Guiding Principles for Employee Return to Campus in Fall 2021

Beginning July 1, 2021, Missouri State-West Plains will adhere to the “Guiding Principles for Employee Return To Campus in Fall 2021.” In particular, all West Plains campus employees will be expected to have returned to their offices/areas to complete their normal work duties and responsibilities by July 1, 2021.

Exceptions to this directive will be few, if any. Employees who have had an approved accommodation prior to July 1, 2021, will need to apply for a new accommodation that begins July 1, 2021. Other exceptions may be granted by an employee’s supervisor, but these will concern intermittent issues/situations. The West Plains campus will follow all current University policies implemented to address issues arising from the COVID 19 pandemic, including those concerning masking requirements, social distancing, and the holding of events.

Students are our top priority, and students will largely return to campus this fall. Accordingly, the vast majority of our staff should work from campus on a full-time or nearly full-time basis. As a general rule:

  • Offices should be open for standard hours (typically 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.)
  • Supervisors should work from campus.
  • Non-exempt employees should work from campus with regular work hours to ensure compliance with applicable wage and hour laws.
  • Staff whose job duties include face-to-face interaction with students, regular participation in in-person meetings or interactions on campus or in the community, or office reception should work from campus.
  • Few staff members should be permitted to work remotely on a full-time basis.
  • Supervisors have discretion to approve limited exceptions to these general rules.

Supervisor discretion to authorize remote work arrangements

As was the case before the pandemic, supervisors will continue to have discretion to authorize remote work arrangements under section 4.11 of the employee handbook.

  • The university will continue to take a decentralized approach to remote work arrangements. Some offices will allow remote work while others will not. Some employees will work remotely while others with similar job duties will not.
  • As set forth above, remote work is generally not appropriate for supervisors, non-exempt employees, probationary employees, and employees whose job duties include face-to-face interaction with students, regular participation in in-person meetings or interactions on campus or in the community, or office reception.
  • When authorized, remote work must be fully work in accordance with an employee’s job description. Remote work should not include childcare or other attendant care responsibilities. The university’s expectations for employees working remotely will be the same as expectations for similarly situated employees working from campus.
  • The university’s remote work policy envisions regular, scheduled, structured remote work arrangements. Remote work is not appropriate for irregular, unscheduled, or unstructured situations. Remote work arrangements should typically include specified days and times that an employee will work from campus and other specified days and times that an employee will work remotely.
  • The university’s remote work policy envisions working from an appropriate remote work environment. This environment should ensure productivity, professionalism, accessibility to co-workers, minimal distractions, and protection of private or confidential information.
  • Supervisors should consider job duties, market conditions, an employee’s likelihood of success when working remotely, the availability of an appropriate remote work environment (including equipment), and other relevant factors when deciding whether to authorize remote work.
  • If a supervisor authorizes remote work, they must ensure that employees have the necessary hardware and software to effectively work remotely. All employees working remotely must utilize the features of the university’s phone system to remotely receive calls made to their university phone number.
  • The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires covered employers to provide reasonable accommodation to employees with disabilities, unless doing so would cause undue hardship. If an employee is seeking an accommodation to work remotely, they must initiate the interactive accommodations process by contacting the Deputy Compliance Officer at JuliaHolmes@missouristate.eduor (417) 836-6755. Supervisors should not informally authorize remote work as a disability accommodation outside the formal accommodations process. In light of the significant decrease in new infections and expected vaccine availability, all COVID-19 accommodations (including instances where remote work has been approved as a formal accommodation) are anticipated to terminate effective June 30, 2021. Employees may initiate, or reinitiate, the interactive accommodations process if they are seeking COVID-19 accommodations after that date.
  • Remote work by employees who are utilizing continuous (as opposed to intermittent) family medical leave (“FMLA”) is not legally permissible.

Leave and flex time options

Remote work is not an appropriate alternative to leave or flex time. The university’s leave policies can be found in section 7 of the employee handbook. The university’s flex time policies can be found in section 4.6 of the employee handbook.

  • If an employee needs to be off campus to attend to personal matters (e.g., provide childcare, attend to an illness or medical condition, let a worker into their house, travel for leisure, etc.), they should take leave or discuss flex time options with their supervisor.
  • As was the case before the pandemic, supervisors are encouraged to be flexible with employees when attending to personal matters from time-to-time. If an employee needs to be home to provide childcare, meet a worker at their home, or attend to another personal matter, supervisors should generally allow the employee to perform their work duties from home to the extent practicable, and deduct the time they worked from their leave taken for the day. These situations are not formal remote work arrangements as contemplated by the university’s remote work policy. Rather, they are examples of the flexibility supervisors should consider providing to employees when practicable and when employees have not demonstrated a propensity for taking advantage of this kind of flexibility.
  • For example, if an employee who works a regular schedule spends an hour participating in a virtual meeting, 30 minutes responding to emails, 30 minutes taking phone calls, and the remainder of the day attending to personal matters, the employee should take 6 hours of leave (as opposed to a full 8 hours).