Gov. Ned Lamont on the campaign trail at AFSCME Council 4 headquarters in New Britain (CTNewsJunkie file photo) Credit: Christine Stuart / CTNewsJunkie

Instead of continuing a fight over which state employees are eligible for telework the union coalition and Gov. Ned Lamont settled the issue Monday. 

Lamont had ordered about 10,000 state employees back to the office as of July 1, but a union coalition objected to the measure. 

In a lawsuit filed in Hartford Superior Court last month, the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition, which represents state employees, said the Lamont administration was “unilaterally altering state employee’s telework schedule.” 

In a statement Monday the Lamont administration said it reached an agreement with the unions that allows employees who were teleworking prior to Lamont’s return-to-work policy to go back to their schedule during the height of the pandemic or maintain the current schedule.

They can be approved for telework more than 50% of the time if the work can be performed from an employees’ home. Eligible employees will be able to apply for telework at “as high a percentage of their scheduled hours as they believe consistent with operational needs and job duties.” 

That means state employees have until at least October 2 to work more than 50% of the time from their homes. They can also apply for another 60-day extension through the end of the year. 

The arrangement is generous according to at least one Republican lawmaker. 

“This announcement is more evidence that the tail is wagging the dog,” House Minority Leader Vincent Candelora, said. “While I appreciate that the governor probably chose this path to avoid litigation tied to his decision to call state employees back to work, I fear this generous agreement, reached amid growing discussion about an uptick in COVID cases, will serve as a baseline in negotiations that will lock us into a long-term plan on what teleworking for state employees will look like in the future.”

The union coalition and the state expect to negotiate this fall over whether there should be a cap on the amount of telework state workers should be able to do under the bargaining agreement. 

This agreement does not apply to hazardous duty employees, Judicial branch employees or higher education employees. 

This deal was reached at the same time as Lamont has been asked on an almost daily basis about whether he will mandate state employees to get vaccinated.

On Monday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced all public transit and airport employees will be required to get immunized or submit to weekly testing.

Lamont said that some groups of state employees have low vaccination rates, including correction officers. But he wouldn’t say for sure what he planned to do.

“There are different variables that we’re going to figure out in the next week or two,” Lamont said.