Can I still telecommute?

In short, yes. 

Telecommuting Policy Relaxation Through December 31, 2021

Our union has pushed for this policy expansion since the pandemic began last year.  However, we’ve received concerns from union members recently about unreasonable supervisors who ignore the policy.  Some supervisors are reasonable but getting pressure from above to restrict your telecommuting or make unreasonable changes.  Here is our recommendation for utilizing the policy:

  1. Quote from Vivian Fernandezmemo: telecommuting “provides flexibility necessary to balance…operational and service needs…with employee well-being”. 
  2. Make a request in writing.  Request the continuation of your current arrangement or propose a new arrangement.  Make sure you say, “I need to telecommute to maintain my well-being.”  Your well-being might be impacted by how you arrange child care, school closures, and quarantining of yourself and household members.  Do not hesitate to request telecommuting if a potential exposure to COVID is suspected.
    Note: you are not making a medical accommodation request under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) which is a separate process that can be reserved for later.
  1. Was your request ignored, delayed or refused?  Ask tough questions in writing. “What is the operational and service reason for your denial?”  “Please explain how you balanced the operational needs against my personal well-being as required by the policy.”  “Do you need any further information from me about why telecommuting is critical to my well-being right now?”  “When will you be providing me with a response in writing?”  If a supervisor says, “we just need you on campus” or “because I said so”, continue asking the tough questions. Do not settle for an unreasonable response.
  1. Is the operational need legitimate? If your supervisor provides a reasonable explanation for why you cannot telecommute, consider: (1) requesting a medical accommodation, (2) requesting telecommuting the usual way—exempt staff always could request telecommuting according to Article 59 of our union contract, or (3) using your own sick time to stay home without working.
  1. Join colleagues to create collective pressure.  Telecommuting can be requested by anyone.  Colleagues can submit a request at the same time, ask the same questions and demand updates together.
  1. If all else fails, union representatives may be able to file a formal grievance on your behalf.  Send information to union@ura-aft.org.  Use Sick, AL or PH days if your situation at home is truly urgent.