Pandemic related furlough frequently asked questions

Below are details from WSDOT and State Human Relations about the state employee furloughs announced on June 17.

We will continue to update these FAQs as more details become available. If you have any unanswered questions, email leave@wsdot.wa.gov.

We know there are many questions and we appreciate your patience during this process. 

Date of last update: Aug. 7
 

Screenshot of the small version of a graphic guide to filing your weekly unemployment claim with ESD.
Filing Your Weekly Unemployment Claim with ESD chart
(pdf 633 kb)
 

Taking furlough days

  • How many furlough days do I need to take between August – November 2020?
    All permanent, full-time employees are expected to take the equivalent of four furlough days (32 hours total); permanent, part-time employees are expected to take four proportional days in total during this 4-month period.
     
  • Can I break up my furlough days and take them in increments?
    Yes, employees can take furlough hours in increments; however, to qualify for SharedWork Program unemployment benefits, employees must take at least 10% of their regularly assigned workweeks (at least 4 hours in a 40-hour work week for full-time employees; proportionate number of hours for part-time employees) as furlough hours.
     
  • Can I take more than one furlough day in a month (i.e. four furlough days taken during the month of August) and be considered done with my mandatory furloughs through November?
    Yes, management may consider allowing employees to combine their mandatory furlough days (four total or one day per month for August, September, October and November), so long as combining the furlough days does not result in the employee being furloughed more than 50% of their scheduled hours within a work week.
  • Can agencies limit the number of hours/days an employee may voluntarily furlough (to avoid long-term unemployment)? 
    Yes. In order to remain eligible for the SharedWork program, an employee can have their work hours reduced between 10-50%. Employers have discretion to approve or deny voluntary furlough requests. 
     
  • Will furlough days be pre-determined (certain dates or days of the week), or can the employer or employee choose a certain day in the week? 
    Management has the ability to determine the business needs and may choose to designate one specific furlough day or use flexibility in scheduling furlough days for staff.  Selection of which day an employee takes their furlough should be decided by balancing business and operational needs and the needs and interests of the impacted employee, similar to the way agencies currently make decisions about pre-approved leave use. Agencies are strongly recommended to work with employees whenever possible before deciding their furlough days, but an employee must have their work hours for the week reduced between 10-50%.

Reminders for employees affected by furlough (including new hires as of August 1, 2020): 

  • Does the furlough apply to all WSDOT employees?
    Yes, the furloughs apply to all WSDOT employees with few exceptions. Additional information on exemption criteria will be provided to your management team.
     
  • Are employees who are retiring and/or separating from state service and new employees required to take furlough? 
    Yes. Employees who are retiring or separating from state service between now and November, and new employees starting between now and November, unless exempt by being in a relief position, are subject to furloughs.
     
  • Are temporary employees subject to furloughs? 
    No, temporary or non-permanent employees are not subject to the furlough. If you have questions about your employment status, please contact your local HR Consultant.   
     
  • Should permanent part-time employees be furloughed? 
    Yes, their furloughs should be proportional, based on the amount of time they are normally scheduled to work. For example, if they are scheduled to work thirty hours in a workweek, they should be furloughed at least 6 hours. 
  • How does a person find out if they are considered a relief employee or not?
    Please work with your management team if you are unclear if you are considered a relief employee. Typically, only positions in work units requiring 24/7 coverage, like positions in prisons and hospitals – and some Washington State Ferries crews – are considered relief positions. In essence, a relief position is a position for which a replacement worker (the relief) must be brought in as coverage if the incumbent employee calls in sick. It cannot be left vacant due to statutory or regulatory staffing requirements.


 Unemployment benefits through the SharedWork program:

Depending on the question, it might not matter. If you made a mistake on the question about attending school, retirement pay, being able and available for work or about unions, you will receive a questionnaire about it in eServices. Complete the questionnaire and indicate that you made a mistake on your application.

If you made an error on your weekly hours, please contact your HR Representative to complete the Weekly Claim Correction Form (For company name: fill in Transportation and ESD #: 000990160004, or Marine Division: 000990190008)

  • If an employee volunteers to furlough additional days beyond the four mandatory days, can they apply for SharedWork Program benefits since they are not working all the hours offered by WSDOT? 
    Yes, with management approval, employees may volunteer to furlough up to 50% of their scheduled hours in a week and will still qualify for the SharedWork Program benefits.
     
  • What is the minimum and maximum amount of hours an employee can furlough each week and still qualify for SharedWork Program benefits?
    Out of a 40 hour work week for full-time employees, employees can furlough between 4 – 20 hours or the proportionate number of hours for part-time employees (10% - 50%) and qualify for SharedWork Program benefits.
     
  • Do I need to change my assigned work schedule if my assigned work hours fall outside of the Sunday – Saturday, 40 hour work week? (i.e. 9/80 schedules / Crazy 9’s)
    Yes. To ensure you receive the appropriate SharedWork Program benefits, you will need to change to a schedule (see payroll information on our employee intranet) that assigns all working hours Sunday – Saturday. Please work with your timekeeper to review and update your schedule according to your current assigned work cycle (two- week work-schedule period).
     
  • If I do not take a furlough day for a specific week, do I still need to submit a weekly claim to ESD?
    Yes, in order to maintain a current, active SharedWork Program account, all employees must log in to submit weekly claims, even if no furlough hours were taken that week. Otherwise, SharedWork Program accounts will be locked by ESD. Locked accounts could significantly delay employees’ Shared Work Program benefit payments.
     
  • When did the Federal CARES Act ($600/week) benefit end?
    The CARES Act expired July 25, 2020.
     
  • I submitted my initial SharedWork Program application with an incorrect start date (something other than June 28, 2020). I have already received a SharedWork Program payment. Can I update my claim to accurately reflect the actual start date of June 28, 2020? If so, am I eligible for back payment?
    No. Once an employee has received payment for any SharedWork Program claim, the initial application date cannot be changed. Employees may file for an appeal through ESD. Please visit esd.wa.gov/unemployment/benefit-denials-and-appeals for more information.
     
  • Will employees subject to furlough have a “waiting week” before receiving SharedWork Unemployment benefits?
    The Governor has extended the waiting week waiver through August 1, 2020.
     
  • Can employees use state resources (i.e. work time) under de minimis rules to apply for unemployment benefits, such as the SharedWork Program?
    Yes, you may use state resources to apply for unemployment benefits.
     
  • Will an employee still receive unemployment benefits through the SharedWork program if they take LWOP (not related to the furloughs)?  
    No. When an employee takes leave without pay unrelated to the furloughs, an employee is considered unavailable to work all scheduled hours with their employer. If the employee is unable to work all scheduled hours with their employer, they would not qualify for unemployment insurance benefits. Paid leave counts as work under ESD’s criteria for unemployment eligibility. Unpaid leave (LWOP) does not. Please note the distinction between general LWOP and voluntary furloughs taken as part of the SharedWork Program.
     
  • What happens if I don't work all scheduled hours for my employer?
    You are not eligible for SharedWork benefits for any week that you do not work all hours you have been scheduled by your employer. You must be available for additional hours of work, up to your usual weekly hours of work, with the employer. If your employer gives you at least 24 hours notice that additional work is available and you do not work those additional hours, you are not eligible for SharedWork benefits for that week.

    Because the furloughs are to save money, the expectation is employees scheduled for furlough will not work that day unless an emergency or urgent matter arises; the intent is to decrease the hours employees work.
     
  • Can someone who lives outside of WA (i.e. OR) qualify for the SharedWork program?
    Yes.
     
  • If I have a second job, will I still be eligible for benefits?
    Possibly. It depends how much you make. Just report your total hours and earnings between all jobs on your weekly claim and SharedWork will calculate your benefit.
     
  • Where do I find my hourly rate to apply for the SharedWork Program?
    All WSDOT employees expected to participate in the furloughs received an email from WSDOT Leave Administrator with this information included.

For more information:
For represented and non-represented General Government Employees, please visit: ofm.wa.gov/state-human-resources/compensation-job-classes/compensation-administration/compensation-plan-components/salary-schedules

Information for ID fraud victims and locked accounts:

  • Locked ESD Accounts
    The process for unlocking accounts due to fraud is still underway.

    Qualifying employees with locked accounts should not experience a loss in benefits and will still be eligible for benefits under the CARES Act ($600 stimulus) for June 28 through July 25, 2020.

    More importantly, you are not responsible for repaying any money to ESD as a result of the fraudulent claim. If you receive a system-generated letter saying that you need to repay benefits please disregard that message.
     
  • Payments will be retroactive
    If your first furlough day is during the week of June 28 to July 4, but you can’t apply for benefits because your account is locked, enter a start date of June 28 for your claim no matter when you successfully submit your application. After you apply, you’ll immediately be able to submit your first weekly claim(s) for whatever weeks have passed.

Important: If you experienced fraud on your ESD account you must use your state-assigned work email address to create your SecureAccess Washington (SAW) account, the first step in filing for SharedWork unemployment. If you have questions, you should contact the SAW help desk before creating the account.

ESD employees have been instructed to identify themselves by their first name (ESD employees do not give out their last names) and with the Office of Special Investigations unit at ESD or with ESD when calling employees. ESD staff typically do not give out their job titles unless asked.

Employees should be cautious of sharing personal information with those who identify themselves as federal agents or federal investigators.

An employee should not talk to the individual if:

  • The ESD employee does not identify themselves as working with OSI and/or
  • The individual asks the employee to give out information (personnel/PII info)
     

Retirement / Benefits:

  • Will the furlough hours count as hours worked for retirement credit calculations?
    No. However, as long as an employee in PERS2 or PERS3 receives compensation for at least 90 hours in a month, they will still earn a full retirement credit for the month. Employees in PERS1 receiving compensation for at least 70 hours in a month will still earn a full retirement credit for the month. See below for more detailed information:

    PERS 2 and 3: An employee must receive compensation for 90 hours in a month, in a retirement eligible position, to receive one full month of retirement service credit.  An employee must receive compensation for 70 hours to receive a half month’s service credit and if they receive compensation for less than 70 hours but more than zero hours they will receive a quarter month’s credit.

    PERS 1: An employee must receive compensation for 70 hours in a month, in a retirement eligible position, to receive one full month of retirement service credit. If they receive compensation for less than 70 hours but more than zero hours they will receive a quarter month’s credit.

    There are some state employees who are covered by other retirement plans. For additional questions about the impact of furloughs on these plans, visit the Department of Retirement Systems’ website: www.drs.wa.gov/coronavirus/ or for specific questions call (360) 664-7000 or (800) 547-6657. See also: www.drs.wa.gov/publications/member/multisystem/furloughs/ 
     
  • What does the furloughs do to my retirement?
    There is a concern that my furlough (reduction in hours) will lower the Average Financial Compensation (AFC). This is not the case for employees who are eligible for the SharedWork Program. Department of Retirement Services (DRS) will identify the highest 60 months of consecutive earnings, no matter where it happens in a career. An emergency ruling was filed on June 23, 2020, to provide protections to employees furloughed to receive the same retirement benefit as if your hours had not been reduced due to the furlough.

    For specific questions, please contact a DRS specialist and/or refer to the information on the DRS webpage www.drs.wa.gov/publications/member/multisystem/furloughs/ 
     
  • How do the furloughs apply to employees using their accrued leave or protected leave entitlements? Is there any impact to employees that are using their 80 hours of expanded COVID leave?
    Employees using leave will be impacted by furloughs just as those who are working, unless they are in relief positions or meet a narrow criteria for exemption. Previously approved leave scheduled during the time an employee is furloughed should be rescinded.

    Employees utilizing protected leave (including but not limited to EPSL or EFML), or those utilizing protections under Proclamation 20-46 regarding high-risk individuals, may not be targeted for layoff or reduced hours. If an employer applies documentable, neutral criteria in identifying employees for layoff or reduced hours that is not based on the employee’s use of protected leave, and application of the criteria includes those on protected leave as well as those not on protected leave, this is permissible. If application of the criteria would only impact or would disproportionately impact those on protected leaves, or if there is any other doubt, agencies should seek legal advice before proceeding.
     

Vacation Leave:

  • Can employees use Annual Leave to supplement all or part of their furlough days?
    No. Employees cannot use any form of Paid Leave to supplement their 8 hours of furlough (or proportionate number of hours based on your work schedule for part-time employees).

    Employees with regular work shifts of more than 8 hours (e.g. 9 or 10 hour work shifts) may use other forms of leave to supplement remaining work schedule with management approval. Paid leave must be used in accordance with Collective Bargaining Agreements and/or Chapter 8 of HR Desk Manual.
     
  • Will employees get extra leave credit for furlough days (i.e. Temporary Salary Reduction Leave)?
    No.
     
  • What happens to an employee’s scheduled vacation if they are approaching a deadline to take vacation due to their anniversary date but now have to use furlough days?
    All employees are expected to adhere to the directive on 8 hours per week of furlough or the proportionate amount of furlough for part-time employees. Please work with your manager to adjust your schedule to balance your vacation leave and furlough hours.

    Submissions for Justifications for Excess Vacation (JEV) request must be in compliance with WAC (apps.leg.wa.gov/WAC/default.aspx?cite=357-31-215) or applicable CBA.
     
  • If I’ve already been approved for vacation leave, will I need to change that to include furlough days?
    Yes. All employees are expected to take 8 hours of furlough or proportionate amount of furlough per week. Please work with your management team to make appropriate adjustments to your leave submittal in DOTtime. 
     
  • When submitting my weekly ESD claim, how do I claim miscellaneous leaves (i.e. Personal Holiday, Personal Leave, Bereavement) excluding Jury Duty?
    These types of leaves should be claimed as “vacation pay.”

Payroll / Schedules:

  • Is there a leave code for furlough use or do we just use leave without pay (LWOP)?
    Yes. All Employees using DOTtime will put in a leave request for their furlough hours using LWOP-Temp Layoff/ShrdWork. This new code is for mandatory and voluntary furloughs that are part of the SharedWork program.
    If you do not use DOTtime check with your timekeeper or supervisor for instructions.
     
  • What if an employee does not want to apply for SharedWork unemployment benefits while furloughed? Do they still need to use the leave codes of LWOP-Temp Layoff/ShrdWork?
    Yes, in order for the agency to properly track and report all required furloughs, please use LWOP-Temp Layoff/ShrdWork to report your furlough hours. Employees who do not want to apply for unemployment benefits will not be required to open an ESD claim or report furloughed hours to ESD.
     
  • Do exception coded staff need to have their exception coding removed in DOT time?
    No, exception coded staff will submit a “leave” request using the codes LWOP-Temp Layoff/ShrdWork.
     
  • Do we need to give up flex schedules through the end of the year? 
    WSDOT is not requiring a blanket change for all employees and schedules. Agencies have the discretion to work with their employees currently approved for flexible and alternative schedules to determine what works best in each situation.
     
  • Do overtime exempt employees become overtime eligible during the week that their hours are reduced? 
    Yes. During weeks when overtime exempt employees’ hours are reduced, overtime exempt employees become overtime eligible for that workweek. However, the objective is to save money, so employees are strongly discouraged from working overtime. Overtime eligible employees are required to track their time, either through positive or negative time reporting practices. Employers will need to decide how to ensure that time tracking for typically overtime exempt employees, and employees with flexible schedules, will occur during the reduced hour weeks.
     
  • Does overtime or additional hours worked affect my eligibility for the SharedWork Program?
    Yes. Additional or overtime hours count as actual hours worked. (For example, if you worked 32 hours on a furlough week and worked 10 hours of overtime, you would report 42 hours worked on your weekly ESD claim.)
     
  • Is overtime allowed for regular employees to work during furlough weeks?
    Scheduling overtime hours is at management’s discretion. However, the intent of the furlough is to reduce the overall number of worked hours equivalent to total of 32 hours for August through November. All regular, full-time permanent employees are encouraged to complete their work within the given number of hours without working overtime whenever possible.
     
  • How will overtime (OT) and call-out be administered if a person is on their furlough day?
    Non-represented employees- There is a possibility you will be called back to work during the furlough. If this occurs, you will be compensated under the provisions of WAC 357-28-185. You may be returned to temporary layoff status upon completion of the work you were called back to perform.
    Represented employees- There is a possibility that you will be called back to work during the temporary layoff. If this occurs, you will be compensated in accordance with your CBA. You may be returned to temporary layoff status upon completion of the work you were called back to perform.
     
  • If I’m called into work on my furlough day, will it be considered Overtime?
    This is dependent on each employee’s Overtime Eligibility and the applicable Collective Bargaining Agreement.
     
  • How does standby affect me on a furlough day?
    You can receive standby compensation on your furlough hours. However, please note additional hours worked may impact your unemployment benefits eligibility for the week.
     
  • Am I expected to furlough if I am an on-call employee (not a relief position)? 
    Yes. You should not be on-call during a furlough day; please work with your supervisor to adjust the on-call schedule.