As a result of CPS mismanagement under Mayor Lori Lightfoot, educators with preexisting conditions were put in harm’s way during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, the Chicago Teachers Union and its members have been raising their voices for safe working conditions for themselves and safe learning conditions for their students and the entire educational community. Regrettably, those calls have fallen on deaf ears. And that is what happened in the case of CTU member Diane McQueen.
This week, CTU settled a grievance with CPS that won about $9,000 in back pay for Ms. McQueen. The settlement makes restitution for the weeks CPS forced her to take a leave of absence to protect her health during the Covid-19 crisis.
In 2021, CPS began its transition to in-person learning. At that time, McQueen followed district directives to apply for telework because her health conditions put her at high risk for Covid-19. Her administration should have recognized the good faith with which she filed her application. Had it done so, McQueen would have been permitted to perform telework until the CPS ADA office made a determination.
Unfortunately, the principal at Curie Metro High School followed the mayor’s lead and took a hostile stance toward educators concerned for their health during the pandemic. McQueen’s principal gave her no-win options. She could either risk her health — and possibly her life — to work in person during those uncertain days of the pandemic or take an unpaid leave of absence.
Violation of Policy
At the time, CPS policy stipulated that employees with pending telework accommodation requests for personal health conditions should be allowed to continue working remotely while their requests were pending. As a result of the refusal by Curie’s principal to follow this policy, McQueen had to take unpaid leave from April 19 to May 18 until CPS’s ADA Office finally approved her telework request.
The Union achieved a settlement agreement from CPS in February 2023, winning McQueen a month of lost wages for her unpaid leave.
Let’s be honest — from May 2021 to February 2023 is a long time to fight for wages you are rightfully owed, especially when you are fighting to maintain your health and well-being. Regrettably, this is what educators in Chicago must endure under a hostile mayor and misguided district administration.
That is why we as a union must continue to be laser-focused on bolstering organizing at the school level, building power at the district level and changing leadership at the citywide administration level.
A Hard-Won Victory
The work of our field representatives and attorneys can never be overstated, and their long hours and strenuous efforts to advocate for our members have resulted in our Union winning every Covid-19 grievance and lawsuit against Mayor Lightfoot and CPS.
Though the path to victory was long, these efforts ultimately paid off for Diane McQueen. Under the settlement, Diane will receive about $9,000 in back pay for the month she was unjustly forced to be on unpaid leave. We hope that Ms. McQueen enjoys it in good health.