. The Board has adopted a distinct OSHA Emergency Leave to be used instead of an employee’s own sick leave accruals.   For the duration of the Cal-OSHA temporary standards , employees required to quarantine due to a workplace exposure to COVID-19 will first be required to use Emergency Paid Sick Leave (EPSL), if available. OSHA Emergency Leave will be applied to any remaining quarantine time. Effective December 29, 2020, OSHA Emergency Leave will be applied in the above situations, and employees will not be required to use their personal sick leave accruals.

    OSHA Emergency Leave will be administered consistent with the accrued sick leave benefit as prescribed in the applicable Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) or Salary Resolution, but will only be applied as needed and will not accrue. When paid, OSHA Emergency Leave benefit will be treated the same as accrued sick leave for the following benefits: seniority, merit, cash allowance, sick and vacation accruals, non-statutory overtime and any other benefits or pay as identified by the applicable MOU or Salary Resolution.
  3. COVID-19 Leave Donation Program
    Effective January 12, 2021, the COVID-19 Leave Donation Program will allow employees who have exhausted all other available paid leave options for COVID-19 related illness, quarantine or dependent care needs (including loss of childcare due to the pandemic) and are facing a severe hardship, to receive up to 240 hours of COVID-19 Leave from pooled vacation and compensatory time donated by employees. Employees must apply to receive COVID-19 Leave and will need to attest to their hardship on the application form. This program will end on June 28, 2021, but may be extended by up to three months by the Human Resources Director.

    Forms to donate accrued vacation and/or compensatory hours and to request COVID-19 leave are on the Employee Resources Web page link listed above.
  4. The Voluntary Hours Reduction (VHR) Program
    The purpose of the Voluntary Hours Reduction program (VHR) is to assist the County in managing expenses and reducing costs where a department’s operational needs can support a temporary reduction to salary and benefit expenses. Additionally, the program may provide employees with flexibility to balance personal and professional needs during emergencies/disasters/pandemics that occur during the program period. Effective January 12, 2021, VHR allows employees to temporarily reduce the number of hours worked per pay period by up to 25% for an initial period of six months. Part-time employees cannot go below 0.5 full-time equivalent (FTE). The VHR program requires department head approval, which will allow an assessment of the request to ensure essential services are not impacted. The VHR program ends on June 27, 2022.

    Employees who want to request a VHR should complete the form on the Employee Resources Web page.

As the vaccine begins to roll out, we have hope that 2021 will be a much better year. I wish all of you a healthy 2021 and want to express my sincere appreciation for such a committed and resilient County workforce.

Sincerely,

Christina Cramer

Director of Human Resources

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