At Your Service

June 10, 2013 | CUNY Matters, The University

Work/Life Ready to Help After Trauma of Boston Bombing

When the worst happens, CUNY is there for its employees. After the bombing incident at the Boston Marathon, CUNY employees received the following email from Corporate Counseling Associates:

“In response to the incident at the Boston Marathon today, we wanted to reach out to remind you that CCA is available to assist you or any of your employees who may be impacted by this tragedy. During times such as this, it is helpful to remind employees and their families that the EAP & Work/Life Assistance Program is available to provide confidential support and assistance, 24 hours a day. Even if none of your employees were directly impacted by this event, please remember that events such as this can trigger memories of past traumas that employees may have experienced.”

Michael Kochman, CCA manager of business development, said that the effect of traumatic events is often far-reaching. “In our experience, whenever a tragedy such as the Boston Marathon bombing occurs, the incidence of members contacting the program for stress and anxiety-related issues increases significantly for a period of time. Although we can’t reveal details, some callers were impacted.”

Kochman said that this year, “Hurricane Sandy had probably the most impact on calls.”  Superstorm Sandy also set off a flurry of fundraising in CUNY offices.  The Office of Human Resources Management, for example, raised $3,785 for New York Cares Hurricane Sandy Relief.

Assisting Colleagues After Superstorm Sandy

In difficult times, CUNY employees are also there for others in the University community. The Central Office’s Computing and Information Services took up a collection for three employees. And the University gave employees an opportunity to donate annual leave days to a bank that could be tapped by other employees in need who didn’t have enough accumulated time of their own.

According to Gloriana B. Waters, vice chancellor for human resources management, “Over 100 days were donated to the bank and about half were used by employees needing the time to address Sandy related issues.”

In another act of kindness, Lorraine Sanders, associate professor at the Hunter-Bellevue School of Nursing, returned an interest-free loan she received from the University so the funds could be used by others.

Like many in Long Beach on Long Island, a community hard hit by Sandy, at first Sanders couldn’t live in her home or get back to work because of transportation problems. But “my colleagues pitched in,” she said, and “the support I got from Hunter was phenomenal.”

Sanders’ dean at the school, and Hunter President Jennifer Raab, heard about her difficulties, and President Raab arranged for the University to provide the interest-free loan to her.

When Sanders was able to return to work, she realized that many others, including her own students, were in far worse shape and needed help. One had lost her house in a hurricane-related fire.

Sanders said she didn’t lose income, and by giving the loan back, “I could help someone else.”

“But for the president of the college to reach out to you and say, ‘We can help,’ – It was amazing!”

Tier 6 Plan Contribution

Are you enrolled in a retirement plan with CUNY under the new Tier 6 plan? If so, you may have noticed a higher contribution deduction in your first paycheck of April 2013.  Because of a new state law, Tier 6 employees’ contribution rates regarding retirement plans are based on the annual wage paid to them by their employers. The deductions for those in Tier 6 now range from 3 percent for those who make $45,000 or less to 6 percent for those earning more than $100,000. If you have questions about this change, please contact your campus Human Resources office.

Campus Wellness Fairs

Another benefit for CUNY employees, Wellness Fairs, are held on many campuses, typically once or twice a year.

“Our fairs link people to information,” says Serafina Rutigliano, human resources director at Hunter College. The college holds its fairs in the fall and spring, and more than 300 employees attended in April.

The fairs link people to lifelines, too. At a recent fair, an employee had his blood pressure taken, found that it was dangerously high and went immediately to see his physician.

The services offered at the fairs are usually similar but colleges often provide some extras, as well.

At Hunter, employees could also obtain information about pension plans — thus boosting their financial health — as well as information on Social Security, Medicare, and mental health support. A Queens College fair offered information on smoking cessation and on union welfare benefits. The school’s athletic program had information regarding gym membership benefits for employees, and the college’s nursing staff and healthy eating and cooking staff also provided information. York College’s fair had representatives from BJ’s Wholesale Club and Costco. York usually holds its fair in October to coincide with health plan enrollment and transfer periods.

Human resources officers also strive to make the fairs fun — Hunter’s fall fair has a Zumba class.  And, yes, while getting a massage at work does sound like something out of Silicon Valley, it can happen at CUNY, too – at a Wellness fair.