March 17, 2020 Executive Committee Minutes
Delegates Attending: L. E. Alexander, Tiffany Carver, Jen DeNeal, Phil Edwards, Stephanie Forman, Shayna Hill, Arlene Medder, Katie Musgrove, Natiaya Neal, Ayla Ocasio, Laura Pratt, Greg Smith, Charles Streeter, Rose Thorp, Tracy Wetherby Williams
Chair Shayna Hill called the meeting to order at 11:38 a.m. She said that the Forum will hold its first Zoom remote meeting on April 1st. She said that this will present a challenge and planned to ask delegates to assist with the meeting.
Stephanie Forman noted a concern that the pandemic is not being treated by Human Resources as equivalent to adverse weather with respect to employee absences and delays. Jen DeNeal said that there are currently no annotations in policy, but she thought that a change may be forthcoming. The Chair said that UNC-Chapel Hill seems a bit ahead of other campuses in terms of information shared by Human Resources. She thought that the campus needs to hear a message from the Forum representing its continued viability.
The Chair said that the Forum would still conduct meetings and maintain contact information. The Forum will still comply with open meetings law, which will allow it to meet via remote methods. Phil Edwards said that the Zoom Webinars tool will help with this task. He was glad to help the Chair figure out how to use the software. Natiaya Neal noted that the Gillings School of Public Health has announced that all staff must work from home as of March 18th. Other campus units are announcing similar closures.
Charles Streeter asked about possible furloughs of employees. Jen DeNeal said that the campus will try to avoid using furloughs by providing up to 30 days administrative leave. Streeter asked who would decide and how these decisions would take place. He said that these determinations must occur in a fair and equitable manner. Phil Edwards suggested asking the University’s Equal Opportunity and Compliance office if it had communicated with staff about this process.
Katie Musgrove asked why a Forum delegate has not received an appointment to the Campus Emergency Team. The Chair said that the Chancellor’s email was the first she had heard about the Emergency Team. Jen DeNeal suggested that people like Vice Chancellor George Battle and Associate Vice Chancellor Derek Kemp would be good contacts on the Team.
The Chair said that a great concern is people who cannot remote work from home. Charles Streeter noted that housekeepers are considered mandatory employees. He said that temporary information technology employees are also considered mandatory.
Matt Banks noted difficulties related to the Covid-19 pandemic in conducting the Forum elections. The Chair suggested that Banks transfer questionnaires and other data to email and Qualtrics formats when possible. She asked if the committee wished to postpone the Forum election. Phil Edwards thought that the election could continue given employees feel they have enough time to research their choices. Senior Director for Employee & Management Relations Angenette McAdoo liked the idea of extending the voting window. The Chair thought that the Forum could delay its elections to April 20th at the latest. The new delegate orientation will also take place via Zoom. The Chair confirmed with the committee a desire to move ahead with the Forum elections with an extension of time allowed if necessary.
Natiaya Neal reported that Campus Health employees have complained of a requirement that department remain fully staffed. Campus Health has no policy limitation on the number of students bringing relatives and friends in for treatment. Rose Thorp said that in her area labs are preparing to cease research. Her area will have everyone work from home starting tomorrow.
Stephanie Forman noted the committee meeting on the Status of Women will discuss flexibility concerns for faculty and staff. Childcare responsibilities are one area of concern. Forman thought that the University should provide communications to staff employees on these subjects. She thought that the Forum needs to raise these questions to step up attention on staff concerns.
The Chair pledged to reach out to the Chancellor’s Office in anticipation of her next one-on-one meeting. Arlene Medder suggested stressing the different responsibilities staff have for family care. Employees at higher risk should be allowed more flexibility, she said.
The Chair said that generally the University will allow departments and managers to determine policy administration if performed in a humane manner. Unfortunately, she thought that only some employees feel this commitment to employee safety. Charles Streeter thought that expectations should not stand as normal given the pandemic. He thought that employees should expect accommodations and more understanding from Administration. Choices made now will have a huge impact even as things return to normal, he said.
Rose Thorp did not think that staff are well-represented in these discussions. Lab staff in her area feel the best case they have is to work. She thought that Housekeeping and Grounds employees are among those left out. Greg Smith thought that more direct messaging is needed from above. Too much is being left to supervisor-employee discussions. People are worried that this ambiguity will impact their personnel reviews, he said.
The Chair said that the Forum will still meet and collect concerns from employees. Tiffany Carver advocated that the Forum will do all possible on behalf of staff. Arlene Medder noted that work-at-home employees have leave to work on Linked-In trainings with agreement from their supervisors. Carver said that some employees have work now but may not soon given the number of postponed and canceled events involving their offices. She said that these employees will need to find other University work, perhaps with other departments.
Jen DeNeal suggested that the Chair write George Battle asking for more clarity in staff communications about these concerns. She thought it would be great if employees could rely on adverse weather leave designations in discussions about employee responsibility. She thought that staff need leaders to step up in a common front.
Rose Thorp suggested asking for a chart which cross-referenced all employees and all conditions of leave to find if there are gaps in policy administration. For example, there is a question as to which employees are mandatory and why. She said that her office could greatly use a cross-referenced chart to help employees with questions. This idea would help employees know if they will need to work, and if they have leave and what kind.
Angenette McAdoo said that undergraduate and post-doc students should never be designated as mandatory employees. She recalled that many of the questions raised are addressed on the Human Resources FAQ page. Additionally, work-study students are not mandatory employees. Departments seeking funding cuts will look at student positions first.
McAdoo said that there is much available on-line to answer employee questions, particularly the Human Resources FAQ page, which is updated daily. Stephanie Forman noted that CDME (Communicable Disease Mandatory Employee) designation applies to campus staff who can look for information from managers. McAdoo said that managers should initiate these conversations, CDME or not. She said that certain individuals will be required to come to work if needed to fulfill critical departmental functions.
Tracy Wetherby Williams asked about the different designations. Angenette McAdoo said that designations under adverse weather and Covid-19 situations are similar and may be the same. Management is supposed to provide designations to employees as primary or backup staff in these different cases. The Chair asked who the responsible managers are when this designation is not provided for employees. McAdoo said if an employee has not received notice, they should not worry about receiving the designation.
Jen DeNeal said that as so much information is available online, employees and supervisors might not find the definitive policy. She said that the formal communication on CDME only discussed designations in the fifth paragraph of the relevant memo. The Chair observed that official communications should direct employees multiple times to official websites given current circumstances. Stephanie Forman suggested constructing a FAQ page with information about all policies that depicts daily changes. McAdoo pointed out that the last notification took two weeks to coordinate among the Chancellor’s Office, the Office of Human Resources, University Communications, and other areas. She thought depicting daily changes would likely be impossible.
Phil Edwards noted that faculty have a single website for Human Resources announcements and statements from the Chancellor’s Office. He suggested creating a similar page with a link to Human Resources information from there. He envisioned that this page would be a place for employees to check for information regularly. McAdoo said that she would raise the question with Office of Human Resources officials at a meeting that week.
Upon looking at the faculty site, Jen DeNeal observed that around 30 questions are depicted in a list, a formidable wall of text. Angenette McAdoo asked if the answers on this page represent official policy. She said that Equal Opportunity & Compliance may have points on these questions that are not captured. The Chair said that the Forum’s webpage could contain a message to refer to the one-page website, which could in turn send people to the Office of Human Resources FAQ and the unc.edu/coronavirus update page.
Rose Thorp noted that if the pandemic were classified as a Condition 2 adverse weather event, employees could use their sick leave in this situation. McAdoo said that this is a State decision that would require intervention from Raleigh to change.
Arlene Medder noted a question about staff volunteering in the Carolina Community Garden. Rose Thorp noted that this service represents a good opportunity to use Community Service Leave (CSL) in staggered shifts in the summer, with coordination with one’s supervisor. Medder said that the Garden is large enough to allow social distancing between volunteers. Tracy Wetherby Williams sought to confirm that employees could use CSL for this purpose. The Chair noted that volunteer shortages in the Garden are common in summertime when students on campus are scarce. Angenette McAdoo said that any response would depend on managerial discretion.
Ayla Ocasio recalled the case of an Event Coordinator who likely will not have much remote work to do in the absence of campus events. This employee eagerly awaits word on work available to remain productive. The Chair asked about other options for employees to stay employed. Angenette McAdoo said that the University has sought guidance on this question from the System Office. The Chair sought to raise these issues with decisionmakers. McAdoo said that she would take the committee’s suggestions into calls with the System Office.
Arlene Medder sought to confirm that Community Service Leave will be available to staff to work in the Garden. McAdoo said that this option would be available subject to managerial discretion.
Jen DeNeal asked about estimating and funding employees’ lost wages. The Chair was uncertain how to gather this data.
DeNeal thought that the University could have or create the flexibility to change voluntary shared leave policies to allow pooling to assist employees affected by the pandemic. McAdoo asked if DeNeal would pose this question formally. She noted that the University has increased the emergency fund loaned to employees from $500 to $1000. Faculty and staff can apply for this loan to be paid back slowly via payroll deduction. She said that this improvement would be added to the OHR FAQs page, linked from the Benefits home page.
Rose Thorp asked about the possibility of increasing flexibility in the use of voluntary shared leave. McAdoo said OHR officials are skeptical about this change. Thorp thought that this change would not preclude implementation of use of sick leave versus compensatory time. McAdoo noted that some areas flex their sick leave if the primary and secondary schools close. Thorp thought that it seems unfair not to allow use of sick leave as shared leave. McAdoo said that the policy’s implementation depends on the State’s direction. She said that there is a chance the policy would be changed if schools close.
The Chair called for a motion to approve the February minutes of the committee. Arlene Medder made this motion seconded by Laura Pratt. The motion was approved by acclamation.
Laura Pratt thanked the Chair for the hard work involved in putting together the Forum budget for consideration in April. The Chair said that the budget had never been denied since she had been with the Forum.
The Chair noted that the election video is still in process. Video producer and delegate Kevin Robinson is on vacation. She said that the Chancellors’ Cup golf tournament had been canceled for this year. The Chair asked that an invoice for tournament sponsorship be produced for her consideration.
Greg Smith reported that the Communications & Public Relations committee had canceled its last committee meeting. He hoped to publish InTouch when possible. Natiaya Neal reported that the next two Book Club sessions have also been postponed.
Arlene Medder reported that the Community Service committee had part of its leadership step back given work responsibilities. She said that the March 27 presentation at the wildlife refuge was still on track, with prospects of three more sessions hosting 60 people in all through the summer. The decision about the tomato event in May will be made in April.
Katie Musgrove said that the Carolina Blood Drive committee would meet that afternoon.
Natiaya Neal read an email that said that the University will close campus effective immediately. Only mandatory employees may remain on campus. Jen DeNeal said that the policy is designed to keep employees off campus as much as possible. Katie Musgrove and Rose Thorp noted differences in administration of mandatory employment designation. Thorp thought that the policy is not consistently interpreted, and she sought clarity about what is considered essential. Musgrove said that as a managerial employee she does not have the power to designate CDMEs.
Laura Pratt reported that the Education & Career Development committee has moved to virtual meetings. The Professional Development Grant group has worked to redirect forfeited funds to worthy applicants. Natiaya Neal said that professional development grants were announced as a departmental initiative last week. Pratt noted travel limitations on grant applications associated with the pandemic.
Pratt reported that the higher education career development survey commissioned by the Education & Career Development committee had received over 700 responses. She noted that the committee would need time to evaluate these responses. She added that the Carolina Family Scholarship application process will open again around April 15th.
Tiffany Carver was happy that Forum elections are nearly underway. She thanked everyone involved in the administration of the election process.
Rose Thorp reported that the Personnel Issues committee has no current meetings on the calendar through the end of the fiscal year. Stephanie Forman asked what the University had learned from the last pandemic event. She thought that the last time this occurred should inform policy changes and recommendations. Thorp thought that there are confusing gaps in the record from the SARs CDME event in 2011. Pandemics do not occur very often.
Jen DeNeal stressed that if policies need to become more flexible, the University needs to codify these lessons now. Arlene Medder thought that the pandemic may present a good institutional reason to increase work from home options.
Natiaya Neal reported that the Recognition & Awards committee is considering postponing the Peer Recognition banquet. The Chair noted that the Forum needs to spend money for award stipends before the end of the fiscal year in June. She urged the committee to stay on track given the need for normalcy in campus operations. Neal thought that the committee could do its work on time if needed.
The Chair noted that the March meeting of the UNC System Staff Assembly had been canceled. It was unknown whether the July meeting will take place. The Chair praised Christopher Wallace of the Stone Center, this year’s winner of the UNC System Erskine Bowles Staff Service Award.
The Chair noted that Greg Battle and Chris Meinecke are scheduled to make presentations at the Forum’s April 1 meeting.
In the absence of further discussion, the meeting adjourned at 1:28 p.m.
Respectfully submitted, Matt Banks, Recording Secretary