COVID-19 FAQs for Supervisors

Sunday, March 15, 2020

ROCKHURST UNIVERSITY COVID-19 FAQs for Supervisors

As we navigate this time, first and foremost, remember the following for both you and your staff:

IN ALL THINGS, KINDNESS

In keeping with our Jesuit values, as supervisors and leaders of this institution, please remember to continue to exercise care and support for your staff during this time and to reach out to your supervisor for the support you need. Additionally, please do not jump to conclusions about individuals’ health or allow fear to fuel xenophobic behaviors. If you witness such behavior on our campus, please intercede or contact Human Resources. We are women and men for and with others always, and especially during a public health crisis.

1. What if one of my employees reports they have been diagnosed with COVID-19? *

If an employee is confirmed to have COVID-19, the diagnosed employee must be immediately reported to Human Resources and sent home. The underlying premise is that infected employees will not be able to work until the virus has passed and they are cleared to return to work under University protocols; while these protocols currently require physician clearance, they are subject to change. The employee may be able to work remotely with supervisor approval. (See question 9).

Human Resources will inform the infected employee’s co-workers of their possible exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace, while maintaining confidentiality related to both the reporting employee’s identity and condition as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Note: Human Resources will contact the infected employee to identify all individuals who worked in close proximity (three to six feet) to them in the previous 14 days. All employees who worked in close proximity to the infected employee should work remotely, if possible, for at least 14 days to ensure the virus does not spread.

2. May I require an employee who is exhibiting symptoms of illness to leave work?

Yes. If an employee shows any signs of an acute respiratory infection, you should send them home and instruct them to contact their healthcare provider for further instructions and guidance. Unless the employee is able to work remotely, employees should record the absence as sick time per university policy. If the employee indicates they are able to return to

campus, supervisors should not prohibit them from doing so as the ADA prohibits employers from excluding employees from the workplace unless they present a direct threat to the workplace. There may be circumstances where a doctor’s release is appropriate in order for the employee to return to campus, but that determination should be made in consultation with Human Resources.

3. May I require an employee to undergo a medical examination for COVD-19 or conduct fever screenings?

It depends. Pursuant to the ADA, employers may only require a medical evaluation if it is considered job related and consistent with business necessity. However, if a supervisor has a reasonable belief based on objective evidence that an employee poses a direct threat due to a medical condition, the supervisor should consult with Human Resources to determine if a medical examination may be warranted.

4. May I ask an employee why he or she missed work?

Yes. However, during this outbreak, do not require a healthcare provider’s note for employees who are sick with acute respiratory illness to validate their illness or to return to work, as health care provider offices and medical facilities may be extremely busy and not able to provide such documentation in a timely way.

5. What if an employee has a family member at home who is has a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19?

Employees who are well but who have a family member at home with COVID-19 should immediately notify their supervisor and the Human Resources department and refer to CDC guidance on how to conduct a risk assessment of their potential exposure. Employees who have been exposed to a family member who has (or is suspected to have) COVID-19 are required to stay away from all University property, events and people and also self-quarantine for at least 14 days following their last exposure to the ill family member (see question 8). They should also practice social distancing while they monitor for symptoms of COVID-19, which may include fever, cough and shortness of breath.

Also, keep in mind our paid sick time benefit supports all employees in need of time off to care for themselves or a family member (see question 11).

6. May I ask an employee who is returning from travel about their risk of exposure to COVID-19? What should I do with the information?

Yes, as long as supervisors ask all employees known to have recently traveled. Supervisors should be mindful to keep confidential all medical-related information received from an employee in accordance with the ADA and general employee privacy considerations. If the employee has traveled to: 1) a country with a CDC level of 3 or higher (see below for university- sponsored travel), or; 2) during their international or domestic travel has come into contact with a person who has the coronavirus (or is suspected to have done so), they are required to immediately report this to the University (see above), self-quarantine, and stay away completely from all University property, events, and people for at least 14 days. Before returning to campus following international or domestic travel, employees must consult with their supervisor or, where appropriate, the coordinator of University-sponsored travel, to determine if they must self-quarantine. The supervisor or travel coordinator should consult with their appropriate cabinet member before making a final decision.

7. May an employee refuse to work with or in the same space as a co-worker who has recently returned from travel and who may have been exposed to COVID-19?

No. The fact that a co-worker traveled to a place reported to have an outbreak of COVID-19 or through an airport is not a basis for refusing to work with that co-worker, absent the co-worker having symptoms, direct exposure, or a diagnosis of acute respiratory illness or COVID-19. This includes student workers as well. However, as stated above, there are specific circumstances where employees who have traveled to certain international and/or domestic locations will be required to stay away from campus.

8. What if an employee is required to self-quarantine?

Employees who are not ill but are required to self-quarantine may work remotely with supervisor approval, or utilize sick or vacation time. Supervisors should support employees in managing this time away. Please consult Human Resources for further guidance.

9. May Supervisors permit employees to work remotely?

Separate guidelines have been issued for faculty working/teaching remotely.

See above for guidelines for staff who are known to be infected with COVID-19 (question 1), staff who are showing symptoms of being infected (questions 2-4), staff who worked in close proximity to an infected employee (question 1), staff who have been exposed to a family member or others known to be infected (question 5), and staff who have traveled to international or domestic locations where a legitimate threat exists (question 6).

For staff who do not meet any of the above criteria, the University is not required to permit them to work remotely. However, supervisors have the discretion to explore remote work arrangements on a case-by-case basis. Decisions on remote work arrangements should be made in consultation with Human Resources and vetted through the applicable Cabinet member for approval.

10. What if my employee’s child’s school or regular care provider is closed?

These situations should be handled by supervisors similarly to how snow days are handled – that is, on a case-by-case basis. If the school or care provider closure is anticipated to be long-term (longer than one week), then decisions should be made in consultation with Human Resources and vetted through the applicable Cabinet member for approval.

11. Under what circumstances should employees use sick time?

For Staff: Sick time should be used in the following circumstances:

  • The staff member is sick.
  • The staff member must miss work to care for a family member who is sick.
  • The staff member must miss work to care for children due to a school closure.

At the onset of sick leave, the supervisor should consult Human Resources to determine what other leave benefits are applicable in the circumstance. Once sick time is exhausted, vacation time may be used in any of the above circumstances.

If a staff member has, or is anticipating exhausting all sick and vacation time in any of the above circumstances, the staff member’s supervisor should consult with Human Resources.

Sick time may not be used in circumstances where the staff member wishes to stay home from work because of a general concern about coming to campus due to COVID- 19 – vacation time must be used.

For Faculty:

Faculty should consult the faculty leave policy.

12. Are there special considerations for employees who are naturally more susceptible to infection due to their age, a chronic illness, etc.?

To the extent they are aware of who these employees are, supervisors should provide reassurances as to the available support, including but not limited to alternative work arrangements and other measures that might be implemented to mitigate the risk of infection. Any requests for disability accommodations should be referred to Human Resources.

13. May I require an employee to cancel work-related travel or attendance at a work-related conference based on concerns related to COVID-19?

Yes. Any University-related travel through Commencement 2020 should be approved by the applicable Cabinet member.

14. May an employee refuse to travel based on concerns related to the COVID-19?

Following CDC guidelines, the University has suspended all University-sponsored travel to Level 3 classified countries. Domestic University travel must be approved by the employee’s supervisor, who will consult with their appropriate Cabinet member before making a final decision.

An employee may refuse work-related travel only when a realistic threat is present (such as with the locations described above). At this time, travel to other locations, or being around other people, does not pose a realistic threat for those in good health. However, as a practical matter, supervisors may wish to consider offering employees reasonable alternatives to such travel.

15. May I require an employee to cancel personal travel to a non-restricted area based on concerns related to COVID-19?

No. Employers may not prohibit otherwise legal activity such as personal domestic or international travel by an employee unless there is a high risk of exposure to a deadly disease. However, supervisors should encourage their employees to educate themselves before they engage in travel to potentially risky locations. Supervisors should monitor those employees returning from such travel for signs of illness, and inquire if they had any known exposure to COVID-19.

16. An employee on my team recently traveled overseas to a country that is not on a restricted list, but co-workers are worried about the risk of disease transmission.

There is likely no greater risk of this employee being infected with the COVID-19 than any of your other employees.

17. May an employee wear a mask while working?

Supervisors may permit an employee to wear a mask, so long as it does not interfere with the employee’s performance of essential functions. Given the medical community’s consensus that masks are only effective when treating someone who is actually infected with COVID-19, masks are likely not necessary to protect the health of most employees. Therefore, the University is not required to provide, or allow employees to wear, a mask or respirator.

18. During the time while the campus is closed to in-person classes and students are encouraged to stay away from the campus, how are we approaching student workers?

The overarching objective of closing the campus to in-person classes is to significantly reduce the number of students on campus. However, the University realizes there will be some students, particularly residential students, who will be on campus, some of whom greatly depend upon their student worker position to subsidize their educational and living expenses.

Supervisors should first determine which student positions (federal work study and non- federal work study positions) within their areas are essential v. non-essential. These determinations should be vetted through the applicable Cabinet member. Essential positions will be considered for continued employment, non-essential positions will not.

NOTE: The federal government states that for students enrolled and performing Federal WorkStudy (FWS) at a campus that must close due to COVID-19, the institution may continue paying the student Federal work-study wages during that closure if it occurred after the beginning of the term, the institution is continuing to pay its other employees (including faculty and staff), and the institution continues to meet its institutional wage share requirement. Graduate students who are paid FWS wages may continue to be paid for the remainder of the term if the institution is also paying its faculty and staff during that period. In these instances, institutions should document (as contemporaneously as feasible) that the COVID-19 disruption was the reason the student received FWS funds without documentation of hours worked.

The University’s interpretation of the above is that students performing FWS can be paid while the campus is closed whether or not they work during the closure. While the university has not yet made a definitive decision, this is under consideration by Cabinet.

19. Can we continue to interview candidates for open positions?

Yes. Zoom is highly encouraged for candidates who are traveling to campus via air travel. (Exceptions may be made with the approval of the appropriate Cabinet member.)

20. If we learn or suspect that one of our employees has COVID-19, do we have a responsibility to report this information to the CDC?

There is no obligation to report a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 to the CDC. The healthcare provider that receives the confirmation of a positive test result carries that responsibility as a mandatory reporter.

21. What steps can we take now to minimize risk of transmission?

Repeatedly, creatively, and aggressively encourage employees and others to take the same steps they should be taking to avoid the seasonal flu, which is already one of the worst flus in the last 10 years. For the annual influenza, SARS, avian flu, swine flu, and the COVID-19 virus, the best way to prevent infection is to avoid exposure. For example:

  • Avoid contact with sick people.

  • Stay home if you are sick.

  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.

  • Cough into your elbow rather than your hands.

  • Clean your hands often by washing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Soap and water should be used if hands are visibly dirty.

  • Refrain from shaking hands when greeting people.

Additionally:

  • Practice social distancing. As best as possible, maintain the recommended 6-feet between people in meetings and conversations.
  • Get plenty of rest.
  • Maintain a healthy diet and physical activity.

Assess key service goals and objectives, and the key deliverables for your group in the coming month. What is negotiable or flexible? What is not? Also consider the following:

  • If you or members of your team were to become ill and unable to work, how would your areas of responsibility be handled?
  • Do you have all the necessary information readily available and accessible to maintain operations?
  • Note key dates of events, as well as scheduled vacations, meetings, etc. Consider if these events need to be shifted, changed, or cancelled.

  • If work-related travel is planned or scheduled, consider whether the travel is necessary and discuss it with the employee. Strongly consider canceling the planned travel unless it is critical to your operations.

  • Consider meeting with your work group to review University communications and information related to COVID-19.

22. Additional Considerations

Explaining the options available and what limitations might exist, then follow up with each person for a one-on-one discussion about their plan/situation. Key discussion points include:

  • Focus on availability and service in consideration of alternatives to the regular work location.
  • The need to find approaches that are team-oriented and do not place an undue burden on others in the group.
  • Possibility of utilizing Zoom, teleconferencing, etc. (contact IT for more information)
  • Anticipated need for use of sick or vacation time.
  • Need for continued communication and dialogue.
  • Alternative work arrangements are temporary and will be re-evaluated periodically during this time period.
  • Based on these conversations, design a contingency plan for your work group and share it with your applicable Cabinet member.

  • Communicate this plan to the team and have regular check-in meetings to gain feedback, assess feasibility, share updated information and make any necessary adjustments.