Last updated May 24, 2021
How is the union involved in Rutgers’ decision-making process for COVID-19 protocols?
Representatives of the CRU (Coalition of Rutgers Unions) have been attending weekly Health and Safety meetings with the Rutgers administration to flag issues and engage in ongoing discussions about how to keep worker safety centered in the university’s approach to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Has Rutgers determined the level of in-person learning for Fall 2021?
While much of Rutgers is planning (and hoping) for in-person instruction in the Fall semester of 2021, there are many contingencies in place. Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Antonio Calcado sent a university-wide communication with the following guidance: “While we have discussed broadly where we want to be in September and some of the mechanisms to get there, I want to be clear about the conditions under which we will repopulate: our planning and return is reliant on, but not limited to, wide availability of vaccine, a significant decrease in transmission rates, and continued strict adherence to all public safety guidelines. Therefore, it is incumbent upon us to plan for a one-hundred percent return, just not all at the same time, knowing that working under these principles we can adjust quickly to whatever degree of remote is necessary at the time.” You can read the statement in its entirety here. You can read Rutgers’ “Quick Reference Guide” for repopulating campuses here.
I can’t report to Rutgers in person, as I did prior to the pandemic for the upcoming semester (for example, because a high-risk child in our household is ineligible for vaccination and unable to attend school). How do I continue my work remotely as Rutgers transitions back to in-person learning?
Rutgers has extended the relaxation of the tele-commuting policy through December 31, 2021. The administration has acknowledged the need for continued flexibility under special circumstances that necessitate continued remote work. In these situations, employees will need to work with their departments to demonstrate how work obligations will continue to be met. Contact the union at [email protected] if you need assistance in approaching this with your department.
How do I register for the vaccine?
Everyone 16 or older who lives, works, or studies in New Jersey is now eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine. You can make an appointment or visit any of the six mega-sites, which are all now taking walk-ins. Here is the walk-in vaccination schedule. Additionally, the NJ Vaccine Call Center is now operational and offering live assistance. The number is 855-568-0545, it is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day, and it is staffed with speakers of dozens of different languages.
For those seeking an appointment in New York, you can schedule an appointment here. You can also be vaccinated without an appointment by walking into any of the state-run vaccination sites. For those seeking an appointment in Pennsylvania, you can use this scheduling tool to make a vaccine appointment.
Will distribution of the vaccine take place on any of the Rutgers campuses?
See the following taken from the Rutgers Universitywide Covid-19 Information page:
Rutgers will offer COVID-19 vaccination beginning Wednesday, May 5 to students, faculty, staff, and others who have a Rutgers NetID. Register for an appointment on the Rutgers COVID-19 vaccine portal. Contact the Vaccine Scheduling Assistance Program by calling 848-445-3033, Monday-Friday from 9am-5pm for assistance in scheduling an appointment. Vaccinations are by appointment only; no walk-ins will be permitted. Appointments will be available at three campus locations:
We now know that COVID-19 is spread largely through airborne transmission. What is being done about air filtration and ventilation at Rutgers?
Scientists have determined that COVID-19 can be transmitted both through large airborne droplets (which hit the ground within 3–6 feet) as well as smaller droplets, also known as aerosols, that can travel longer distances and remain suspended in the air for long periods. The CDC has endorsed this “Guidance for Building Operations During the COVID-19 Pandemic,” which specifies that enhanced filtration, utilizing filters with a MERV 13 or higher rating, seems most efficient in removing these particles from the air. Buildings at Rutgers are being assessed for enhanced filtration systems and, where possible, upgraded. The Rutgers administration has agreed to provide information building by building as to what systems are in place for safe air quality. We are expecting this information soon and will share it as soon as we gain access.
What enforceable protections are in place for a safe work environment?
Fortunately, the Rutgers AAUP-AFT agreement with the University already contains robust health and safety language. Article 20 ensures that “No negotiations unit member shall be required to work under conditions where there has been a determination, on a reasonable basis in fact, that those conditions pose an imminent danger to health and safety. It shall be the responsibility of the University to make such determinations as rapidly as possible.”
Since the onset of the pandemic, the state has issued a series of executive orders with the aim of mitigating the spread of the virus. Those with the greatest impact on labor were Executive Orders 107 and 192. On March 21, 2020, under EO 107, the governor of New Jersey required all businesses and nonprofit organizations to provide, “wherever practicable,” tele-work or work-from-home accommodations to employees. On October 28, absent any federal guidance from OSHA, the Governor issued EO 192, seeking “increased investigative and enforcement capacity to efficiently address worker complaints.” Under this order, workers are now able to report breakdowns in mandated employer COVID protocols established in this and other executive orders.
My position requires me to come to campus, and I have some concerns about COVID protocols at my work site. What are my options for reporting my concerns?
If you have concerns about your work site, the first thing you should do is contact the union and discuss your options with a member of the Contract Enforcement Team. There are several reporting avenues available, and the union can help you determine what may be most effective in finding resolution. To contact a union representative, email [email protected]
Some of the reporting options include:
- If an Article 20 Health and Safety violation is identified, you may be able to file a grievance under the Article 9 grievance procedure.
- A Rutgers Observation Reporting Form can be submitted, by a named complainant or anonymously, directly to the university. You should submit this form to report any concerns at all, whether or not you also report these concerns to the union.
- A PEOSH (Public Employees Occupational Safety and Health) Complaint Form can be submitted by a named complaitant, anonymously, or by the union directly to the Department of Labor.
Will the vaccine be mandatory at Rutgers?
We do not know as of now if the vaccine will be mandatory for all employees. The university has mandated that all students who reside on campus or attend classes in person must be vaccinated, except those granted medical or religious exemptions. It is possible that even those with approved exemptions may not be permitted on campus. Recently, our union released a statement in support of a vaccine mandate encompassing all faculty and staff.
Are there job protections for anyone who requires time off because they have contracted COVID-19?
Under New Jersey law, employers cannot impose discipline or termination, nor subject an employee to any form of discrimination, if an employee requires time away to quarantine or seek testing due to COVID-19. It is important to note that the employee must be able to produce a note from a medical professional instructing them to quarantine or seek testing.
If I become ill with COVID-19, will I have to use my accrued paid time off (PTO)? What about if I need to care for a child or family member with COVID-19?
Many of the federal programs that supplemented income for an employee requiring time away from work due to COVID expired at the end of 2020. The current Rutgers policy requires that an employee use their own PTO (including, if applicable, sick time or sick leave, close ranks, and vacation) in the event of a required COVID leave. We are working with the administration to determine if an alternative policy can be reached. Federal policy may also change. If you require time away from work to care for a family member, you can always take leave under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which provides for up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave. You can find out more about leaves in Article 16 of the Rutgers AAUP-AFT agreement with Rutgers. It’s possible you may also qualify for New Jersey’s Family Leave insurance program. The New Jersey Department of Labor has an online eligibility tool to determine what protections and benefits may apply to your circumstances.