Finance

LA County’s $70 billion pension fund delays its return to the office as the Delta variant upends employers’ plans

  • Two staff members of the Los Angeles County Employees Retirement Association contracted Covid-19.
  • The pension fund has pushed back its return-to-office date to October.
  • It joins a growing list of employers delaying their office reopenings as the Delta variant throws a wrench in planning.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

As Covid-19 cases surge in California, Los Angeles county’s $70 billion pension fund has delayed its return-to-office plans, and some of its employees recently tested positive for the virus.

The pension fund, the Los Angeles County Employees Retirement Association, has pushed back its return-to-office date to October, having previously scheduled it for September 13, CEO Santos H. Kreimann told Insider. Kreimann had earlier disclosed in a memo on the pension fund’s website that two employees at the pension tested positive for the virus this summer, while another was exposed to a person who contracted Covid-19.

Kreimann said the delay in opening the office was not due to the positive cases. “The decision was made to allow more time for my staff to prepare a mandatory vaccination policy for my consideration, and to develop testing protocols for employees with medical and religious exemptions should the need arise,” he said in an email.

The Pasadena-based pension fund has around 400 employees. The memo did not say how or where the employees contracted the virus, but noted that around 15% of staff are in the office “on any given day.”

Lacera’s announcement comes as companies are scrambling to adjust their return-to-office plans to take the highly contagious Delta variant into account. BlackRock, Jefferies, and Wells Fargo each pushed back their return-to-office date by a month to October, according to a Bloomberg report.

California is experiencing its fastest spike in Covid-19 cases since the pandemic began, with the Delta variant causing most new infections in the state, according to the California Department of Public Health.

“This recent increase in incidents at Lacera mirrors the increase in COVID-19 positive cases in Los Angeles County,” Kreimann wrote in the memo. “Management continues to limit the number of staff members physically in our offices daily.”

Kreimann noted in the memo that one employee was in Lacera’s office 14 days before testing positive for COVID-19.

California Governor Gavin Newsom announced on Wednesday that under a new public health order, all teachers and school staff will either have to show full vaccination proof or be tested for Covid-19 at least once a week.

The order, the first of its kind in the nation, seeks to reduce the spread of the virus.

Firms around the country are struggling to decide whether to impliment similar measures. So far, Facebook and Google’s parent company Alphabet are among the large companies that have announced that employees coming to their US offices must be fully vaccinated, Insider reported last month.

Officials at Lacera have not yet decided whether they will require staff to be vaccinated, Kreimann said in the memo.

“We continue to evaluate whether this step will be necessary, but we would like to determine the impacts of our COVID-19 employee education program and the legal questions raised by these mandates before making any final decisions,” Kreimann wrote.

At Lacera, 11% percent of staff members, or 44 employees, had voluntarily reported that they are fully vaccinated, Kreimann said in the memo. Starting this month, however, Lacera staff are required to complete a questionnaire to confirm their vaccination status.

“Members who are not currently vaccinated will be required to report when they do get vaccinated,” the memo said.

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