State Employees Win Class Action Grievance on DCF Leave Policy

Earlier this summer, Economic Self-Sufficiency Specialists within the Department of Children and Families worked with AFSCME Florida staff representatives to challenge a policy that limited how they could take their leave.

ESS1 employees handle the processing, researching and resolving of issues and applications for public assistance programs. They are intensive positions with tight deadlines for an overwhelming number of caseloads. Under the new policy, they were being stopped from taking the sick and annual leave they had bargained for in their contract. Instead of using their time as best for their needs, they were limited to only two weeks of total time off every six months. Not only did this limit when employees could take time, but also resulted in them having for forfeit an entire week of time off over the course of the year.

The class action grievance representing the 2,438 ESS1 employees said that the policy should be overturned because it was implemented without any input from the union and outside of the collective bargaining process.

“These dedicated public servants ensure people get the child support, Medicaid, disaster relief and other types of support that is so critical to so many lives, all while handling high case volumes and tight deadlines,” said Sheron Mickens, president of Local 3076, representing state workers in the Daytona Beach area.

“Is it too much to ask that the few weeks they have off to care for themselves or enjoy time with their family be respected?” Mickens asked.

Last week, members were told that the policy was being reversed.

“I'm so happy to be part of this union because if it wasn't for our union then we would have to work under these unreasonable policies and we would have no way to fight it," said Natasha Grant, a senior human services program specialist and president of Local 2866, representing state workers in Broward and Palm Beach Counties.

For Tiffany Harden, a Local 2866 member and an ESS1 employee said that the victory proved that when your worksite is AFSCME Strong you can make real change happen. “When we come together as a union there's no stopping us from really effecting change in the workplace.”

Jackie Lightstep, an ESS1 employee in Orlando and member of Local 2861 summed up the feeling of many members across the state when asked what lessen they learned from the effort to enforce their contract. “Never give up.”