Brothers & Sisters of the Colorado FOP
FOP Executive Director Mike Violette and State President Stephen Schulz asked me to prepare an email regarding an ongoing situation with regard to mandatory quarantining of members who may have been exposed to the COVID-19, but who are not exhibiting any symptoms of the virus. I believe we need to take a universal position as an organization on this issue so that we are all playing off the same sheet of music. Here is how I think we should address the situation or the position we should take:
Given the current understanding of the virus, the incubation period is anywhere from 2 to 14 days. I believe our position is that anyone who has been working and contracts the virus now or in the future, it should be presumed to have contracted it at work. It should be the City’s burden to demonstrate it was not work related since the likelihood of exposure increases exponentially with every contact that the officer has.
Officers who find themselves in the predicament of contracting the virus should ask to fill out the necessary forms for work-related injury and report the injury to their supervisor. This really should not be necessary, but I would not take anything for granted. The City and/or its carrier may ultimately deny the claim or tell the officer “it isn’t work comp,” but we need to file the claim anyway. Also, for those Lodges with collective bargaining agreements, the member and/or the Lodge should request injury leave for the officer for time spent recovering from the virus. That too will probably be denied.
Nevertheless, we should process the grievance through all steps and then request arbitration. I have had this happen in other situations where the employer disputed the injury, and we go through this process and hold the arbitration in abeyance until we get decision from work comp. If work comp finds it’s a duty related injury, the officer is placed on injury retroactive to the date he reported the injury to the City. If it goes the other way and it’s found not to be work-related, the grievance is almost certainly mooted and we will not proceed to arbitration. But, by filing the grievance, we are ensuring that the timelines of the CBA grievance procedure are being secured and no argument can be made that we failed to file a grievance and, therefore, the member is not entitled to injury leave.
The same would apply if there is no CBA in place and the Department only has injury leave polices or procedures. In a non-bargaining Lodge, we need to employ whatever appeal or grievance procedures are available under Department policies. Non-bargaining Labor Council Lodges can contact Director Violette and he or I can help you through that process to make sure members are protected.
I hope that information helps. I am sure other issues will arise. I am very concerned that the City’s initial ambivalence in this situation is going to change once the City revenues start taking a hit from the economic realities of this situations. Same goes from those generous folks at the insurance companies. We need to hope for the best but prepare for them to do what City’s and insurance companies unfortunately often do in a crisis-- screw things up in a massive way and look out for their own interests. If City County and State governments did what was right, we would not have 330,000 FOP members worldwide.
Be careful out there and take the necessary precautions to protect yourself.
Sean McCauley, General Counsel
Colorado State FOP Labor Council, Fraternal Order of Police