Stipulated Agreement Reached on Telework

The Stipulated Agreement can be foundPDF icon HERE, below is a message from SEBAC:

History:  As members know, the question of what Telework Policy will apply to participating bargaining units has been a work in progress since the approval of the SEBAC 2017 Agreement.   SEBAC 2017 called for bargaining and, if necessary, interest arbitration (the same process we use to determine contracts) to “create policy and policy guidance to agencies regarding telework policies and implementation thereof”; the Agreement further required that the policy consider “the legitimate operational needs of the affected agencies as well as the interests of the affected employees,” and required that denials of telework requests would be arbitrable.  Since SEBAC 2017 was already approved by the General Assembly, no further legislative approval is required to implement a Telework Policy unless the policy requires a legislative appropriation, which always needs approval by the General Assembly.

In 2019, the parties agreed to Interim Telework Guidelines (which did not require a legislative appropriation or approval) and that policy was in effect in March of 2020 while the parties were continuing to bargain about a final agreement.   At that time, while the parties disagreed about whether and what sort of cap on weekly or biweekly telework should apply in the final agreement, the Interim Telework Guidelines included a cap of 50%.  

In March of 2020, the Governor issued his “Stay Home, Stay Safe Order”, and all state employees were directed to telework up to 100% of the time to protect their health and safety during the pandemic.   On May 13, 2021, the Governor sent an email to certain state employees (those directly under Executive Branch authority), advising of a plan for certain state employees to return to a “new normal work environment,”    That email indicated the Administration’s intention to return to the pre-COVID Interim Telework Guidelines, but to “continue discussions with the unions in an effort to finalize the telework guidelines that contemplates the considerable experience gained during this challenging period.”    The Coalition disagreed that the state had the authority to make the return-to-worksite decision without first bargaining with the Coalition.    As a temporary solution to this disagreement, the parties on the 17th of June entered into a Telework Transition Period Agreement which would have expired on September 1, 2021.   That Transition Agreement covered employees in bargaining units “for which the Office of Labor Relations is the Governor’s designated collective bargaining agent” -- essentially those directly affected by the May 13th email.    With certain exceptions, the Transition Agreement allowed members who had been teleworking to continue to telework at 50% of their schedules and to “apply for more than 50% when consistent with job duties and operational needs, but typically not to exceed 80%”; it provided for facilitation when such requests were denied, and included a provision to continue telework for employees who were medically counseled not to return to the worksite because a serious medical condition made either themselves, or a family member COVID-fragile.  The Transition Agreement also left the parties to their respective positions as to what would happen on September 1st when that Agreement was to expire, and so left everyone uncertain as to what would happen with telework following that date.

Profound disagreement about the meaning and implementation of the Telework Transition Period Agreement between the parties quickly emerged, and on “July 2, 2021, SEBAC filed a grievance under the parties’ collective bargaining agreement and a prohibited practice charge pursuant to section 5-274 of the Connecticut General Statutes.     The Coalition also filed an injunction action in Connecticut Superior Court.

New Agreement:     The parties have now agreed to settle the grievance, prohibited practice charge, and companion injunction action.  Rather than continue to argue about the Telework Transition Period Agreement, the parties have agreed to a new agreement covering the same bargaining units for which the Office of Labor Relations is the Governor’s designated collective bargaining agent, which now runs through December 31, 2021.  The following are the three core components:

  1.  A 60-day “reset period”.    For 60 days following the execution of the new agreement, employees who were teleworking prior to the Governor’s May 13th email (which had the July 1, 2021, implementation date for return to worksite) have the choice of returning to their pre-July 1 schedule (i.e. the one that was in effect during the approximate period of March 2020 through July 1, 2021), or they can continue with whatever is in place currently.  It should be noted however, that as with the Transition Agreement, this choice to return to the pre-July 1st schedule does not apply to hazardous duty employees, or “those whose consistent presence at the work site or in the field is now required because of the reopening of in-person operations which were suspended during the pre-July 1, 2021, period.”  In other words, if operations have reopened at an employee’s worksite or in the field and those operations can’t be performed by teleworking at their pre-July 1 schedule, the employee will only be approved for the amount of telework, if any, that can be performed from the employee’s home.  

  2. During the Post-Reset period through December 31, 2021, employees covered under the “reset period” will be eligible to apply to telework at as high a percentage of their scheduled hours as they believe is consistent with operational needs and job duties.   These applications will actually be submitted during the reset period so that there will be time for review prior to the expiration of the 60 days.  A request of 50% of scheduled work hours or less by these employees will be granted.  Over 50% may be approved “if, in the opinion of the agency head, following review of such request and the input of the employee’s supervisors or managers, job duties and operational needs support such action.”  These decisions regarding over 50% during the post-reset period are not subject to challenge.  The essence of the compromise through December 31st is that employees get the guarantee of 50% and the review of any requests for more than 50% based upon the Agency’s assessment of operational needs and job duties, informed by the employee’s application and supervisory recommendations, but uninfluenced by either the Administration’s or the Coalition’s views about whether telework of more than 50% is appropriate.   The Administration gets Agency discretion not subject to challenge.   And all gain from a provision in the new agreement which extends to the COVID-fragile employees (due to their own or a family member’s serious medical condition) telework of up to 100% through December. 

  3. A structure for negotiation, and if necessary, arbitration of a final agreement expected to be effective by 12/31/2021.    The parties have agreed to immediate implementation of that new agreement or award, (except to the extent a particular provision requires a legislative appropriation and approval, which would then be expected before Mid-March of 2022).    Unless the parties find common ground, the issue of “what, if any, cap shall be imposed on the number of days or percentage of the scheduled work hours, during the biweekly pay period, an eligible employee may telework” is one that will be arbitrated this Fall.

Given the differing views of the parties, this has been a very difficult process.   We hope that the combination of the 60-day reset period, the post-reset period through December, and the structure to reach a final agreement will result in a simple, stable, fair, and effective telework policy that captures the many advantages such a policy can bring to state employees, the public they serve, and the environment upon which we all depend.   It remains a work in progress until then, and we urge all members to keep their stewards/delegates or union staff informed of any questions or concerns they may have.  A brief Q&A on the 60-day reset period is available on the next page.  A Q&A on the post-reset period will be forthcoming:




When does the 60-day period start and end? 

It starts August 3, 2021, and ends on October 2nd.   


Do I need to apply to return to my pre-July 1 Schedule

No.   You have the choice to remain on your current schedule, or return to your pre-July 1 schedule.  If you make the return to pre-July 1 choice, you just need to let your management know by emailing whoever you would usually deal with about your schedule.


Does this reset period apply to all executive branch bargaining-unit employees who were teleworking before July 1, 2021?

The only two exceptions are any hazardous duty employees who were teleworking during the pandemic, and employees whose regular duties were not conducive to teleworking, were given an alternate assignment prior to July 1, and now have returned to their pre-COVID assignment.     There may, however, be a small group of workers who will not be able to telework as much as they did prior to July 1.   If operations that were suspended prior to July 1 have reopened at an employee’s worksite or in the field and those operations can’t be performed by teleworking at their pre-July 1 schedule, the employee will only be approved for the amount of telework, if any, that can be performed from the employee’s home.  


What happens if my supervisor claims an exception or limitation applies and I disagree? 

Please let your union steward or delegate know immediately and ask that it immediately be relayed to union staff or leadership.   Your union will work through the Coalition and the Office of Labor Relations in an effort to produce a rapid informal resolution.  The SEBAC grievance procedure is available if it can’t be resolved informally.


What happens if I or a family member is COVID-Fragile During the Reset Period

For the 60 days, since you can return to your pre-July 1 schedule, you can use that choice to work the same schedule you were working pre-July 1.   After the reset period, a provision in the new agreement extends to the COVID-fragile employees (due to their own or a family member’s serious medical condition) telework of up to 100% through December 31, 2021.


Does this apply to the Judicial Branch or Higher Ed Units?

No, the settlement applies only to the Executive Branch bargaining units that bargain directly with the Administration through the Office of Labor Relations.  Telework issues involving other bargaining units are being addressed directly with those employers.