The following message was submitted to Help Me Taylor:
Due to Covid a lot of employees have been pulled from service including me for testing positive. The problem is we have to use our own vacation days during quarantine unless we wait for short term disability or reimbursement from Railroad Retirement Board. Good luck getting in touch with the RRB. Employees have waited months and still have not received reimbursement. We feel its sad that a multi million dollar corporation can't pay for employees days they are off during quarantine and that the RRB is impossible to get through to.
This person says at their company, first-year employees can receive as many as 17 paid “flex” days, which can be used as both sick days or vacation days.
I did some more digging, and learned that private sector employers with more than 500 employees are exempt from the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which would guarantee additional paid sick leave for COVID-related reasons. In addition, Marissa Perry with Governor Steve Bullock’s office tells me there are no requirements at the state level for private businesses.
Railroad employees can, however, use the Railroad Retirement Board for at least partial reimbursement of days lost. However, that’s tough to do when they can’t get through the call lines. I reached out to Michael Freeman at the RRB. He provided me with the following statement:
Nearly all of our field offices are closed to the public because of the pandemic. As a result, callers to our toll-free number may experience longer than usual wait times when trying to reach a representative. For those callers who don’t necessarily need to talk to someone, we have a number of self-help options available when calling the number. Many of these options are also available through our website at RRB.gov. In addition, railroad workers may file for unemployment benefits online, and we currently have a specific page (https://www.rrb.gov/Benefits/Coronavirus) devoted to COVID-related questions. The website also allows individuals to send a secure message to their local RRB office by first clicking on Field Office Locator on the home page.
If you or someone you know is having difficulty getting in touch with the RRB, reach out to Taylor; she’ll help get you in contact with someone. You can contact her here.