June 2021 Membership Meeting

On June 16, 2021, at 7:00 pm, Local 2366 will be holding its first in-person membership meeting since the pandemic began.

Among other topics, we will discuss:

-OT concerns
-Update regarding recent grievances
-Continued sectorwide OWCP problems
-Border crisis issues
-New job hazard analysis

Meeting location:
Local 2366 Union Office
801 Kings Way
Del Rio, Texas 78840

Reminder - Scholarship deadline approaching

Don't forget that Local 2366 offers two $1,000 scholarships each calendar year -- one in the fall and one in the spring.

The fall deadline for submission is June 1, which is right around the corner. Learn more information about it, here.

Limited distribution of weapon light/holsters

The agency notified us that they were able to place an order for approximately 7,600 weapon lights and holsters to be distributed to the field. They are being sent to the field proportionally based on the size of the sector, number of left-handed vs. right-handed agents, and type of pistol used.

Trainees graduating from the academy are issued a weapon light and holster (it comes from a different budget), so this will be distributed by seniority to those agents who request it. The sectors will be soliciting interest in the near future.

For those agents who had a weapon light on the P2000, the same bracket used to attach the light to that pistol will work for our new duty weapon.

Converting annual leave to weather and safety leave

As we emailed last week, when inclement weather prevents employees from reporting to work, Del Rio Sector utilizes a procedure requiring employees first to request annual leave and then request weather safety leave later on. We disagree with this process and are addressing it, but there will be many of you this week who will be requesting that your annual leave be converted to weather and safety leave because of last week’s winter weather.

For context, Article 14, Section I, of the CBA and 5 USC § 6329c allow employees to be granted weather and safety leave for a day, or part of a day, during which such conditions prevent an employee from reporting to work. However, to be eligible, you must provide your supervisor with evidence that you “made every reasonable effort to report to work, but that such conditions prevented” you from doing so.

In the memo, explain what conditions prevented you from getting to work. For example:

  • Did the ice or snow prevent you from getting out of your neighborhood or subdivision?
  • Were the only roads you can take to work closed by the state or county?
  • Did you drive some of the way to work, but turn around because the roads were too dangerous?
  • Did you get into an accident on the way to work?

Gather and provide to your supervisor any evidence you can showing that you made “every reasonable effort to report to work, but that such conditions prevented” you from doing so — the keyword is reasonable. For example, provide pictures or videos of icy roads, closed road notifications or signs, weather reports indicating dangerous conditions, pictures of vehicles in ditches, an explanation of how you made it part of the way to work, but the roads continued to get worse, etc.

Remember, you will not be granted weather and safety leave if you just woke up, looked at the temperature, and then crawled back into bed. You have to do some work to document the roadways’ hazardous nature by making every reasonable effort to get to work.

If your request for weather and safety leave is denied, contact a local union rep so we can gather more information and evidence to determine the path forward.

Member Advisory - COVID-19 and OWCP Claims for Agents

Click here for a PDF copy of this member advisory, along with a copy of the FAQ.

Below, and in the frequently asked questions (FAQ) linked here and below, you will learn what agents should do if you are exposed to, or test positive for, COVID-19. The most critical information can be found below, with more information in the FAQ.

Have you been exposed to COVID-19?

Each exposure is different, and not all exposures require you to quarantine at home. If you are exposed, you must explain, in great detail, to your supervisor the following (consult with a union rep if you need help):

  • Were you, others around you, and the sick person wearing PPE or facial coverings
  • How much time did you spend around the sick person, and for how much of that time were you and the sick person wearing PPE or a facial covering?
  • What level of contact did you have with the sick person? Did you eat around each other? Were masks on and off throughout the exposure time? Was the sick person coughing?

These are only examples of the information your supervisor needs to know to make a risk decision. If they don’t ask these questions, make sure you provide this and any other relevant information.

If you had a high-risk exposure, you should be placed on weather and safety leave if you have no symptoms. You cannot use weather and safety leave if you are sick, so you must use sick leave until and if you test positive for COVID-19.

If you had an exposure, consider getting tested, especially if you develop symptoms, but don’t test too early – most doctors recommend waiting four to five days to get tested. Otherwise, you could test too early and test negative when you are actually sick.

Have you tested positive for COVID-19?

Employees who contract COVID-19 in the course of their duties can be covered by OWCP for treatment and any time away from work. DOL understands that we can’t know when and where we got COVID, so we don’t have to prove it. If you test positive for COVID-19 and you believe you could have gotten it at work, fill out a CA-1. Unless you have not been at work for weeks, it’s very likely you did indeed get it at work. Even if your family member tests positive first, it’s possible you gave it to them, but they showed symptoms first. Ask your supervisor that you be promptly counseled regarding your workers’ compensation benefits, entitlements, and responsibilities under Article 18 of the CBA.

Register and fill out a CA-1 on http://www.ecomp.dol.gov. In Box 10 (date of injury), use your best estimate when you believe you were exposed to COVID-19 at work. If you don’t know, use your last workday before you tested positive. In Box 13, write something about your job that could have led to potentially being exposed to COVID-19. For example, you could describe: 1) processing and having close contact with numerous illegal aliens; 2) being in a confined space with several employees for several hours; 3) arresting a group of illegal aliens who weren’t wearing masks; 4) working at a traffic checkpoint with numerous travelers; and 5) any other work-related situation that could lead to contracting COVID-19.

If a supervisor claims that you must prove when and where you got COVID, tell them to show you the policy requiring this. If this happens, escalate things to a WC or PAIC/DPAIC and get with a station union representative. Finally, make sure you elect to use COP in Box 15. The first day of COP is your first full day away from work because of your symptoms – not the day you tested or got your test results.

Employees are highly encouraged to refer to the frequently asked questions (FAQ) for more information (PDF).

Dangerous road conditions in and around Del Rio Sector

As we've all heard for over a week, there is some brutally cold weather headed our way for the next few days. Since this part of Texas is generally not prepared for this sort of weather, most of the roads used by agents to drive to/from work will not be treated with salt or anything else to effectively prevent ice from forming.

The "weather" in weather and safety leave is designed for this exact scenario. Article 14, Section I, of the CBA and 5 USC § 6329c allow for agents to be granted weather and safety leave for a day, or part of a day, during which such conditions prevent an employee from reporting to work. However, to be eligible, you must provide your supervisor with evidence that you "made every reasonable effort to report to work, but that such conditions prevented" you from doing so.

Del Rio Sector, along with some others, has established a procedure by which employees must first request annual leave, and then request weather and safety leave when they return to work. The union does not believe this is the best way for this to be handled, so we are working with the agency to sort out a better process.

In the meantime, here's what you should do if you cannot safely get to work:

  • Call your supervisor and request weather and safety leave — they will likely tell you that they can only approve annual leave. Fine, so be it.
  • Gather any evidence you can showing that you made “every reasonable effort to report to work, but that such conditions prevented” you from doing so. The key word is reasonable so, for example, take pictures or videos of icy roads, closed road notifications or signs, weather reports indicating dangerous conditions, pictures of vehicles in ditches, an explanation of how you made it part of the way to work, but the roads continued to get worse, etc.
  • If your primary route to work is closed, check other routes, but be reasonable. If an alternate route is open, but it's going to take hours to get to work, or those roads are likely just as dangerous as the primary road, be prepared to explain that.
  • You will not be granted weather and safety leave if you just wake up, look at the temperature, and then crawl back into bed. You have to do some work to document the unsafe nature of the roadways.

Now, if you happen to live near a station that is not your regular station, they might tell you to report for duty at the closer station. However, if road conditions still prevent you from getting there, you will have to explain that all over again.

For example, if you live in San Antonio, but work in Carrizo Springs, it’s probably not reasonable for you to report to Uvalde, but you will have to show why it’s not possible to report to Uvalde. However, if you live in Uvalde and work in Brackettville and the roads are closed or dangerous, it’s likely you could make it to Uvalde Station to work. The key to all of this is effective communication with your supervisor.

We’ve asked Del Rio Sector to send guidance via the Emergency Notification System because, as we write this message, it seems that nothing has been pushed out to the workforce.

If you are able to get to work over the next couple of days, be extremely careful when you drive, particularly on the roads that aren’t heavily used. Ice can sneak up on you and the last thing we need is someone getting into a wreck because they were driving too quickly for the road conditions.

COVID-19 Tests and High-Risk Employment Designation

With the availability of numerous types of COVID-19 tests, it is important to know the Department of Labor (DOL), Office of Workers' Compensation Program (OWCP), is only accepting laboratory tests, such as but not limited to, polymerase chain reaction (PCR), nucleic acid amplification tests (NAAT), and antigen tests.

However, if employees submit antigen test results, DOL requires a copy of the laboratory test results, not just the letter from the provider stating the results were positive. Antibody tests may also be submitted, but this route requires additional medical evidence to address work-relatedness, diagnosis, and treatment due to the intricacies involved in this process.

Regardless of testing choice, make sure you specifically ask for the laboratory results, as required by DOL. If employees only submit test results (without the lab results), they will likely get a letter from DOL telling them they must submit the lab results or the claim will not be approved.

DOL acknowledges that it is difficult to determine the precise moment and method of SARS-CoV-2 (coronavirus) transmission. Therefore, federal employees deemed to be engaged in "high-risk employment" are not burdened with identifying the exact day or time they contracted COVID-19.

Uniformed employees within our bargaining unit have been designated "high-risk employment" by the agency for OWCP purposes, which means OWCP will accept that the exposure was proximately caused by the nature of employment. If the employee files the CA-1 within 30 days, and the employer supports the claim/that the exposure occurred, the employee is eligible to receive continuation of pay for up to 45 days. High-risk employees are eligible to have COVID-19 testing paid by OWCP or have it reimbursed.

Contact a union rep if you have any questions or need help with the process.

For further information, read through the below resources.

OWCP FECA COVID-19 resource page

FECA Bulletin No. 21-01, Issue Date: October 21, 2020

FECA Bulletin No. 20-05, Issue Date: March 31, 2020

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