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. 

FEMOA and Deferred Raises

In last Friday’s paycheck, many of you should have seen an increase in your pay.

For state-funded employees, this new rate includes the deferred 3% raise contracted for July 1, 2020 and the difference (retro) from July, 1, 2021-August 62021, due to the delay of Rutgers’ implementation of payment. For state-funded employees, the July 1, 2021 raise of 2.5% is deferred and will be paid in March 2022. 

Our 100% grant or contract funded employees received their 3% increase effective July 1, 2020 and retro for the period of July 1, 2020-August 6, 2021 in August 6, 2021 paycheck. We learned last Thursday that Rutgers has delayed the payment of the additional 2.5% raise effective July 1, 2021 until the August 20thpaycheck. Those who are eligible should receive an additional 2.5% and the retro from July 1, 2021- August 20, 2021. Grant and contract funded employees are funded from external sources that should not be “subject to” the fiscal emergency language invoked due to the reduction in state appropriations. Their raises should have never been delayed but for Rutgers’ desire for more profit. 

In order to confirm that you have received your proper pay, go to Employee Services and check your paystub. Please do the math and verify that the amount is correct.

Also, check Compensation History to see your new rate of pay. Verify that the amount is correctly calculated. While you are looking at your paystub, if you had chosen to change your health insurance plan during the special open enrollment period that URA fought for in May, you should see a reduction in the cost of your benefits. 

Additionally, if you purchased your parking permit, deductions may have begun for that payment. All of these changes to your paycheck may not be immediately evident but are happening in a short period of time. I encourage you to verify every change so we can assist if there are corrections that need to be made. 

My Office A/C is Broken, Now What?”

Here’s what you should do if you are forced to work in extreme indoor temperatures:

  1. Immediately report the issue to REHS and make a facilities work order
  2. Notify your supervisor that you are reporting a safety violation and object to working under unsafe conditions until the repairs are complete:

    “I object to working under extreme temperatures that deviate from the recommendations of OSHA and PEOSH because it can or has already impacted my health and safety and will cause an eminent continued threat to my wellbeing.  As an alternative, I intend to leave the workplace and continue working remotely if/until the work environment is safe.  Moving forward, working remotely is the safest option until the HVAC is fully operational.”

    Reference: OSHA recommends temperature control in the range of 68–76° F and humidity control in the range of 20%-60%. Rutgers, as a public employer, is required to uphold a general duty of maintaining a workplace free from hazards according to PEOSH. Compliance with the OSHA recommendation will fulfill that duty. Violations may be reported to PEOSH at: https://www.nj.gov/health/workplacehealthandsafety/peosh/compform.shtml.
  1. If you’ve already experienced illness from the extreme heat conditions, notify your supervisor that you are feeling ill and must leave sick for the rest of the day. Request that the absence be precessed though the Occupational Health Department and that you should not be made to use your own sick time.

Local 1766