York County declines extra paid leave for prison employees

Lindsey O'Laughlin
York Dispatch

York County officials rejected demands from the York County Prison employees' union for extra emergency paid leave because of COVID-19, opting not to change existing policy, officials said Wednesday.

Employees who miss work because of COVID-19, whether they themselves are sick or they have to care for someone else in their home, must use their regular sick days and vacation days in their absence. In December, union officials blasted the policy and said it was likely exacerbating the spread of the coronavirus. 

But county officials have not changed the policy that was in place last year. Once employees use all of their contractual paid time off, those who need additional time off will not be penalized for missing work, but they also won't be paid for those hours.

"I was comfortable with the recommendations of the staff out there," said Commissioner Doug Hoke, president of the York County Prison Board, referring to the prison warden, deputy wardens and human resources staff.

York County Prison Monday, June 10, 2019. Bill Kalina photo

Tim Turek, then-business agent for Teamsters Local 776, which represents corrections officers, counselors and maintenance workers at the prison, said in December that the county was incentivizing employees to come to work sick because they were afraid of losing a paycheck, and that this was contributing to a spread of infections.

Hoke said he hasn't heard any reports of issues with employees coming to work while they're sick.

"Hopefully now in 2021, with vaccines on the way ... we're going to get though this and get back to normal and this won’t be an issue," Hoke said.

Warden Clair Doll said the prison has had some employees out sick recently because of the virus but that the majority of them have returned to work.

"Overall, I think the jail has been managing this pretty well," Doll said.

York County Prison Warden Clair Doll speaks during a Prison Board Meeting at York County Prison in Springettsbury Township, Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2017. Dawn J. Sagert photo

As of Jan. 7, a total of 858 inmates and federal immigration detainees at the prison have tested positive for the virus since the outbreak began, Doll said, and 819 of them have recovered.

As of Wednesday, 27,275 people in York County had tested positive for COVID-19 since the outbreak began, and there had been 519 deaths attributed to the virus, the state Department of Health reported.

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