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San Diego Bus Drivers Told To Quarantine Without Pay

A minibus operated by MTS contractor First Transit appears in this undated photo.
A minibus operated by MTS contractor First Transit appears in this undated photo.

Several San Diego bus drivers who work for a contractor of the Metropolitan Transit System were told to self-quarantine at home because of possible exposure to the coronavirus. But they aren't being paid for that time.

The drivers, who work for Cincinnati-based First Transit, haven't tested positive for COVID-19but drove buses after another driver who did test positive.

Tom Jensen is one of them.

"Two of the bus drivers tested positive, so anyone who drove the bus after those drivers had contact, and were sent home on a quarantine," Jensen said. "The next day they called us and said it would be unpaid, and told me when to report back to work. It takes a lot of nerve to do that."

Jensen's union, Teamsters 542, confirmed at least eight drivers in San Diego who were asked to quarantine because they were potentially exposed to the virus but haven't tested positive.t None have been paid during their quarantine period, the union said.

Drivers who test positive can receive workers’ compensation. The union, however, said it is trying to negotiate payment for everyone.

A spokesman for MTS referred all questions about the policy to First Transit. A First Transit spokesman confirmed in a statement that drivers on quarantine won't be paid.

"Drivers that are required to be in quarantine have several options for compensation, including accrued personal time-off, vacation and unused sick time," said spokesman Jay Brock. "Employees under quarantine also have additional resources through unemployment benefits and the CARES act."

MTS has asked six of its employees to quarantine — five who tested positive and one who didn’t. All of those employees will be paid, said MTS spokesman Rob Schupp.

MTS ridership during the pandemic has dropped by 65 to 70 percent, forcing the agency to make significant route cuts. Meanwhile, MTS received about $220 million from the federal rescue package, according to CEO Paul Jablonski.

As for Jensen, he is feeling fine and will be back at work on Friday.

MTS Bus Drivers Told To Quarantine Without Pay
Listen to this story by Claire Trageser.