LA County Refuses To Pay Deputies Ordered To Quarantine After Work Exposure
Los Angeles, CA – Los Angeles County leaders have refused to pay the 209 employees who were potentially exposed to coronavirus and sent home to self-quarantine in March.
Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said he was on a conference call with county CEO Sachi Hamai and other county leaders on Wednesday when he learned that employees who were ordered to quarantine during the month of March will have to dip into their sick leave or vacation time in order to ensure they will receive a paycheck, KTTV reported.
Under new federal guidelines, employees who were ordered to self-isolate due to potential COVID-19 exposure qualify to receive 80 hours of sick leave for time spent in quarantine from April 1 and beyond.
But Los Angeles County leaders opted not to apply the paid sick leave benefits retroactively, forcing employees who were ordered into quarantine after suffering potential coronavirus exposure in March to pull from their sick or vacation benefits.
Otherwise, they just won’t get paid at all, Sheriff Villanueva told KTTV.
“Our public safety personnel, our first responders, the least of their worries should be that they’re not paid by their employer,” the sheriff said.
Approximately 50 deputies will be affected by the lack of retroactive sick leave, KTTV reported.
They are also ineligible to file for workmen’s compensation, Sheriff Villanueva said.
“Ninety percent of them won't be sick – they’re not gonna test positive – which means they’re on quarantine only,” he explained. “You can’t build a workman’s comp claim for not being sick. The quarantine issue is not there as part of workman’s comp.”
“Those who don’t have sick time or vacation time are just not going to be paid. It’s a big problem with me,” the sheriff told KTTV. “We have an obligation, we’re putting them in jeopardy by putting them into situations the average citizen is not going to do, and why on earth would we jeopardize their pay because of a quarantine issue.”
Sheriff Villanueva also expressed his frustration in a letter to Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger, who is chair of the board, the Los Angeles Times reported.
“The first responders from the Sheriff’s Department sacrifice their lives for the residents of Los Angeles County every day,” he wrote. “The least we can do is fully compensate these men and women for their daily sacrifices by covering their COVID-19-related absence from work.”
But Hamai blamed Sheriff Villanueva misfiling paperwork for the pay issue, and alleged that he was trying to cause problems by speaking to the media, KTTV reported.
“It’s unfortunate that the Sheriff continues to bring issues to the media with the sole purpose of picking a political fight,” Hamai lamented in a statement.
“The Sheriff is responsible for his own decisions if he ordered employees to be placed on home leave,” she declared. “As a department head, he should be well aware that employees he orders to stay at home should be placed on paid administrative leave.”
Hamai accused Sheriff Villanueva of providing reporters with “misleading information” instead of trying to handle his employees’ needs by working with the county’s human resources department.
Sheriff Villanueva said he is also concerned about how the county’s treatment of the quarantined deputies will affect the department’s recruiting efforts.
“This is going to impact recruiting,” he told KTTV. “People are not going to go out and volunteer when they know that when they walk into the job they’re not going to be paid. That’s a big problem.”
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors did not respond to KTTV’s request for comment.