COVID-19: CHRO email to all faculty and staff on March 23, 2020

Subject Line: University to implement expanded sick leave for employees

This message provides the following important information on topics that specifically impact employees— continued distancing measures, UO emergency sick leave program, and hiring freeze.

Dear Employee,

We know things have been moving very quickly the past two weeks as the university responds to COVID-19 and that you likely have questions related to the announcement that the University of Oregon will move to a remote instruction model for the entire spring term and also this morning’s order from the Governor to shelter in place.

The university has modified its operations to safeguard the health and well-being of our faculty, staff, students, and the community. While the UO remains open, it is important that we take action to ensure that our operations continue safely. We are asking all employees who can work remotely while maintaining critical operations to do so. While not all employees can work remotely, those who can work remotely help provide social distancing for those employees whose positions necessitate that they work on campus. Further guidance will be forthcoming about the Governor’s shelter in place order.

We also recognize the impact that COVID-19 may have on your ability to work for various reasons including the need to care for children impacted by school and daycare closures, the need to take time off due to personal illness, or the need to care for an ill family member/dependent. The first course of action is to explore flexible work options, such as remote work or flexible schedules, where possible. Because flexible work arrangements are not always appropriate or viable due to personal and operational realities, we want to highlight how the university’s leave programs may assist you.

We are temporarily implementing a new UO emergency sick leave program to be utilized while the university responds to the COVID-19 outbreak. The program is based on the new federal “Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act” (H.R. 6201). It provides employees with access to additional paid leave, and our new university program provides broader benefits than the federal law requires. Oregon’s public universities have reached agreement with the Service Employee International Union (SEIU). We will work with each of the other labor unions and the Officers of Administration Council to formalize this program for our other employee groups.

The new UO emergency sick leave benefit program will cover two weeks of work and is effective today, March 23, 2020. The basic provisions include

  • Full-time employees receive 80 hours of additional paid sick leave.
  • Part-time employees receive enough pro-rated, additional sick leave to cover two weeks of work.
  • Leave benefits may be applied to cover things such as care of children during school or daycare closures due to public health emergency, as well as various health related reasons (personal illness or the illness of a dependent requiring care). We are allowing this leave to be used for a broader range of purposes than the federal program permits.
  • Leave will be paid at the employee’s full rate of pay for all covered purposes unlike the federal program.
  • Leave is in addition to other leave employees may have through existing collective bargaining agreements and university policies.

The details of the UO emergency sick leave program are outlined on the HR website.

HR staff are actively working to assemble resources and guidance for leave benefits to help you better understand your options. We have started by outlining what is available to you based on your employment category. Please refer to the leave resources on the HR website in the days ahead as we develop and publish more information. HR will continue to update and enhance this resource as circumstances evolve and additional information becomes available.

COVID-19 resource webpage on the HR website regularly for employee-related information. I have also included a list of resources below that you may find useful. We encourage employees to frequently monitor the UO’s COVID-19 (coronavirus) website, which includes an FAQ, as the best place to get the latest information about the UO’s response to COVID-19. Questions, concerns, or suggestions should continue to be directed to the inquiry web form.

Please know that the concerns and needs of our employees are important to us as we navigate our response to COVID-19 and manage competing interests. We are also mindful of the need to be prudent and strategic with university financial resources in this dynamic environment. To that end, the university has instituted a hiring freeze on currently posted positions and any new positions units planned to fill. The duration of this freeze will be assessed on a regular basis as we move forward. Campus leaders and HR staff across the UO have been notified and provided guidance regarding the hiring suspension.

Thank you for your continued efforts to support our students and each other during this time.


Mark Schmelz
Chief Human Resources Officer and Associate Vice President