New Orleans first responders not eligible for emergency pay, civil service commission rules

On May 26, the New Orleans Civil Service Commission ruled that the city’s first responders, including paramedics, fire fighters, and police officers, are not eligible for emergency pay for their work during the COVID-19 outbreak.

The city made the following statement on the commission’s decision: “Payment for our police officers and firefighters is governed by the rules of the Civil Service Commission. The Commission decided today, May 26, 2020, that the specific rule in this case (Civil Service Rule IV, Section 11.1(a)) does not apply to the current situation. That rule does not authorize ‘hazard pay;’ it provides a different ’emergency pay’ rate for essential personnel who are required to work while City offices are closed for a declared state of emergency. During this emergency situation, however, City government has remained open for business, and non-critical employees were instructed to continue working remotely if possible.”

What is the New Orleans Civil Service Commission?

The New Orleans Civil Service Commission is tasked with making policy and enforcing regulations for city personnel. The commission has five members, all of whom are appointed to six-year terms by the city council. When the commission enacts regulations or issues rulings on the implementation of those regulations, its decisions have the force of law.

What are the reactions?

Aaron Mischler, president of the New Orleans Fire Fighters Association, said, “We’re absolutely disappointed because what is the intent of the rule if not to pay the people who are working on the front lines and being exposed to these conditions? To me, that’s the nature of the rule itself.”

Donovan Livaccari, from the New Orleans Fraternal Order of Police, said, “It’s disappointing the commission didn’t see things the way that our members see it. The police officers in this city, the firemen, the EMS employees who are out there risking their safety everyday to provide to the city. We think the rules are pretty clear, in my opinion, and, I think they should follow the rules.”

What comes next?

The commission suggested other legislative bodies could appropriate funds for hazard pay: “This is the first of many conversations about emergency pay for our frontline employees. It is our goal and intention to do what is right for these employees through a thoughtful more comprehensive approach that includes an understanding of the emergency pay that may be awarded by other legislative bodies. It is important to us to understand that before making a decision of this magnitude.”

A representative for Mayor LaToya Cantrell said, “The City and our residents are deeply grateful for our front-line responders, and proud of their work. Unrelated to the issue of emergency pay, the City is currently exploring and advocating for additional funding options that may qualify under the CARES Act for our first responders, and it is our hope that this additional compensation will be approved.”

What we’ve been reading

The big picture

Number of relevant bills by state

We are currently tracking 96 pieces of legislation dealing with public-sector employee union policy. On the map below, a darker shade of green indicates a greater number of relevant bills. Click here for a complete list of all the bills we’re tracking.

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Number of relevant bills by current legislative status

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Number of relevant bills by partisan status of sponsor(s)

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Recent legislative actions

Below is a complete list of relevant legislative actions taken since our last issue.

  • California SB1173: Existing law requires public employers to provide unions with contact information for all employees within the bargaining unit. Existing law also requires that public employers provide unions with contact information for new employees within 30 days of hire. This bill would impose liability on employers who violate these provisions 3 or more times in a 12-month period.
    • Democratic sponsorship.
    • Senate Appropriations Hearing scheduled for June 1.