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CMS employees promised reimbursement for COVID-19 leave are still waiting

The school district policy allows for employees to get credit back for any leave time they take for COVID-19 but one concerned CMS employee called us after waiting months.
Published: Feb. 3, 2022 at 5:46 PM EST|Updated: Feb. 3, 2022 at 7:09 PM EST
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - A WBTV investigation is getting help for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS) employees who were docked sick leave after catching COVID-19 despite a promise from the district to do otherwise.

The school district policy allows for employees to get credit back for any leave time they take for COVID-19 but one concerned CMS employee called us after waiting months.

Any given week, hundreds of CMS employees could be out from work for catching or being exposed to COVID-19. The data dashboard shows 196 positive cases among staff last week alone.

WBTV spoke with one CMS employee, whose identity we’re protecting so she does not face repercussions for speaking out. After taking ten days off to recover from COVID-19, she’s frustrated with the CMS process for crediting that time back to employees, because she says, it’s simply not happening.

“Nobody in my building has been paid yet. After two years of being in COVID-19, you’d think it would be a quicker process,” the employee told WBTV.

According to the school district’s policy, which is required by the state, employees can qualify for contagious disease leave to remain on paid status.

In reality, teachers and employees are often using their own, limited leave time or having to take unpaid leave and working to get reimbursed after the fact.

“When it came to taking off of school, they gladly gave me the time off. The principal was very supportive, but I had to use my own leave time,” the employee said.

Getting reimbursed requires employees to follow several steps, including getting a positive COVID-19 test and calling the local health department to send a letter to CMS.

But our source says that policy is not being publicized to staff.

“When I got back to school and I started asking around, people that have had COVID had no idea either,” she said.

Our source took time off for COVID-19 months ago and was told she would get reimbursed within four to six weeks.

“I called again and they said, ‘oh now it’s going to be four to ten weeks because of staffing issues and now it’s been about 14 weeks, 16 weeks,” the source said.

“You’re finding that people don’t know about the policy, the policy is difficult to navigate and when you complete it, it’s not even being processed,” a WBTV reporter asked the source.

“Correct,” she responded. “It is disappointing, but either way I’ll go to work and give my 120 percent.”

WBTV asked CMS why it’s not following the district’s own COVID-19 leave policy. A spokeswoman sent a statement back, acknowledging issues.

“There is no doubt that staffing challenges have impacted the district in almost every department,” the statement read.

In a round of follow-up questions, a spokesperson claimed that there were not issues with informing employees about the policy writing “Our HR department is not aware of widespread communication challenges with the state leave policy. Some delays in processing may be experienced due to staffing challenges throughout the district.”

In fact, the spokesperson claimed that some delays might be caused by a surge in COVID-19 cases that are delaying the proper paperwork required from local health departments.

After our questions, we heard that some employees’ COVID-19 leave applications were being processed.

“I guess I didn’t trust that anybody else was going to get through because nobody has gotten through at my entire school that has 60 some people and plenty of them have had COVID and there’s been no success yet,” the source said.

WBTV has also filed a record request to find out how many CMS employees have filed for contagious disease leave and how many of those applications have been processed. Those records have not been provided yet.

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