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Spring break arbitration

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We have finally received a decision on our spring break arbitration. The arbitrator issued his decision on Jan. 5 and ruled that UFT members will receive a vacation day — a brand-new type of day that members have never had before — for each day they worked during the 2020 spring break. Our FAQ below answers most questions about these new vacation days, who will receive them and how members can take advantage of them. 

Read the arbitrator's full decision >> 

Use our online inquiry form if our spring break arbitration FAQ below does not answer your question, and a UFT representative will respond to your inquiry as soon as possible. 

Arbitration decision

What did the arbitrator award?

The arbitrator awarded any UFT member who worked during spring break 2020 a vacation day for every day they worked.

What was the DOE’s original argument?

The original argument was that spring break is not contractually required, employees worked asynchronously and received four CAR days and, therefore, the grievance should be denied.

What was the UFT’s argument?

The UFT argued that UFT members who worked during spring break 2020 ought to be paid pro-rata for all days worked.

What is a vacation day?

This is a new kind of day that UFT members have never had before. It allows UFT members to take paid vacation days during regularly scheduled school days.

How many vacation days were awarded?

People were awarded a vacation day for every day they worked during spring break 2020. If a person worked all seven days, they will be given seven vacation days, composed of three vacation days in addition to the conversion into vacation days of the four CAR days they received at the time.

When can we expect to receive these vacation days?

The arbitration says vacation days must be credited to UFT-represented employees effective Feb. 1, 2022.

Isn’t getting paid better than getting days?

The UFT argued that anyone who worked these days should be paid for this additional work. The arbitrator decided against the cash payment, citing the high cost during uncertain times. With that said, anyone who would prefer to not use vacation days may, instead, hold onto the days until they leave the system, at which point they will be paid the full value of those days, on a 1-for-1 basis.

Who is eligible

Will all UFT members get this award?

Any UFT member who regularly does not work during spring break but who worked during spring break 2020 will receive these vacation days. 

Do per diem subs get vacation days?

Per diem substitutes should have already been paid for those days, at the regular per diem rate of pay, so, no, they do not receive vacation days.

Do regular subs get vacation days?

Members who were on Q-Bank during spring break 2020 will receive these vacation days.

If I was on a leave during spring break 2020, am I eligible?

These vacation days are compensation for extra work UFT members performed during spring break 2020. The arbitration says, “Employees who were on payroll during the period of April 9, 2020, to April 17, 2020, shall receive one (1) Vacation Day for each day they worked during that period.” Therefore, anyone who did not work during that period is not due Vacation Days.

If I was on paid parental leave during spring break 2020, am I eligible?

These vacation days are compensation for extra work that UFT members performed during Spring Break 2020. The arbitration says that “Employees who were on payroll during the period of April 9, 2020, to April 17, 2020 shall receive one (1) Vacation Day for each day they worked during that period.” Therefore, anyone who did not work during that period is not due vacation days.

If I was hired in September 2020 or September 2021, am I eligible?

These vacation days are compensation for extra work UFT members performed during spring break 2020. The arbitration says, “Employees who were on payroll during the period of April 9, 2020, to April 17, 2020 shall receive one (1) Vacation Day for each day they worked during that period.” Therefore, anyone who did not work during that period is not due vacation days.

How does this affect me if I no longer work for the DOE?

The arbitration says, “Employees who separated from service on or after April 10, 2020, shall be paid out for unused Vacation Time without additional application.” In other words, regardless of whether you retired, resigned or were terminated, you will be paid for these days.

Are members who worked during the 2020 spring break but have since retired eligible for vacation days? How will they be compensated? 

Yes, retirees who were still in service during the spring break of 2020 will be paid for the days they worked over the break. Their termination pay will be recalculated to reflect the conversion of four of their CAR days to vacation days plus three additional vacation days if they worked seven days over the spring break. These seven vacation days will be paid out 1-for-1. 

What if I am currently on a leave?

The vacation days will be credited to your vacation bank, and you can use them when your leave is over like any other employee. If you leave the system without returning, you will be paid for your vacation days on a 1-for-1 basis like any other UFT-represented employee.

During spring break 2020, I had a 6th period shortage-area assignment. How will I be compensated for that 6th period?

This was not contemplated in the decision, but the union will argue that these extra periods should be paid as a pro-rata increase of the per-term shortage-area pay amount.

CAR days vs. vacation days

How are vacation days different from CAR days?

There are a number of differences:

  • CAR days can only be used in certain ways, for example, when a person is sick or as pre-approved personal business. Vacations days can be used in whatever way a UFT-represented employee would like to use them. As the arbitrator wrote, “Employees cannot use CAR days to take a trip, go to the beach, run an errand, or otherwise spend quality time with family.”
  • Besides that, unused CAR days are cashed out on a 1-for-2 basis. Vacation days are cashed out on a 1-for-1 basis.
  • Also, a principal can only deny the use of a vacation day if the principal has a “compelling reason” to do so. The UFT can take such a denial to expedited arbitration, as outlined below.

What will happen to the four CAR days I received in spring 2020?

Those CAR days will be converted to vacation days.

What happens if I have already used the four CAR days I earned during spring break 2020?

If you used those days during spring break 2020 for a religious observance or some other reason, then those days are subtracted from the total number of vacation days you earned. In other words, you will receive a number of vacation days equal to the number of days you actually worked during spring break 2020. As the arbitration says, “For example, if an employee worked five (5) of the seven (7) days, the employee would receive three (3) credited Vacation Days and two (2) converted CAR days.” CAR days that were used after spring break 2020 do not affect your vacation day bank.

What if I have used the CAR days for illness or personal days since spring break 2020?

CAR days that were used after spring break 2020 do not affect your vacation day bank. The only thing that affects the number of vacation days you receive is the number of days you worked during spring break 2020.

What if I don’t want the CAR days to be converted to vacation days?

The arbitration says, “Vacation Days can be used as CAR days only after all CAR days have been exhausted and when the Employee explicitly requests a Vacation Day be used for this purpose.” Vacation days are more valuable than CAR days, both because they can be used for any reason and because they can be cashed out on a 1-for-1 basis. With that said, any person who has exhausted their CAR balance can request that vacation days be used as CAR days.

Could I use a vacation day for illness or a personal day if I have run out of CAR days?

Yes. The arbitration says, “Vacation Days can be used as CAR days only after all CAR days have been exhausted and when the Employee explicitly requests a Vacation Day be used for this purpose.” Vacation days are more valuable than CAR days, both because they can be used for any reason and because they can be cashed out on a 1-for-1 basis. With that said, any person who has exhausted their CAR balance can request that vacation days be used as CAR days.

If I decide to convert a vacation day to a CAR day, do I have to convert all of these days or can I chose to convert only some of them?

That is totally up to you. Remember, vacation days are more valuable than CAR days because they can be used however you would like to use them, and they can be cashed out on a 1-for-1 basis.

Using vacation days

How can I use vacation days?

Any way you want; you could go to the beach and post the pictures on Facebook if you want to.

How do I schedule the use of these vacation days?

We recommend you schedule the days as early as possible, but the arbitration says that in no case should the days be scheduled later than 10 days before the requested date. 

Do I have to use all vacation days at once?

No. You have the choice to use the days consecutively or to spread days out over time. You also have the option to hold onto the days and collect pay for them at the time you separate from service.

Are there any dates when I can’t use a vacation day?

There are no dates that automatically cannot be used, though there may be some on which the principal determines there is a “compelling reason” not to allow a vacation day to be scheduled. If there is a dispute about this, we have access to the expedited arbitration process.

Can my principal or supervisor deny these days? If so what happens next?

Here is the language from the arbitration: “If the Supervisor determines there is a compelling reason to deny the Vacation Day(s), the Supervisor shall notify the employee in writing, the Union and central Department no later than forty eight (48) hours after the employee request describing the compelling reason for the denial. Central DOE then shall consult with a Union designee within forty eight (48) hours of the compelling reason denial. If the Union does not agree a compelling reason exists, either the Vacation Day(s) shall be scheduled or the Union may submit the dispute to Scheinman Arbitration and Mediation Services (SAMS) for expedited resolution.”

What happens if a lot of people apply for the same vacation time? What if a lot of people in my grade or license schedule the same vacation time?

Certain days are sure to be popular for use as vacation days, including days just before or after a regularly scheduled break. The arbitration says that “proximity of a Vacation Day to a holiday or recess that is already on the DOE Calendar ordinarily shall not be considered a compelling reason for rejecting the vacation request.” In another section, the arbitration says, “Should the compelling reason for not scheduling be the number of notifications that are made for a given day, a reasonable number of those employees will be scheduled based on seniority.”

To put that all together, let’s say a large number of people schedule vacation days for the week preceding spring break 2022. The principal cannot deny all of those days, but may have the ability to deny a reasonable number of less senior UFT-represented employees. This applies whether the UFT-represented employees who schedule vacation days have the same title, teach the same grade or teach in the same license area.

Those denied individuals will have access to the expedited arbitration process, and if the denial is upheld, they will be able to schedule vacation days for a different time.

Can these vacation days be used before or after a break?

Yes, but those days are certain to be popular. See the answer above.

Which type of seniority is being used as a tiebreaker?

Citywide excessing seniority is used.

Is there a maximum number of people who can be scheduled for any given vacation time?

No, the standard that the arbitrator used is a “reasonable” number. In cases where there is a dispute about this reasonable number, we can take the case to expedited arbitration.

What happens to unused vacation days?

Unused vacation days do not expire, and when a person leaves the DOE, vacation days can be cashed in on a 1-for-1 basis. The days would be cashed out at the value of the day at the time of separation. In other words, someone who retires 10 years from now would get greater value for the days they worked, since they will most likely be at a higher salary rate.

I am an administrative employee (i.e., nurse, therapist). What if I leave the system with less than 10 years of service?

There is no minimum service requirement in order to be paid for these days, so you will be paid out 1:1.

How will I be paid for these vacation days when I retire?

You will be paid on a 1-for-1 basis for all unused vacation days.

Can these days be used as part of discipline for absences?

No. The arbitration explicitly says, “No Employee shall be subject to discipline for the use of Vacation Days.”

Can my request for vacation time be partially scheduled?

It is possible a principal will decide there is a “compelling reason” for a portion of a UFT-represented employee’s vacation days not to be scheduled. If there is a dispute about this determination, we have access to the expedited arbitration process.

Can I use a vacation day and then work my per-session assignment?

Yes.

Spring break arbitration inquiry

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