What should you tell Border Patrol if you or your family test positive for COVID-19?

NBPC MEMBER ADVISORY

What should you tell Border Patrol if you or your family test positive for COVID-19?

Members, be advised that if you divulge any private or medical information to any management official while reporting COVID-19 related matters, there is a very high probability that the information you provide will be used later to controvert (challenge) any claim that you make regarding any work-related exposure to COVID-19.

There is a lot of information in this advisory, but it’s important to understand what you need to do in order to protect your rights for potential OWCP claims for a diagnosis of COVID-19.

The Union has noticed a disturbing trend in which management uses Evolving Situation Reports (ESRs) to deny or delay DOL Form CA-1 submissions or to support controverting CA-1 forms submitted for COVID-19 related coverage. It is unfortunate that during these challenging times, we must also deal with members of management holding their employees to a different standard from what the Department of Labor has determined to be “high risk employment.” Some managers have decided to simply ignore the federal government’s determination that it is “difficult to determine the precise moment and method of virus transmission.”

There is no single person, medical doctor, or scientist in the world, let alone within the United States, who can determine when or how a person was infected with COVID-19. Yet, some supervisors and managers within the Border Patrol believe they have this medical ability and that it is their duty to decide that an employee was NOT infected while on duty and performing their duties as a Border Patrol agent. Unfortunately, these supervisors and managers use information gained during voluntary conversations with agents to challenge these claims.

You are under absolutely NO obligation to divulge any information regarding your family, and you are under absolutely NO obligation to divulge anything other than an exposure to, or a diagnosis of, COVID-19. Furthermore, you should NEVER speculate how, when, or where you or your family became infected.

If you or someone within your household becomes infected with COVID-19, the ONLY information you should share with management is that someone within your household tested positive for COVID-19. You are not obligated to, nor should you, give managers any more information than what is necessary to make management aware that you’ve been exposed to COVID-19 or have been diagnosed with COVID-19.

Federal law, specifically the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA), “prohibits employers from asking employees medical questions about family members.” The law, however, “does not prohibit an employer from asking employees whether they have had contact with anyone diagnosed with COVID-19 or who may have symptoms associated with the disease.”

Bottom line: Do NOT reveal any personal information about your family to the agency. If they can, management will utilize this information against you should you file a claim under the Federal Employees Compensation Act (FECA).

Federal law allows employees to be asked whether they are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, such as whether an employee has fever, chills, cough, shortness of breath, or sore throat. However, employers, including the federal government, “must maintain all information about employee illness as a confidential medical record in compliance with the ADA.”

An ESR does not qualify as a confidential medical record, and there are requirements that must be met for management officials to require an employee to discuss or disclose anything more than a diagnosis of COVID-19 and its associated symptoms. Nothing changes about requests for sick leave; employees have always had, and will continue to have, the ability to self-certify that they are incapacitated and unable to perform their duties, thereby self-certifying that they are eligible for sick leave.

As for submitting a CA-1 for a diagnosis of COVID-19, if you believe that your exposure was work-related, you have the right to submit a CA-1 and request Continuation of Pay (COP), but you must have a diagnosis of COVID-19. As determined by the DOL, Border Patrol agents are considered to be serving in “high-risk employment,” thereby removing the additional burdens of determining “the precise moment and method of virus transmission,” and “burdening the employee with identifying the exact day or time they contracted the novel coronavirus.”

Management cannot refuse to accept your CA-1, nor can they refuse to process the form. To do so is a violation of law, for which you can file a complaint with the DHS Office of Inspector General (OIG), or the CBP Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR). Management retains the right to controvert (challenge) your claim; and as stated above, they will utilize any information that an employee unwittingly provides to support their challenge. Do not provide unnecessary information to management, and do not provide any information about your family to them either.

Below is a sample of the text (the entire document can be accessed here) from the Department of Labor regarding federal employees who have been determined to be serving in “high-risk employment” positions (i.e., law enforcement, first responders, and front-line medical and public health personnel):

“The pandemic caused by the COVID-19 viral disease is impacting how we live and work across the country, and around the world. The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) is committed to providing support to Federal employees during this difficult time.

“All federal employees who develop COVID-19 while in the performance of their federal duties are entitled to workers' compensation coverage pursuant to the Federal Employees' Compensation Act (FECA). See https://www.dol.gov/owcp/dfec/.

“DOL acknowledges, however, that it is difficult to determine the precise moment and method of virus transmission. Therefore, when an employee claims FECA benefits due to COVID-19, federal workers who are required to have in-person and close proximity interactions with the public on a frequent basis - such as members of law enforcement, first responders, and front-line medical and public health personnel - will be considered to be in high-risk employment, thereby triggering the application of Chapter 2-0805-6 of the FECA Procedure Manual. In such cases, there is an implicit recognition that a higher likelihood exists of infection due to high-risk employment. Federal workers in such positions routinely encounter situations that may lead to infection by contact with sneezes, droplet infection, bodily secretions, and surfaces on which the COVID-19 virus may reside. Therefore, the employment-related incidence of COVID-19 is more likely to occur among members of law enforcement, first responders and front-line medical and public health personnel, and among those whose employment causes them to come into direct and frequent in-person and close proximity contact with the public.”

“Accordingly, DOL has created new procedures (Bulletin 20-05 & Bulletin 21-01) to specifically address COVID-19 claims. Employees filing a claim for workers' compensation coverage as a result of COVID-19 should file Form CA-1, Notice of Traumatic Injury through your employer using the Employees' Compensation Operations & Management Portal. The new procedures will also call the adjudicator's attention to the type of employment held by the employee, rather than burdening the employee with identifying the exact day or time they contracted the novel coronavirus.”

If you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact a union representative

Notice of meeting - December 2020

Tuesday, December 15, 2020
7:00 pm

To help promote social distancing and comply with local municipal requirements, this meeting will be held over Webex.

You must register at the link below by 5 pm on December 15, 2020, so membership can be verified. A meeting link will be sent to all members who register in advance.

https://bit.ly/Dec2020meeting

Topics will include:

COVID-19 updates
AFGE convention delegates
Abad FLSA lawsuit conclusion
Implementation of Paid Parental Leave
Blue Force Tracking
Body-worn cameras
New canine policy
Online union rep training

Notice of 2021 AFGE Convention

DETERMINE THE NUMBER OF UNION DELEGATES TO THE AFGE CONVENTION AND, IF NECESSARY, NOMINATE ADDITIONAL DELEGATES, DETERMINE IF DELEGATES CARRY ALL VOTES, AND DETERMINE COMPENSATION FOR DELEGATE EXPENSES

At this regularly scheduled meeting on the date/time and location above, members will be asked to
determine if Local 2366 will participate in the AFGE National Convention in August 2021 and, if so, the
number of additional delegates, if any, they want to represent Local 2366, if the delegates will carry all
votes, and if travel expenses will be authorized.

Local 2366’s elected Executive Board Officers have already been designated as delegates by virtue of
office. Members will be asked to determine if the selected delegates will carry all of Local 2366’s votes,
which, if approved, would preclude the need for alternate delegates. However, if members do not
approve this proposal and instead authorize additional delegate(s), then nominations for additional and
alternate delegates will be accepted, and a mail ballot election will be held to elect additional and
alternate delegates as governed by the AFGE Rules of Conduct for an Election, Appendix A, of the
AFGE National Constitution. For those who cannot attend the meeting, nominations can be submitted
via nominations@nbpc2366.org.

NOTE: The AFGE National Convention is considered internal union business and official time to travel
to and from these events, or to attend the events is not authorized. As a result, delegates attend and
travel to/from these events on days off or annual leave.

DRT Virtual Benefits Townhall

Del Rio Sector Leadership would like to extend a personal invitation to a virtual benefits-based town hall meeting on June 26, 2020, at 1:00 p.m. CST, regarding several support topics available to Del Rio Sector Border Patrol employees and their families. Please share this with your spouse and/or families, so they may attend this important virtual event.

There will be a variety of presenters covering a broad range of topics to include:

  • General Benefits
  • Work for Life Programs
  • Employee Assistance Program
  • Peer Support Program
  • Worker’s Comp (OWCP)
  • And More…

In order to join the event, connect to the link sent to all DRT employees this morning, June 24, 2020. If you do not have access to the email, you can call the HR department at Del Rio Sector and they can provide you with the link.

Free COVID-19 testing for Del Rio Sector employees and other law enforcement officers

Local 2366 of the National Border Patrol Council recently contacted STAT Specialty Hospital in Del Rio, Texas, and asked if they would be able to provide COVID-19 testing to Del Rio Sector employees and law enforcement officers with other agencies.

Beginning May 20, 2020, employees can call STAT Specialty Hospital at 830-498-3000 to schedule an appointment from 8 am to 5 pm, during which they will be tested for both the active virus and the antibodies, involving a nasal swab and a blood draw.. The combination of the two tests will give employees the most complete picture of whether they are currently infected or if they were previously infected.

Since what we know about COVID-19 is changing daily, everyone should continue to practice social distancing. A positive antibody test does not necessarily mean you cannot be infected again. However, it might indicate your likelihood of being infected again, or perhaps that a future infection might not be as severe as it would be if you do not have the antibodies. No matter the result, everyone should still follow CDC guidelines to protect yourself and your families.

How do I get tested?

To be tested, call STAT Specialty Hospital in Del Rio and tell them you are an employee of the U.S. Border Patrol in Del Rio Sector, and you would like to be tested. Testing will take place from 8 am to 5 pm, but arrangements can be made in advance for appointments outside of those hours.

This test is only for those who do not have symptoms of COVID-19. If you are symptomatic, call your primary care physician.

You will need to bring identification with you showing that you are an employee, along with your insurance card and driver's license.

The test will be billed to your insurance company, but you will not pay a copay or incur any other expense. The test should take approximately 15 minutes, and you will be notified of the results generally within a few days, although that timeline could change.

For those employees who do not live or work near the city of Del Rio, Local 2366 continues to search for resources that might be closer to you and we will provide you with more information as we receive it. We are sincerely appreciative of STAT Specialty Hospital in Del Rio for providing this service to all U.S. Border Patrol employees in the Del Rio Sector.

Virtual town hall for DRT employees

On April 29, 2020, at 2:00 pm, Del Rio Sector leadership and personnel from MROD will be holding a virtual town hall meeting to discuss topics of interest to our employees and their families.

A link will be emailed to everyone's work email accounts, so keep an eye on your work email for details.

There will be a variety of presenters covering topics such as:

  • Flexible Spending Accounts
  • Health, Dental, and Vision
  • Insurance
  • Life Insurance
  • Long-Term Care Insurance
  • Retirement Benefits Counseling
  • Thrift Savings Plan (TSP)
  • Child Care
  • Education Services
  • Elder Care
  • Employee Assistance Program
  • Health and Wellness
  • Legal and Financial Services
  • Peer Support Program
  • OWCP
  • Billing

Del Rio Sector - We Stand Ready

March 18 membership meeting cancelled

In light of the increasing risk of exposure, our membership meeting scheduled for March 18, 2020, has been cancelled. We will reschedule for a later date.

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