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Questions and Answers

Memorandum of Understanding between Cattaraugus County and various Units of CSEA related to NYS Vaccine Mandate

  1. What is the purpose of the memorandum?

Answer: This memorandum was negotiated specifically to address potential staffing shortages that might be caused by the emergency regulation imposed by NYS upon both the Cattaraugus County Department of Nursing Homes and the Health Department. Under this regulation, all staff, within the Nursing Homes and the Health Department, without a medical exemption, are required to be vaccinated with at least one COVID19 dose by 11:59 pm 9-27-2021 for Nursing Homes and 11:59 p.m. 10-7-2021 for the Health Department staffs.

  1. What is the term of the memorandum?

Answer: This memorandum takes effect September 27, 2021 at 12:01 a.m. and is in effect until November 28, 2021 at midnight.

  1. What departments/staff are covered under this memorandum?

Answer: The Departments of Nursing Homes and Health are covered entities. All staff regularly working in the physical facilities of the Nursing Homes, the Health Department or staff from departments providing direct service within these facilities are covered.

Further, if needed, staff from other county departments meeting requirements and working in the facilities at the authorization of the Department’s Director to specifically meet the needs of the department caused by staffing shortages due to the vaccine mandate are also covered.

  1. What circumstances may lead to cancellation of this memorandum?

Answer: First, the memorandum lapses on November 28, 2021 at midnight.

Second, if the vaccine mandate is withdrawn, nullified or is otherwise no longer in force either due to a lawsuit challenge or otherwise, this contract will be null and void at midnight on the fifth business day following this event. However, both the County and the Union have committed to meeting within 5 business days to determine whether some of all of the terms of this memorandum should be continued.

  1. Who are eligible employees under this memorandum?

Answer: Eligible employees are those that are vaccinated, or have an eligible exemption filed with the Department Head.

  1. Who are ineligible employees under this memorandum?

Answer: Ineligible employees are those who are not vaccinated and do not have an eligible exemption on file, by 11:59 pm 9-27-2021 for Nursing Homes and 11:59 p.m. 10-7-2021 for the Health Department staff.

  1. How are medical exemptions being handled under this memorandum?

Answer: Medical exemptions can be declared per the NYS Regulation. Forms are available to those who seek this exemption. This exemption form must be filed with the department head and placed in the employee’s personnel file. These exemptions must be signed by a physician or Nurse Practitioner and must state a specific period of time. The exemption must specifically be related to issues regarding the COVID19 vaccine.

Under the New York State order, the New York State Health Department may require that medical exemptions and any associated documentation of reasonable accommodation(s) be submitted to them.

If a medical exemption is provided, these employees are considered eligible employees.

  1. Is there a stay from a federal court related to the vaccine mandate? State Court?

Answer: A number of lawsuits have been filed within New York State related to this order. Recently, one Federal Court judge ordered a temporary stay of the State’s decision to prohibit religious exemptions.  As a result, until we hear differently, we are accepting requests for religious exemptions. 

Cattaraugus County will also be filing a lawsuit to protect religious exemptions and on other bases.

While NYS has not modified their stance on the acceptability of Religious exemptions, as of this writing but for the moment, as a constitutional and legal issue, exemptions based upon religious grounds should be granted until this matter is definitively decided upon by either the Federal and/or the State Courts.

  1. How are duly filed religious exemptions being handled?

Answer: First, Cattaraugus County has available a form to declare a religious exemption. Declaring this exemption is a personal decision. Second, if a completed religious exemption form is delivered to the Department Head this will be filed in the employee’s personnel file.

Based upon the current Federal Court action, if a religious exemption is provided, these employees are considered eligible employees to work.

Note: The determination is subject to change dependent on ongoing litigation. Further, New York State does not currently acknowledge this exemption.

  1. What benefits are provided to eligible employees per this memorandum?

Answer: Eligible employees can work in the Nursing Homes and Health Department.

Eligible employees continuing to work will be compensated an additional $5.00 per hour for all actual hours worked including overtime hours (benefit hours, and compensatory hours taken will not include this additional pay) during the term of the Memorandum of Understanding

The hours above must be worked specifically in the Nursing Homes and Health Department.

  1. What happens to ineligible employees?

Answer: Ineligible employees cannot work in either the Nursing Homes or Health Department after September 27, 2021 or October 7, 2021 respectively.

These employees will be placed on a special leave created by the memorandum. This is called an ineligibility leave. Ineligibility leave will be unpaid, unless the ineligible employee chooses to use his or her own accrued vacation, holiday or personal benefit time. Ineligible employees are not able to use Sick time, Sick Bank or Catastrophic Leave Program. 

During this Ineligibility Leave, employees are not eligible to bid on positions in the Nursing Homes or the Health Department. Upon return to work, such ineligible employees shall be returned to an open position on the next available open shift/weekend schedule. During Ineligibility Leave, employees continue to accrue seniority.

The County will continue County Health Insurance and Dental Insurance (on the same terms and conditions as if the ineligible employee were working) while on this special leave, with the employee being responsible for timely payment of their share of the insurance premiums. Ineligible employees who are not drawing a paycheck, from which such deductions can be made, will receive instructions on how premiums are to be made to the County. All deductions that would otherwise occur from pay will continue if the employee is drawing a paycheck. Employees will continue to be responsible for payment of Union dues.

Ineligible employees assigned to positions outside the Nursing Homes or Health Department will be compensated at their regular rate of pay for all hours worked, including overtime hours.

12. What happens to employees from other departments that are able and eligible to work in either the Nursing Homes or Health Department to fill in vacancies created by the loss of ineligible employees?

Answer: Other County employees who are:

  1. eligible to work in the Health Department or Nursing Homes due to having been vaccinated, passed a Criminal History Record Check (CHRC) Background check (as appropriate) and comply with all current testing requirements;
  2. Qualified for the work available;
  3. Are requested to work in the Nursing Homes or the Health Department;
  4. Actually perform such work;

will be eligible for the additional pay afforded to eligible employees on top of their regular hourly rate (incentive other than shift differential shall not apply) for such hours actually worked in the Nursing Homes or Health Department, including overtime hours.

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