COVID-19: Employee FAQ

Table of Contents 
  1. General Employee Questions
    1. Is there a hiring freeze in place?
    2. What resources are available to help me and my family navigate concerns regarding COVID-19?
    3. I have a job that can only be done on campus and puts me in close contact with others; working remotely is not an option. In light of COVID-19, what steps are being taken to add protections for me and others like me?
    4. What is the university’s stance on working remotely?
    5. I need to be home with my child(ren) while schools/daycares are closed. What options are available to me?
    6. Can I bring my child(ren) to work with me, since schools are closed?
  2. Sick Leave Questions
    1. What can UO Emergency Paid Sick Leave be used for?
    2. Who is eligible to use emergency paid sick leave?
    3. When will the UO emergency sick leave expire?
    4. Can I use sick leave if I am diagnosed with novel coronavirus disease 2019, known as COVID-19, or if I need to care for a diagnosed family member?
    5. Can hourly employees utilize UO Emergency Paid Sick Leave if they are experiencing decreased work hours due to COVID-19?
    6. Do I have to use emergency paid sick leave before using other paid leave?
    7. Am I required to exhaust my existing leave accruals prior to using UO Emergency Paid Sick Leave?
    8. How do I use my UO Emergency Paid Sick Leave?
  3. FMLA Questions
    1. I am not currently sick but I am concerned about contracting COVID-19. Can I use FMLA to take a leave of absence so that I reduce my potential exposure to the virus?
    2. Who is eligible for the expanded FMLA program?
    3. What is the process for requesting the expanded FMLA/OFLA due to school/childcare closures?
    4. Are employees required to exhaust their accrued leave before they will be eligible to receive the 2/3 pay under the expanded FMLA?
    5. Can I use the OA or faculty unearned sick leave advance program while on expanded FMLA/OFLA due to school/childcare closures?
    6. Can the expanded family and medical leave be used on an intermittent basis?
    7. If my employer reduces my scheduled work hours, can I use expanded family and medical leave for the hours that I am no longer scheduled to work?

    8. What does it mean to be unable to work, including telework for COVID-19 related reasons?

    9. If I have already used all or part of my 12 weeks of FMLA, does the expanded FMLA program provide me with an additional 12 weeks?
    10. Will expanded FMLA leave be available beyond 12/31/20?
  4. Student Employee Questions
    1. How are student employees impacted by the campus decisions around COVID-19?
    2. Can student employees utilize UO Emergency Sick Leave if they are experiencing decreased work hours due to COVID-19?
    3. Are Student Employees Eligible for Unemployment Benefits?
  5. Benefits Questions
    1. Do I have options for remote access to healthcare through my health insurance plan so I can speak with a medical professional without visiting a medical clinic?
    2. Will Short Term Disability insurance benefits be paid for absences related to COVID-19?

General Employee Questions

Is there a hiring freeze in place?

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.

What resources are available to help me and my family navigate concerns regarding COVID-19?

UO contracts with Cascade Centers, Inc. to provide a comprehensive Employee Assistance Program (EAP) for benefit-eligible employees and their dependents. The services are provided at no cost to eligible members. Cascade Centers, Inc. recently issued a special announcement regarding COVID-19. Visit the EAP webpage for more information about this program or visit the Cascades Center, Inc. website.

I have a job that can only be done on campus and puts me in close contact with others; working remotely is not an option. In light of COVID-19, what steps are being taken to add protections for me and others like me?

The University has directed supervisors to actively explore and implement social distancing measures, including flexible work arrangements, for all positions, while balancing the need to maintain critical operations. For positions where work activities can be safely and effectively completed by an employee who is working remotely, supervisors have been instructed to utilize this option. We recognize there are critical functions that require employees to remain on campus in order to continue the university's modified schedule of operations. Having employees who can work from home do so is one social distancing measure the university is employing in order to maintain a safe and healthy work environment for employees who must come to campus in order to do their jobs. Supervisors should explore and implement other social distancing measures, such as creating 6 feet of distance in between individuals in the workspace or interacting with others virtually or via phone, rather than in person, as practical for their unit. More information can be found in the UO Prevention FAQ.

What is the university’s stance on working remotely?

  • Effective March 16, faculty and employees are asked to begin working from home if they can do so in ways that do not inhibit the university’s ability to provide core services or delivery of education to students. Working remotely is not an option for all employees, but implementing it where practical can go a long way to enhancing social distancing and reducing risk both for those working at home and those who remain on campus.
  • For those who cannot work remotely or whose jobs require them to be on-campus to support core services and/or the delivery of education, managers need to review and assess work and workspaces (offices, labs, etc.) for appropriate social distancing and hygiene measures. Please make adjustments so that 6 feet of space can be maintained between individuals, including faculty, staff and visitors.
  • Refer to the resources put together by Human Resources for social distancing in the workplace, including flex work, student employees, and leave options.

I need to be home with my child(ren) while schools/daycares are closed. What options are available to me?

Managers and supervisors have been directed to implement flexible work arrangements, such as remote work and flexible schedules, where operationally feasible. Talk with your supervisor about options that may be available to you. In circumstances where flexible work arrangements are not an option, employees will be able to utilize UO emergency sick leave and accrued vacation and sick leave to cover absences related to state-mandated school and place of care closures. In addition, employees may be eligible for expanded Family and Medical Leave if they need to care for dependents due to school or place of care closures.

Can I bring my child(ren) to work with me, since schools are closed?

No. You are not allowed to bring your children to work with you for safety and health concerns related to the spread of COVID-19 and the university’s focus on social distancing. Children of employees and others are also not allowed on the UO campus or in campus buildings during non-working hours.

Managers and supervisors have been directed to implement flexible work arrangements, such as remote work and flexible schedules, where operationally feasible. Talk with your supervisor about options that may be available to you. In circumstances where flexible work arrangements are not an option, employees will be able to utilize UO emergency sick leave and accrued vacation and sick leave to cover absences related to state-mandated school and place of care closures. In addition, employees may be eligible for expanded Family and Medical Leave if they need to care for dependents due to school or place of care closures.

Sick Leave Questions

What can UO Emergency Paid Sick Leave be used for?

UO Emergency Paid Sick Leave may be applied to cover time off to care for children during school or daycare closures due to a public health emergency, COVID-19 related illness for yourself or a dependent, or for non COVID-19 related reasons (such as injury or personal illness or the illness of a dependent requiring care). All hourly employees are able to use UO Emergency Paid Sick Leave for lost pay due to lack of work. For more information on how each employee group can use the UO Emergency Paid Sick Leave, please visit the HR website.

Who is eligible to use emergency paid sick leave?

Emergency sick leave is available to all employee groups – student employees, graduate employees, classified employees, officers of administration, and faculty, with few limitations. For a complete list of eligible employees, including guidance for temporary employees and those in post-retirement appointments, view the emergency paid sick leave guidance.

When will the UO emergency sick leave expire?

The UO emergency sick leave will expire on December 31, 2020 for all employee groups. Emergency sick leave not taken by that date will no longer be available for use.

Can I use sick leave if I am diagnosed with novel coronavirus disease 2019, known as COVID-19, or if I need to care for a diagnosed family member?

All employee groups are eligible to use UO emergency paid sick leave and accrued sick leave for absences related to their own COVID-19 diagnosis, or that of a dependent or family member, based on the appropriate policy or collective bargaining agreement. Sick leave accrual and use policies are based on employee group, with details provided on the Sick Leave webpage. Refer to the employee leave options on the HR website for more information.

Can hourly employees utilize UO Emergency Paid Sick Leave if they are experiencing decreased work hours due to COVID-19?

Yes. Units are encouraged to do their best to identify remote work opportunities for employees to keep them engaged in meaningful work, if possible. If it is not possible for the employee to work remotely, eligible hourly employees can receive up to two weeks of pay (pro-rated based on their FTE) via the UO Emergency Paid Sick Leave program. Once their UO Emergency Paid Sick Leave has been exhausted, the employee may use their regular accrued sick and other accrued vacation leaves. Additional information can be found on the UO Emergency Paid Sick Leave webpage. Please note that employees who are on the Extended Benefits Program are not able to use UO Emergency Paid Sick Leave while they are on leave without pay.

Do I have to use emergency paid sick leave before using other paid leave?

No, employees can determine if they want to use accrued sick leave before using emergency paid sick leave. We recommend that employees use emergency paid sick leave before accrued sick leave because it expires on December 31, 2020, but employees can use accrued sick leave first, if they so choose. In circumstances related to an employee’s own illness or illness of a dependent/family member, UO emergency paid sick leave and accrued sick leave must be taken before other types of leave.

Am I required to exhaust my existing leave accruals prior to using UO Emergency Paid Sick Leave?

No. Employees may utilize UO Emergency Paid Sick Leave hours before utilizing their accrued sick or vacation leave.

How do I use my UO Emergency Paid Sick Leave?

UO Emergency Paid Sick Leave can be applied through the usual time reporting process for your unit or department. There is no separate approval process required. Please contact your supervisor or your unit’s or department’s payroll administrator for further assistance and additional guidance.

FMLA Questions

I am not currently sick but I am concerned about contracting COVID-19. Can I use FMLA to take a leave of absence so that I reduce my potential exposure to the virus?

No. Under existing guidance from the Department of Labor, leave taken by an employee for the purpose of avoiding exposure would not be protected under the FMLA. However, if you are immunocompromised or otherwise have an existing medical condition that may place you within a vulnerable population susceptible to serious illness then you may request such leave as a request for accommodation. Employees who would like to make such a request should submit an Accommodation Request Form. Such requests are assessed by the ADA Coordinator, or designee, on a case-by-case basis.

Who is eligible for the expanded FMLA program?

All employees who have been employed with the University of Oregon for at least 30 calendar days are eligible for the expanded FMLA program. The leave can be taken if the employee is unable to work (or work remotely) due to a need to care for their child(ren) when their school or place of care has been closed, or the regular childcare provider is unavailable due to a public health emergency with respect to COVID-19. More information about the new FMLA benefit can be found on the HR website.

What is the process for requesting the expanded FMLA/OFLA due to school/childcare closures?

Instructions for requesting this leave can be found on the HR website.

Are employees required to exhaust their accrued leave before they will be eligible to receive the 2/3 pay under the expanded FMLA?

Yes.

Can I use the OA or faculty unearned sick leave advance program while on expanded FMLA/OFLA due to school/childcare closures?

No, you may only use accrued leave balances.

Can the expanded family and medical leave be used on an intermittent basis?

Yes. Employees may take intermittent leave (i.e., leave on nonconsecutive dates) with the advanced approval of their supervisor. An approved schedule shall be submitted to HR along with the FMLA application.

For example:
Susan is a 40 hour employee, who generally works 8-5 Monday through Friday. She works her normal hours at normal pay on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. She is approved for intermittent leave to stay home with a child whose school is closed due to COVID-19 precautions on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The first 10 days of intermittent leave would be unpaid, or Susan could use UO Emergency Sick Leave or other accrued leaves in order to receive pay. After the first 10 days of intermittent leave have passed, on Tuesday and Thursdays, she would use available accrued leave; once all accrued leave is exhausted, Susan would be paid at the 2/3 rate up to $200/day or $10,000 in total for the remainder of the leave.

If my employer reduces my scheduled work hours, can I use expanded family and medical leave for the hours that I am no longer scheduled to work?

No. If your employer reduces your work hours because it does not have work for you to perform, you may not use expanded family and medical leave for the hours that you are no longer scheduled to work. This is because you are not prevented from working those hours due to a COVID-19 qualifying reason, even if your reduction in hours was somehow related to COVID-19.

You are unable to work if your employer has work for you and one of the COVID-19 qualifying reasons set forth in the FFCRA prevents you from being able to perform that work, either under normal circumstances at your normal worksite or by means of telework.

If you and your employer agree that you will work your normal number of hours, but outside of your normally scheduled hours (for instance early in the morning or late at night), then you are able to work and leave is not necessary unless a COVID-19 qualifying reason prevents you from working that schedule.

If I have already used all or part of my 12 weeks of FMLA, does the expanded FMLA program provide me with an additional 12 weeks?

No. Employees have up to 12 weeks of leave to use between April 1, 2020, and December 31, 2020 under the FMLA expansion. This time is included in, not in addition to, the total FMLA leave entitlement of 12 weeks in a 12-month period.

For example, if an employee has already taken 6 weeks of FMLA leave in a 12-month period, that employee would only be eligible for another 6 weeks of FMLA leave under this expansion provision. More information about the expanded FMLA program can be found on the HR website.

Will expanded FMLA leave be available beyond 12/31/20?

No. The expanded family and medical leave provision applies to leave taken between April 1, 2020, and December 31, 2020. Expanded FMLA is available only until December 31, 2020; after that, employees may only take FMLA leave. Eligible employees may only take FMLA leave to care for themselves or a family member who is experiencing a serious health condition.

Student Employee Questions

How are student employees impacted by the campus decisions around COVID-19?

Units are implementing a variety of social distancing strategies and should include and consider their student employees in this planning. Students who remain on campus should continue to report to work as scheduled unless specifically notified about changes to their individual schedule. Department time off and scheduling processes and procedures remain in effect. Student employees should coordinate with their supervisor regarding schedule and time-off requests.

Can student employees utilize UO Emergency Sick Leave if they are experiencing decreased work hours due to COVID-19?

Yes. Units are encouraged to do their best to identify remote work opportunities for student employees to keep them engaged in meaningful work, if possible. If it is not possible for the student employee to work remotely, student employees can receive up to two weeks of pay (pro-rated based on their FTE) via the UO Emergency Sick Leave program. Once their UO Emergency Sick Leave has been exhausted, the student employee may use their regular accrued sick leave. Additional information can be found on the UO Emergency Sick Leave webpage.

Are Student Employees Eligible for Unemployment Benefits?

In most cases, the state of Oregon has historically not paid unemployment benefits to full-time students. However, some student employees may qualify for Oregon unemployment insurance benefits. Student employees may always file a claim to see if they qualify for benefits as determined by the Oregon Employment Department.

If a student employee believes that they may have extenuating circumstances or qualify for an exception, we recommend that they contact the Oregon Employment Department. Please note, the state of Oregon has relaxed some rules regarding such benefits due to COVID-19. The new rules allow for payment of benefits in new situations, such as if an employee is forced to quit work or is unable to currently search for work due to certain new qualifying COVID-19-related reasons. The new rules are available here: https://govstatus.egov.com/ORUnemployment_COVID19.

To file for unemployment benefits due to COVID-19, student employees should follow the instructions available at this link: https://govstatus.egov.com/ui-benefits/benefits.

Benefits Questions

Do I have options for remote access to healthcare through my health insurance plan so I can speak with a medical professional without visiting a medical clinic?

Yes, all of the health insurance plans offered to UO employees include alternative resources for care, such as a nurse advice line or virtual care. Visit the website for your health insurance plan to learn more about the available options: Providence PEBB Statewide and Providence Choice, Kaiser Permanente, Moda Synergy.

Employees currently enrolled in the Short Term Disability (STD) insurance program may be eligible for STD benefits depending on the specific facts of the claim and subject to the provisions of the Group Policy. An employee who is placed in quarantine, but does not have a confirmed COVID-19 diagnosis, will not be eligible for STD Benefits. Visit the Disability Insurance webpage for more information about the program and process.