Frequently Asked Questions

For Staff

Will I continue to be paid while I telecommute?

Yes. Employees who can telecommute are expected to do so. These arrangements should be finalized with their supervisor. To confirm Alternative Work Arrangements (AWA) approval, an employee can rely on their supervisor’s communication that they can telecommute.

During this time of remote working, can I request to take some of my vacation time?

Brown University values our staff and recognizes the need for self-care, especially during these times. As we continue to manage reduced in-person operations on campus, please know that you can continue to request vacation time as needed to take quality time for yourselves.

I have reached the maximum accrued time for vacation leave. During this period of remote working, will the University increase the maximum accrual for vacation time?

Brown believes that taking vacation is important for all employees for their own personal and professional well-being. Especially during this period of telecommuting, the University continues to urge all employees to use the benefit of their vacation leave to have personal time away from professional duties. The University’s Vacation Time Policy remains unchanged, with the strong encouragement that employees request and take their accrued vacation.

What if I need to return to work to retrieve essential work items to either start or continue telecommuting?

Employees whose work has not been designated as essential on-site must consult with their managers before returning to their University work location. Employees may be granted permission from their supervisor and will be designated as essential limited to pick up essential items to continue their telecommuting work arrangements, but they should not remain at their on-campus work location to conduct work. To promote social distancing, supervisors will need to determine specific arrival times for any staff returning to their work location, and it is recommended that they should leave within 30 minutes after their arrival. All employees designated as Essential Limited will need to complete the Social Distancing and Return to Campus Guidelines training and sign the acknowledgment form before returning.

Can I work from home if I am not sick?

The University remains open. Only essential personnel should report to work in person starting on Monday, March 16. Employees who can telecommute are expected to do so.

Does workers’ compensation cover exposure to COVID-19?

It depends. In accordance with the RI Workers Compensation regulations, the University’s workers’ compensation program will apply if your exposure to COVID-19 occurred in the workplace and during the performance of your job duties.

What do I do if I am unwell? What if I’ve been exposed to someone being tested for COVID-19?

If you have symptoms of a fever, cough, shortness of breath, chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, or new loss of taste or smell, do not report to work. Inform University Human Resources (UHR) directly and contact your medical provider. UHR will inform your supervisor and any other Brown employees who must be contacted in the form of contact tracing as a result of your diagnosis.

Employees and dependents covered under one of Brown’s health insurance plans also have access to telemedicine benefit services. This service provides you with access to board-certified physicians through phone and/or video consultations, and the ability to speak to a physician as soon as possible.

If you are diagnosed with COVID-19, you should self-isolate. Immediately notify University Human Resources directly of your diagnosis and continue following the guidance of your healthcare provider. UHR will inform your supervisor and any Brown employees who must be contacted in the form of contact tracing as a result of your diagnosis.

Any staff member who has been exposed to someone being tested for COVID-19 should seek medical treatment as soon as possible to determine if they need to be tested for the virus. You should contact UHR to discuss leave options available to you.

What should I do if I am experiencing anxiety and concerns over COVID-19?

The potential threat of the COVID-19 virus can affect mental health and wellness. The University’s Faculty and Staff Assistance Program (FSAP) provides confidential counseling.

What steps can I take to minimize the risk of transmission?

Take the same steps you would to avoid the seasonal flu, with additional precautions. Avoiding infection is the best way to help control the spread of COVID-19.

What you can do to protect yourself and others:

  • It isn’t too late to get a flu shot if you have not already
  • Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick
  • Avoid non-essential group gatherings
  • Avoid non-essential travel
  • Stay home if you are sick -- even a little bit sick
  • Cough and sneeze into a tissue, and throw the tissue away (or cough and sneeze into your elbow if a tissue is not available)
  • Avoid handshaking
  • If you have been potentially exposed to COVID-19 based on a physical encounter or recent travel history, please remain at home and contact your health care provider, and inform your supervisor and University Human Resources if you need to be in quarantine.

What you can do to your surroundings:

  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces (door handles, faucets, telephones, railings)
  • Use alcohol wipes to clean keyboards
  • Ensure that hard surfaces at work and at home are cleaned regularly (desks, tables, countertops, sinks)

For Managers

How can I support an employee who may have been exposed to COVID-19?

Community safety is the priority. Inform the employee that they must contact University Human Resources and their medical provider, as well as remain at home for the 14 day quarantine period as recommended by the Rhode Island Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They will be eligible for a paid Special Leave for up to 10 business days during the two week quarantine period.

For employees needing quarantine who are still in their probationary period, the preferred approach to ensure they continue to be paid is an Alternative Work Arrangement (AWA), if possible. If they are unable to perform work on an AWA, they will be eligible to be paid through a paid Special Leave during the quarantine period.

If an employee’s exposure to COVID-19 occurred at work or during the performance of their job duties, please contact University Human Resources directly at 401-441-4765 or [email protected].

How do I remain in compliance with privacy and anti-discrimination rules?

Federal law demands that privacy and confidentiality must be maintained at all times. If you observe an employee displaying symptoms associated with COVID-19, exercise discretion. The kinds of indicators that will lead you to conclude an illness could be a suspected but unconfirmed case of COVID-19 include whether that employee traveled to a restricted area according to the CDC, whether that employee was exposed to someone who traveled to one of those areas, or similar facts.

If an employee is confirmed to have COVID-19, they must inform University Human Resources (UHR). UHR will notify any Brown employees who came in contact with the individual of possible exposure of the workplace.

Brown prohibits discrimination based on race, color, national origin, and other protected classifications. If an infected or quarantined employee has concerns about experiencing discrimination, they should contact the Office of Institutional Equity and Diversity.

What steps do I need to take to implement telecommuting work assignments?

Managers need to identify employees who should report to work in person.

Managers need to inform employees who will continue to telecommute. Managers can continue to inform employees to telecommute using their regular methods of communication. Employees who continue to telecommute must be designated as Essential Remote. Communication from managers will be sufficient approval for employees who can telecommute.

What are my options to determine whether my employee is essential or non-essential?

Essential position designations are defined according to the following four categories:

  • Essential-Onsite: If a staff member's essential job duties cannot physically be performed remotely and the job duties are required to be performed on campus during reduced in-person campus operations this designation should be assigned.
    Example: A Research Assistant is scheduled to work 37.5 hours a week. They are required to come to campus on a daily basis in order to work in a lab to support research.
     
  • Essential-Special: If a staff member is expected to work both onsite up to two days a week and remotely on a regular basis during their scheduled work week this designation should be assigned. This designation will be assigned when an operational need arises within the department during reduced in-person campus operations. For this designation, a staff member must be provided advance notice that their position will be required to work on-site during reduced in-person campus operations.
    Example: An Environmental Compliance Specialist is scheduled to work 37.5 hours a week and continues to work those hours. Part of their job duties can be performed remotely, but they are also required to spend up to two days a week performing mandatory weekly safety inspections.
     
  • Essential-Limited: If a staff member primarily works remotely, but is required to come to campus infrequently (up to half a day per week) to perform tasks, this designation should be assigned. Before assigning this designation, considerations must be given to assigning this work to other Essential: Onsite or Essential: Special designated staff. Typically, this designation is only assigned to one position per department. It is only assigned when an operational need arises within the department during reduced in-person campus operations. For this designation, a staff member must be provided advance notice that their position will be required to perform infrequent and limited tasks on-site during reduced in-person campus operations.
    Example: An Administrative Coordinator is scheduled to work 37.5 hours a week and continues to work those hours. The majority of their job duties can be performed remotely, but they are also required to spend up to half a day per week performing administrative work that must be completed on campus for their department.
     
  • Remote: If a staff member’s essential job duties can continue to be successfully performed in a remote work environment during reduced in-person campus operations this designation should be assigned. The staff member’s essential job duties are not required to be performed on campus during reduced in-person campus operations.
    Example: A Grants/Contracts Accountant is scheduled to work 37.5 hours a week. They are required to work to ensure that grants are administered correctly. They have remote access to everything they need to successfully complete their work, and there is no business need for them to be present on campus.

What steps can I take to inform staff members of how they can minimize the risk of transmission?

Repeatedly, creatively, and aggressively encourage employees and others to take the same steps they should be taking to protect themselves against the seasonal flu. Avoiding infection is the best way to help control the spread of COVID-19. The most important message you can share with employees is to stay home if they are sick.

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
  • Managers can ensure employees have ample facilities to wash their hands, including tepid water and soap, and that third-party cleaning/custodial schedules are accelerated.
  • Teleconference in lieu of meeting in person if available.
  • Educate yourself and colleagues about COVID-19, its symptoms and the potential health concerns associated with any travel at this time.
  • If touching or working with blood-borne pathogens, wear personal protective equipment like gloves and goggles.

Can I deny a request for personal travel from a staff member?

No. You cannot prevent employees from traveling to affected areas for personal travel reasons, and under no circumstances can the employee’s national origin be factored into consideration of whether to grant or deny time off. However, if an employee chooses to travel internationally they will be required to self-quarantine for 14 days upon their return in accordance with CDC guidelines.

For domestic travel, on June 29, Governor Gina Raimondo announced a mandatory 14-day quarantine for travelers coming to Rhode Island from any state with a daily positivity rate of 5% or greater.  The list of states can be found here, and the list will be revised on a weekly basis. This guidance is still currently in effect. 

If you are returning to Rhode Island from one of these states and had a negative COVID-19 test within the past 72 hours of your return to Rhode Island, you will be exempt from the 14-day quarantine. However, you still need to self-monitor for symptoms of COVID-19 for 14 days, wear a mask in public, and follow physical distancing guidelines. Employees will be asked to submit documentation of their test results directly to UHR at [email protected] before their first day of returning to work.