December 10, 2020 Employee Forum Vice Chancellor Representatives’ Meeting
Attending: Linc Butler, Jessye Bongiovanni, Randall Borror, Phil Edwards, Shayla Evans-Hollingsworth Stephanie Forman, Leah Hefner, Keith Hines, James Holman, Jim Jordan, Arlene Medder, Katie Musgrove, Becci Menghini, Kelly Scurlock-Cross, James Stamey, Anna Wu
Katie Musgrove called the meeting to order at 10 a.m. She asked if the Forum could pull questions from the agenda that have been answered at the recent community conversation. She asked if Menghini could help craft responses to other questions from that meeting. Menghini agreed to do so.
Randall Borror asked about his benefits statement from Fidelity that shows him as “zero percent vested” despite his eight years’ service. He said that Fidelity responded to this question by saying that the University or State wished for statements to read this way. He brought the question forward to reduce confusion for other employees and benefits representatives. Linc Butler said that this has been a longstanding issue with the UNC System Office plan administrator. He said that different pieces of information go into determining vesting status for an employee. Apparently, it is a significant resource lift from the UNC technical system configuration end to rectify this problem. He said that the problem cannot be solved locally here at UNC-Chapel Hill.
In the end, the UNC System Office confirms vesting status at the point of separation or retirement. UNC-Chapel Hill can also confirm vesting through communication with the System Office. Borror confirmed the problem is on hold given the complexity of issues required to solve it. Borror asked if TSERS employees are also affected by this problem. Butler said that TSERS subscribers can access this information through their ORBIT accounts.
Arlene Medder confirmed with Becci Menghini that occupational health is working with the Medical Center to arrive at a mechanism to refer personnel for distribution of COVID vaccine. This distribution will follow CDC and State guidelines, with the first round to go to health care employees and the next stage to go to nursing homes and people with very specific pre-existing conditions. The University will not handle its own distribution. Much depends on future vaccine approval and availability. In addition, while the vaccine is free, there may be an administrative fee imposed to receive it.
Medder asked the next phase of vaccine distribution beyond front-line health care employees. Menghini said that this question has not been answered on the federal level yet. Employees with specific pre-existing conditions can go into an earlier category. Additionally, UNC Health will provide open delivery, meaning that one does not need be a patient to receive a vaccine from UNC Health.
James Holman asked if the University receives reimbursements from the State or federal government for time coded for COVID-related work. Butler said that it is not yet clear whether the University will be reimbursed for these hours or the work of tracking these hours. He said that requirements demand that this work must be entirely COVID-related to be eligible for reimbursement. Meetings discussing the problem probably are not eligible. Much depends on the next round of federal relief.
A delegate asked about situations in which an area suffers a loss of staff, leaving those remaining to take on additional responsibilities without additional compensation. Could the University better support these staff? Also, are there any further updates on hiring restrictions? Menghini did not think hiring restrictions would go away any time soon. Much depends on the State’s eventual financial picture. She noted the good news is that the University has largely not suffered layoffs or furloughs to this point. Still, work remains as people leave the University, leaving limited resources and limited work now. She said there must be real conversations about what the University workforce cannot get done given these staffing limits. She encouraged employees who feel they cannot engage in this conversation with their supervisor to consult with an Employee-Management Relations coordinator in the Office of Human Resources. Menghini hoped that ongoing conversations will reduce misunderstandings in units.
A delegate asked about the exception to allow appeals for recruitment based on exceptions submitted. This delegate related that Housekeeping has used this exception to continue to recruit temporary employees in critical positions in that department. Menghini noted that the State has approved exceptions oftentimes for temporary or time-limited positions with the understanding these units are not making long-term commitments, with subsequent benefits expenditures.
Many of these decisions must rely on an uncertain understanding of the financial future. Menghini said that there are ways to distribute funds from eliminated positions and from positions of retired employees. These latter positions might provide a savings as replacements can be brought in at a lower salary. She ventured that employees could keep track of the additional duties they have assumed since the start of the pandemic. She thought that this additional work could be acknowledged in annual reviews or in another systematic way.
Phil Edwards asked if any additional updates regarding COVID-19 work could be captured as the calendar moves to 2021. Menghini noted that a notice to campus would go out soon relaying these developments. She noted that interchangeable leave has been extended by the Office of State Human Resources until the end of March. She said that uncertainty remains as regards to other State and federal rules extensions.
Menghini noted the challenge of unknown K-12 school opening plans as well as homeschooling issues for employees. She also noted the challenge of classifying leave for employees who need to be tested for the virus then need to leave work to wait for their test results. Katie Musgrove confirmed that the 80 hours of community leave for COVID will expire at the end of 2020.
Matt Banks relayed an employee’s question about the possible provision of heaters in tents around South Campus to give people a warm place to eat away from others. Anna Wu said that there is no plan to put heaters in those tents.
Keith Hines asked if employees must obtain supervisor approval to use December 30 and 31st as working days. Butler said that the intent of this change was to provide opportunities for employees and supervisors to talk about working these days. However, working these days will require supervisor approval as supervisors know the final business needs of their units. Supervisors cannot go through employees’ leave balances to make these decisions, though.
In response to a delegate’s question, Linc Butler said that administrative leave does not currently exist for when an employee is sent home when they were clearly ill. The employee must use their own leave in this circumstance. He did note that employees and supervisors must monitor their personal health for their own sakes and others’. The group discussed the eligibility possibilities of employees in different COVID situations for FFCRA or other emergency paid sick leave.
A delegate asked if employees must be tested through Occupational Health to be covered by these provisions or can they use their own health care provider. The consensus was that using their own health care provider is fine.
A delegate asked if conversations are occurring regarding guidance to supervisors on employee performance reviews considering the pandemic. This delegate drew a parallel with academic departments modifying expectations for faculty given the current circumstances.
Linc Butler responded that the University’s performance management process will soon be moved online with the new Cornerstone software. Part of this migration will involve conversations with employees and supervisors on completing the process in a way to add value rather than just tick boxes. The Office of Human Resources is thinking through performance management both in COVID and non-COVID terms. He said that there are no fully developed plans and solutions in place now though.
In the absence of further discussion, the meeting adjourned by acclamation at 1052 a.m.
Matt Banks, Recording Secretary