Caregivers to picket USC hospitals Tuesday over illegal sick leave policy that puts patients at risk

Keck Medical Center of USCFebruary 10, 2020

Caregivers at Keck Hospital of USC and USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center will hold an informational picket on Tuesday, Feb. 11 to protest USC’s illegal policy changes that will make it harder for more than 2,600 hospital employees to take sick leave for themselves or care for sick children, spouses or parents.

WHO: Caregivers including medical assistants, respiratory therapists and medical technicians represented by the National Union of Healthcare Workers and registered nurses represented by the California Nurses Association.

WHAT: Informational picket to protest illegal changes to sick leave policies.

WHEN: 7:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 11

WHERE: Intersection of San Pablo Street and Norfolk Street

In violation of its union contracts, USC is unilaterally imposing new rules that limit sick leave and impose harsh penalties on workers who need more time to recover from illnesses or take care of their sick family members. The new policy, slated to go into effect on Feb. 16, would force many USC caregivers to work while sick and risk spreading illnesses to their patients.

“My family has had to cope with serious illnesses, and being able to use my full sick leave helped us get through tough times,” said Mekicia Gillett, a laboratory assistant at USC Norris Cancer Center. “I don’t understand how USC or our patients benefit from limiting our ability to care for ourselves or our families during the moments they need us most.”

State law guarantees that workers can use up to half their paid-time-off allotment as Kin Care — to care for sick family members. However, USC is claiming the right to unilaterally limit all forms of sick leave to no more than 96 hours, which amounts to eight days for workers on 12-hour shifts. The university is also imposing draconian new attendance rules in which a single unexcused absence could result in a final warning before termination.

“As a healthcare employee, we come in contact daily with patients who are ill, said Lucy Lamont, a patient coordinator at Keck Hospital of USC. “The risk of us contacting infections and illnesses is greater than the general public. I take that risk because I love my job and my patients. But it’s not OK with me that USC will turn around and punish me for getting sick.”

The National Union of Healthcare Workers is a member-led movement that represents 15,000 workers including about 1,300 at USC hospitals, clinics and call centers.