Thanks to pressure from AFGE’s Council of Prison Locals, the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) has reversed its position, granting employees additional paid emergency leave allowed under a new coronavirus law.
Under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), federal workers are eligible for an additional two weeks of paid leave up to 80 hours between April 1 and Dec. 31, 2020. BOP earlier refused to provide this new leave benefit to workers even though hundreds of inmates and staff have tested positive for the virus.
But after many AFGE members and AFGE Council of Prison Locals members called their members of Congress, the agency began to accommodate the employees with the paid emergency leave. This benefit is now available for BOP staff.
"I am thankful that our members are being recognized for the risks they are taking to protect America,” said Shane Fausey, president of AFGE’s Council of Prison Locals, which represents more than 30,000 correctional officers and staff at BOP nationwide. “They are now being afforded the ability to rightfully protect themselves, their families, and their co-workers by not being forced to work while sick or potentially carrying the COVID19 virus."
Employees can use the paid emergency leave if they are unable to work because they have COVID-19 symptoms and are being tested. They can also use emergency leave if they are ordered to self-quarantine by a local government or a health care provider.
The law also allows employees to take paid emergency leave to take care of an individual who has been ordered to quarantine or care for a child whose school or child care provider is closed, but leave will be paid at 2/3 the employee’s regular rate of pay.
As of April 22, there are 566 federal inmates and 342 BOP staff who have tested positive for COVID-19 nationwide. Twenty-four federal inmates have died.
The council last month filed a complaint with the Department of Labor charging that BOP is violating Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) laws by failing to keep workplaces free from known hazards.