To enter first grade, the 5-year-old son of PEF member Kari Merritt must attend summer school five days a week. The requirement is part of his Individualized Education Plan, designed to prevent regression between kindergarten and first grade. There are no childcare programs available to transport her son, even if there were facilities that had an immediate opening.

She filed for a RA to continue telecommuting – as she has done for more than a year. Instead of approving her request, NYSIF sent her a list of childcare resources.

“That showed me they did not thoroughly read my request indicating that the issue itself was not finding childcare, but finding a facility that could allow transportation to and from another facility,” she said. “The simple fact is that if my son were not to attend summer school, he could not move on to first grade. I refuse to let him regress and be a year behind because of this sudden push to have employees back at the office.”

As a new employee who joined NYSIF in September 2020, Kari has never worked in the office and learned her job from home. She also has limited accruals to utilize.

“Their alternative of using accruals when unable to work in the office is not a reasonable solution for me,” Kari said. “Because of being given no choice, my husband has had to take time off on my in-office days to ensure our son gets the education and resources he desperately needs. My husband does not get paid time off so this is resulting in a financial hardship for us.”

It isn’t just the caregiver needs facing Kari’s family – it’s also fear over health and safety.

“The anxiety that I have felt from this return to office directive is indescribable,” she said. “Not only do I worry about finances with my husband having to miss work, but I very much fear for my health and the health of my family. The pandemic is ongoing and while I am vaccinated and wear a mask, my kids are too young to get their vaccine.

“NYSIF is showing no regard for their employees’ needs and placing us all at an unnecessary risk for no reason other than because they can,” she said.