Massachusetts Trial Court

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Introduction

During the Coronavirus pandemic, the Trial Court has followed the recommendations issued by the CDC and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. These protocols and guidelines continue to evolve and change; as such, so will this document. In addition, the Trial Court has contracted with an Epidemiologist who specializes in infectious diseases to provide guidance and advice on issues not covered by the CDC or the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. We have consulted with our Epidemiologist throughout the development of this document.

This document addresses the new “Families First Coronavirus Response Act” (FFCRA) and how this benefit will be applied to Trial Court employees. A future communication will be sent to all Trial Court employees detailing how to access these benefits.

Any questions about these guidelines should be directed to your Department Head or the OCM HR Benefits and Onboarding Unit at benefits.onboarding@jud.state.ma.us.

  1. I have Coronavirus or my medical provider suspects that I am positive for Coronavirus. What should I do?

If you have tested positive for Coronavirus or are suspected by your medical provider to be positive for Coronavirus you must stay home. You will be allowed to utilize your available sick, vacation, personal, or compensatory time (“accrued leave”). You may be eligible for benefits under the Family First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) including an additional ten paid sick leave days. Eligible employees who are the subject of a federal, state or local quarantine order, or who have been advised by their health care provider to self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID-19 may receive up to ten days paid leave at up to 100 % of your regular rate of pay. If additional time is needed, and you do not have sufficient accrued leave, the Trial Court will advance leave time to be paid back at a later date. This will protect you from going off payroll and/or losing health coverage. Please contact OCM HR if you have questions about the appropriate application of these benefits, the process to request such benefits, and SSTA coding.

Please note that you have an affirmative duty to notify your manager, not only that you are sick, but that you have tested positive or are suspected to be positive for Coronavirus. Your manager will ask you, among other questions, who you have had contact with in the workplace during the prior 14 days. This will enable managers to notify individuals that they may have had a close contact with someone who is suspected to be positive for the virus. Please be as thorough and accurate as possible about others with whom you might have had contact. This will help your fellow employees to avoid becoming ill and also assist the Trial Court in determining whether or for how long to close the court.

Additionally, you will be asked if you consent to share your identity with colleagues, so that they may also assess whether they have had close contact. This is encouraged, but strictly voluntary. Employees who are given this information will also be notified that retaliation against an employee who has had Coronavirus or is suspected to have had Coronavirus will not be tolerated.

In accordance with CDC guidelines, people with COVID-19 who have stayed home (home isolated) can stop home isolation under the following conditions:

    • If the individual is not having a test to determine if still contagious, the individual can leave home after these three things have happened:
      • No fever for at least 72 hours (that is three full days of no fever without the use medicine that reduces fevers)
        AND
      • other symptoms have improved (for example, when cough or shortness of breath have improved)
        AND
      • at least 7 days have passed since their symptoms first appeared

Please let you manager know when your doctor has cleared you to return to work and/or you satisfy the above criteria, to allow an informed decision regarding your return to work. Managers may request that your doctor attest that you are fit-for-duty before allowing you to resume your duties.

  1. My colleague has tested positive or is suspected to be positive for Coronavirus. What protocols will the Trial Court use to address this issue?

The CDC Guidelines state that the Coronavirus can be spread through person-to-person transmission and/or through contact with contaminated surfaces, followed by touching ones mouth, nose or eyes.1 Therefore, to the extent that it is operationally possible, local court leaders will close the court, sending employees that are on the same rotational team as the ill employee home on paid administrative leave to self-quarantine for 14 calendar days from the last date of contact with the ill employee. In addition, the Facilities Department will provide a deep clean of the workplace.

In large courthouses that house multiple Departments, it is not necessary to self-quarantine other Department employees for 14 calendar days if there is no interaction between those Departments. However, all employees that work in that courthouse will be sent home on paid administrative leave pending the deep clean of the courthouse as described below.

Per CDC guidelines, the workplace will rest and the deep clean will not occur until 24 hours have passed since the ill employee was last in the workplace. The Facilities Department will conduct the deep clean within 24 hours of the end of the rest period.

Once the deep clean is complete, which should take no longer than two to three calendar days, local court leaders will re-open the workplace with a new rotational team that has not had contact with the ill employee in the last 14 calendar days.

Where this is not operationally possible, local court leaders will need to assess which employees have had close contact with the ill employee during the last 14 calendar days. Close contact is defined as within six feet for at least ten minutes. Where necessary to make this assessment, and upon verbal authorization of the employee, local court leaders may share the name with other staff based on a good faith belief that there may have been close contact based on known current or recent operations of the office. Local court leaders will reiterate with staff the requirement to maintain this information as private and confidential. Employees deemed to have had close contact will be sent home on paid administrative leave (ADM) for 14 symptom free calendar days from the last date of contact. If you believe that you have been in close contact with a sick colleague, please notify your management.

If it is determined that the ill employee has had limited contact with anyone in the building (i.e. does not meet the definition of close contact), local court leaders will assess the ability to cordon off the workspace and contact Facilities to provide a deep clean. Again, per CDC guidelines, the workplace will rest and the deep clean will not occur until 24 hours have passed since the ill employee was last in the workplace. The Facilities Department will conduct the deep clean within 24 hours of the end of the rest period.

  1. Can I be directed home if my manager believes that I am exhibiting Coronavirus symptoms? If yes, what kind of leave will I be required to use? Will that leave qualify as FMLA?

Yes. Cardinal symptoms of Coronavirus typically include fever, fatigue, cough and shortness of breath. If you are suffering from any of these symptoms, you must not report to work and may be disciplined for doing the same. Department heads who see you exhibiting symptoms of Coronavirus will direct you to go home and contact your health care provider. You will be required to use your accrued leave.2 You may be eligible for benefits under the FFCRA including an additional ten paid sick leave days. If additional time is needed, and you do not have sufficient accrued leave, the Trial Court will advance leave time to be paid back at a later date. This will protect you from going off payroll and/or losing health coverage. This leave may be designated as FMLA if it is determined that the employee has a serious health condition. If you believe that you were sent home in error, please provide documentation from your medical provider attesting that you are not ill and are fit to return to work. In this instance, you will be credited for any accrued time used.

  1. I have a pre-existing medical condition that may make me more vulnerable to the Coronavirus. What should I do?

Please notify your manager of your situation. If you do not feel comfortable discussing your medical condition with your manager, please contact OCM HR for guidance. The Trial Court will engage in an interactive dialogue to determine whether there are reasonable accommodations that we can provide, which will allow you to perform the essential functions of your position.

If you are directed by your health care provider to stay home, because of an underlying health condition that places you at greater risk, including pregnancy, you will be allowed to telework whenever possible. When not possible, you will be excused from the rotation, but will need to use your accrued leave time, including sick time, for the time that you would have otherwise been scheduled to be at work. For example, if you are put on a two week on / two week off rotation, you will use your accrued sick, personal, vacation or comp time for the two weeks that you would have been scheduled to be on. For the two weeks that you are scheduled to be off, due to lack of work, you will be on paid skeleton leave (SKE).

You may also be eligible for benefits under the FFCRA including an additional ten paid sick leave days. A future communication will be sent to all Trial Court employees detailing how to access these benefits. Please contact OCM HR if you have questions about the appropriate application of these benefits, the process to request such benefits, and SSTA coding. If an employee does not have sufficient accrued leave, the Trial Court will advance leave time to be paid back at a later date. This will protect employees from going off payroll and/or losing health coverage.

Please notify your supervisor as soon as possible so that they can plan any staffing adjustments accordingly.

  1. I am not ill, but have been directed to self-quarantine due to Federal, State or local quarantine order (eg. recent travel), because my housemate has or is suspected to have Coronavirus, and/or my housemate has been directed to self-quarantine due to Federal, State or local quarantine order. Should I stay home and will I be paid?

Yes. You should stay home and notify your supervisor of your specific circumstances. In most instances, you will be placed on paid administrative leave (ADM) during the pendency of your quarantine.

Please note: If you choose to travel in conflict with the CDC and guidance and are subsequently quarantined, you will not be granted paid administrative leave. Please monitor travel restrictions and the CDC guidelines often as updates may be made frequently.

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/index.html

If you become symptomatic or consequently test positive for Coronavirus, you have an obligation to notify your manager. Your status will change and you will be permitted to use accrued leave. You may be eligible for benefits under the FFCRA including an additional ten days of paid sick leave due to a Federal, State or Local quarantine order or if directed by a health care provider to self-quarantine. If you do not have sufficient leave time, the Trial Court will advance leave time to be paid back at a later date. This will protect you from going off payroll and/or losing health coverage.

  1. I am responsible for eldercare due to a Coronavirus related reason. Will I be paid?

If you are responsible to care for a household member who is elderly you will be allowed to telework whenever possible. When not possible, you will be excused from the rotation, but will need to use vacation, personal or comp time for the time that the you would have otherwise been scheduled to work but are unable to. For example, if you are put on a two week on / two week off rotation, you will use accrued personal, vacation or comp time for the two weeks that you would have been scheduled to be on. For the two weeks that you are scheduled to be off due to lack of work, you will be on paid skeleton leave (SKE).

If you do not have sufficient accrued leave, the Trial Court will advance you leave time to be paid back at a later date. This will protect you from going off payroll and/or losing health coverage. You can also choose to go off payroll at your discretion.

Please note that if your eldercare responsibilities are required because the person you are caring for is a subject to Federal, State, local quarantine or isolation order or medical self-quarantine order, you may be eligible for benefits under the FFCRA , namely ten paid sick leave days at 2/3 of your regular rate of pay (with a cap). The Trial Court is allowing employees who are eligible for this benefit to use accrued leave time to supplement the 2/3 amount received, so you my receive your full earnings. Please contact OCM HR if you have questions about the appropriate application of these benefits, the process to request such benefits, or SSTA coding

  1. I am responsible for childcare and need to stay home due to school or childcare closures or because my child’s care provider is unavailable and there is no other suitable person to care for my child. Will I be paid?

If you have childcare responsibilities you will be allowed to telework whenever possible. When not possible, you will be excused from the rotation. If you need to stay home and cannot telework, you may be eligible for benefits under the FFCRA including ten paid sick leave days at 2/3 of your regular rate of pay (with a cap) and an additional ten weeks of FMLA. The Trial Court is allowing employees who are eligible for this benefit to use accrued leave time to supplement the 2/3 amount received, so you my receive your full earnings. Please contact OCM HR if you have questions about the appropriate application of these benefits, the process to request such benefits, and SSTA coding. If you are not eligible for FFCRA or your benefits under FFCRA have expired, you will need to use vacation, personal or comp time for the time that the you would have otherwise been scheduled to work but are unable to. For example, if you are put on a two week on / two week off rotation, you will use accrued personal, vacation or comp time for the two weeks that you would have been scheduled to work. For the two weeks that you are scheduled to be off due to lack of work, you will be on paid skeleton leave (SKE).

If you do not have sufficient accrued leave, the Trial Court will advance you leave time to be paid back at a later date. This will protect you from going off payroll and/or losing health coverage. You can also choose to go off payroll at your discretion.

  1. I would like to wear my personal protective equipment such as masks and gloves at work. Is this allowed?

Yes. If you choose to use personal protective equipment, you must use that equipment uniformly when dealing with all members of the public. It is important to note that personal protective equipment should not take the place of the following protective actions: frequent hand washing, the frequent use of hand sanitizers, frequent cleaning of work stations, avoiding unnecessary physical contact such as handshaking, refraining from touching one’s mouth, nose and eyes and maintaining social distancing (implementing the six foot rule).

  1. Will the Trial Court supply employees with personal protective equipment (PPE) such as masks and gloves to wear at work?

The Trial Court is committed to supplying CDC recommended personal protective equipment as available, in addition to routine, scheduled cleaning by Facilities staff.

The Trial Court is working diligently to pursue the purchase of these items, including, where appropriate gloves and facemasks, despite shortages. Employees that are able to purchase masks or other approved PPE will be reasonably reimbursed for this expense pursuant to Fiscal policy.

Probation and Security staff are expected to use personal protective equipment in accordance with standard protocols.

  1. If Courts are closed, will there be an expectation to work from home?

Based on an your role, and your access to technology, you may be asked to work from home, consistent with our applicable bargaining obligations.

2 Please note that if you are an employee of the Probation, Security, or Facilities Departments, you may be eligible for the Commonwealth’s First Responder testing program. Your Department Head will coordinate with OCM HR to schedule your appointment.