CHICAGO (CBS) — Two Chicago city workers thought they could take time off from their jobs to care for their kids during the coronavirus pandemic – the city policy even said the two workers would get paid.
As CBS 2 Investigator Dorothy Tucker reported Monday, they now say the city is ignoring its own rules.READ MORE: Man Shoots Himself In The Leg At Millennium Park
The two workers at O’Hare International Airport have ordinary jobs, and make about $1,800 a month. They need to work, but they also need to take care of their children because schools are closed.
The women asked us to protect their identities for fear of losing their jobs.
“I have a 4-year-old special-needs son,” one worker said. “His school is closed down due to the coronavirus.”
Closed schools left parents scrambling to find care for their kids, but then a lifeline was announced.
“The City of Chicago handed us a policy stating on line number 5 that if you’re child’s school or day care is closed, you are granted up to 10 or 12 weeks with two thirds of your pay,” the worker said.
“Both of my kids have learning disabilities,” the second worker said. “It’s hard for them to do work by themselves here without any help. They need me here.”
But apparently, that policy does not apply if you’re a City of Chicago custodian who works at O’Hare International Airport.
“I’ve been trying to get off since April 3,” the first worker said.
First came an approval.
“He told me I was entitled up to 10 days off for my son’s school being closed,” the first worker said.
But then came a change of heart, and a denial.READ MORE: Noel Swerdlow, University Of Chicago Professor For More Than 30 Years And Top Expert On History Of Science, Dies At 79
“Because she deemed me as a first responder,” the first worker said.
Wait – what? A custodian? A first responder?
“It doesn’t make any sense to me at all,” the second worker said.
But, in an email, Aviaion Department Deputy Commissioner Phyllinis Easter explained why custodians are considered first responders: “because the custodial worker position is needed to keep the airport clean and safe for travelers.”
“They’re giving us the run around,” the second worker said. “You just feel helpless.”
The city’s own fact sheet does not identify specifically which city employees are considered first responders. But it does clearly spell out the time off policy – up to 12 weeks of emergency family and medical leave – for, among other reasons, caring for a child whose school or place of care is closed due to COVID-19.
“These people don’t know what they’re doing and it’s very frustrating,” the worker said.
Tucker asked the first worker what the explanation was as to why she was deemed a first responder.
“I did email the HR department and asked that question. I actually asked who deemed me a first responder and health care provider and why, and why isn’t it in writing if I were deemed and still right now I didn’t get an answer back yet?” the first worker said.
At this point, the aviation bosses are making the workers take their vacation days – and they’re running out of them.
We reached out to those bosses. They are refusing to budge, again saying custodial workers are emergency workers who are needed at the airport – and the family leave policy does not apply to them.MORE NEWS: COPA Releases Video Of Fatal Shooting Of Klevontaye White By CPD Officers, Federal Marshal
That is not the news the two ladies who spoke to Tucker wanted to hear.