CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - At the start of the pandemic, City of Charlotte employees were given 14 days of emergency use COVID-19 paid leave.
It was supposed to be used if they got COVID-19 and couldn’t work remotely or if someone in their household got COVID-19 and they were exposed.
But WBTV has uncovered that leave is ending soon. For many City of Charlotte employees, this won’t be as big of an impact.
But CMPD police officers, whose jobs require them to be in the community, feel they are being put at more of a risk.
“I think until we get vaccines available to everyone and at least the pandemic under control. I think it would be a good thing to let the officers stay home as much as needed,” said a veteran CMPD officer.
He spoke to WBTV under the condition his face won’t be shown and his voice will be disguised. He’s worried about his job if CMPD finds out. He has concerns that the 14-day paid leave given to officers is ending on March 31, before the pandemic is over.
He says it’s not just putting officers at risk, but also the public.
“It seemed odd that the city would want officers that were possibly contagious or affected with the virus would want people go into people’s home when we’re trying to limit exposure,” he said.
After March 31, if an officer is exposed at home or get COVID-19, that officer would have to use their own paid leave included in their benefits to stay home and quarantine. This officer is concerned that officers might have the virus but without symptoms or be exposed.
But instead of staying home to use their leave, they will come to work anyways.
Some officers, depending on how long they’ve been on the force, might only have a few days of leave earned.
There have been 280 CMPD employees, which include officers and other staff, who have contracted COVID-19 since the pandemic begin.
The City of Charlotte offered this extended leave through the Department of Labor’s Families First Coronavirus Response Act.
It ended on December 31 2020, but the City of Charlotte voluntarily extended it until March 31.
The City of Charlotte said partially in a statement that, “This decision was made understanding that our employees and our residents are still susceptible to a community spread virus. That is why we went above and beyond in making the decision to voluntarily extended access to emergency paid leave.”
But when asked why it was ending, the City of Charlotte didn’t give a clear answer. Instead sending this in a statement, “this virus continues to take a high priority of management by local health officials and hospitals. The vaccination rollout was originally in its infancy and is now becoming available throughout the nation and here in Charlotte and Mecklenburg County.”
Police officers in North Carolina are eligible for vaccinations starting on March 10, along with thousands of other essential workers. Officers fear that with low supply of the vaccine and a large number of people becoming eligible on that day, officers won’t be able to become fully vaccinated before the paid leave runs out.
Even if an officer was able to get a vaccination on March 10, they wouldn’t be able to get their second dose until after the paid leave ends.
We’ve asked for a statement from the Department of Labor on why the leave ended. We’re waiting on a response.
Here is the full statement from the City of Charlotte:
“The City of Charlotte remains committed to upholding two key principles under which we have operated since the COVID-19 health crisis began to proliferate in our community. Those two principles are to take care of our employees and their health, while continuing to sustain high quality services to our residents and businesses.
“Although the Families First Coronavirus Response Act entitlement to emergency paid leave ended on December 31, 2020, the City of Charlotte voluntarily extended this benefit until the end of March 2021. This decision was made understanding that our employees and our residents are still susceptible to a community spread virus. That is why we went above and beyond in making the decision to voluntarily extended access to emergency paid leave. This virus continues to take a high priority of management by local health officials and hospitals. The vaccination rollout was originally in its infancy and is now becoming available throughout the nation and here in Charlotte and Mecklenburg County.
“City of Charlotte employees receive emergency paid leave benefits, sick leave benefits, and short-term disability benefits. Thus, in an event whereas an employee becomes ill and is unable to work due to COVID-19 or any other illness, the City of Charlotte offers a broad set of benefits for our employees designed to assist our employees during their illness or an illness of an immediate family member. In conjunction with City of Charlotte provided benefits, employee remain eligible for leave under the Family Medical Leave Act. The City of Charlotte continues to emphasize to our employees that if they are ill, they should remain home. We expect every employee to do their part by wearing a face mask, refraining from large gatherings, and maintaining a physical distance from others of at least six feet when possible.
“If a City employee has a question about his/her own leave benefits, they are encouraged to contact their Human Resources Manager. We are here to help and support our employees with any questions, issues, or concerns that they have.”