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HGEA decries ‘stupid’ policy that’s forcing some vaccinated state workers to quarantine after travel

Published: Jul. 19, 2021 at 4:35 PM HST|Updated: Jul. 19, 2021 at 4:37 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Vaccinated state employees who traveled to the mainland are learning about a new policy that’s keeping some out of the office ― and forced to use personal time.

The mandate for all 55,000 state workers ― even those are fully vaccinated ― requires approval from their department directors prior to return to the workplace.

That’s even though fully vaccinated travelers are no longer subject to the state’s mandatory quarantine.

The policy says the “department directors have full discretion to determine if employees can return,” or, if the the employees must quarantine at home for up to 10-days.

It applies to vacations and business-related travel.

The memo was released on July 8, the same day that Hawaii expanded its so-called “vaccine passport” program to include all domestic travelers vaccinated anywhere in the United States.

Hawaii Government Employees Association has filed a grievance about the policy on behalf on some employees who traveled ― for business or pleasure ― and then had to take personal leave, unpaid leave or were required to quarantine while waiting for a supervisor’s approval to return to work.

“For those who are fully vaccinated, come on, it’s downright stupid to suggest that our employees who are vaccinated are treated in a harsher way than our vaccinated visitors that are coming from points unknown,” said Randy Perreira, executive director of HGEA.

Perreira said some supervisors leave the employee in limbo by not completing the form right away.

Hawaii Comptroller Curt Otaguro said the policy was formed because a one-size-fits-all approach cannot work for the entire state staff.

“It’s very unique,” said Otaguro, about the various state departments. He noted that some have direct contact with vulnerable populations. “Whether in an office or the employees are dealing with patients, inmates what have you, everyone has a different condition that needs to be looked at individually.”

Otaguro said he understands that some workers who planned vacations will be confused.

HGEA is calling for a meeting with state officials to get the policy dropped or changed. And Otaguro said it’s possible that will happen. “These policies continue to evolve, it’s not set in stone,” he said.

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