The $441.9 billion California Public Employees' Retirement System, Sacramento, is not alone in wrestling with issues on what its back-to-the-office policies should look like. But the push-pull between employees and plan executives also comes at a critical time: CalPERS is looking to fill 10 spots on its 400-plus investment team who have left since March and when employee engagement is critical amid volatile markets that challenged fund returns for the latest fiscal year.
Employees and a union representative have come before the board at its last two meetings to complain about CalPERS' back-to-the-office and COVID-19 outbreak rules. SEIU Local 1000, which represents 1,300 CalPERS employees, in May delivered a petition asking CalPERS to strengthen its policy addressing when workers are to be sent home during significant outbreaks. The petition, signed by 539 CalPERS employees, was sent to CEO Marcie Frost and board President Theresa Taylor.
The union also held two Joint Labor Management Committee meetings.
In June, the union sent the results of a return-to-the-office survey of CalPERS employees that it conducted. The 435 respondents gave CalPERS an overall safety rating of 2.98, with 5 being safest. The survey also showed that of 62 employees indicating they had requested a reasonable accommodation, 30 were denied.
"I believe that CalPERS is doing their best to follow the state guidelines from CDPH (California Department of Health), and is attempting to go above and beyond when there is an outbreak," said Ms. Taylor, who also is president of the SEIU Local 1000, District Labor Council 786 representing state Franchise Tax Board employees.
However, she added that the board does not play a role in management and unionized employees' disputes. "That is out of our purview."
A spokesman for the nation's largest public pension plan said CalPERS' struggle with the best way to create a hybrid work environment during a pandemic isn't unique.
"We're dealing with the same thing every other state agency is dealing with," said spokesman Joe DeAnda. "There is nothing unique about our situation — or the investment office's situation compared to the rest of the organization."
Michelle Tucker, human resources director, and Dallas Stone, chief of CalPERS operations support services division, attended the union meetings and negotiations between union members and management are ongoing regarding the option to remote work, Mr. DeAnda said.