Telecommuting: What to Know (March Update)

Updated 3/8/2021

On Wednesday, March 3, Vivian Fernandez sent out a message that extends the relaxation of rules around telecommuting until April 30, 2021. This is a welcome respite, but it contradicts what she told us in January: that telecommuting would be extended to May 31.

We continue to expect telecommuting to be extended through May 31.  We will also advocate for a safe reopening and repopulation at the appropriate time.

If you currently have a telecommuting agreement, then there is no change. If your manager attempts to change to your work schedule, and there is a request for additional in-person work, ask your manager, “what has changed operationally?”. This is not the time to let our guard down, and we will continue to fight for to keep you healthy and safe.

Steps to protect your rights:

You do not need to reapply for a telecommuting arrangement that was already approved and on file.  Continue to work according to that plan.

  1. If you are told to return to in-person work ask your supervisor: “what is the operational need?”  Important: make sure you get a response in writing. Some managers try to avoid this question and instead explain to you all of the safety measures in place on campus. Continue to insist on a response to only this question.
  2. If there is no true critical operational need for in-person work, contact us immediately.  Your supervisor does not have total discretion to force you to return if your work truly can be performed remotely.
  3. If there is a critical need for in-person work, make sure the safety measures are appropriate.  If not, you should object to working under unsafe conditions.
  4. If you have a medical or family reason for not working in-person (and there is actually a critical need for in-person work), request a flexible work hours arrangement that includes telecommuting or a leave request.  Important: this should be your last option.  Attempt steps 1 through 4 first.

If you are requested to return to work in person and there is no operational need to do so, please contact us to help. This is particularly impactful as parents of school age students will require greater flexibility as K‑12 schools reopen.

COVID Updates — Week of January 18

Using the NJ Family Leave Act instead of your PTO for care of your children

Trying to understand management’s insistence on using our earned sick leave to address COVID — related child care?

Here are some tips from Yarrow Willman-Cole, former URA member and an advocate at NJ Citizen Action, about entitlements that may help us:

Workers may also apply for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance or PUA for this same reason. Here are the recommended tips for how to apply for the expanded Unemployment Insurance, Pandemic Unemployment Assistance or PUA. 


1.Inform your employer in writing that you plan to apply for unemployment assistance for a PUA reason. Note: this is good practice but is not required by law. You can refer them to Updated Information for Employers & Businesses

2.To apply for PUA, you first apply for regular unemployment insurance benefits. Per federal rules you need to be found ineligible for traditional unemployment benefits, which means you need to apply and be denied, and then NJDOL will contact you and assess you for PUA. It could take several weeks to process your application.

3. Apply for Unemployment by following the COVID-19 certification guide.

You can see much of the above discussed on the NJ Department of Labor website. 

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act, or FFCRA, mentioned in the website has expired and is not being granted by most employers currently. PUA was also set to expire on Dec. 31, 2020 but was extended 11 weeks into 2021 currently.

COVID UPDATES — Week of January 11

COVID Testing Expansion

After much persuasion from unions, primarily URA, Rutgers has expanded the protocols of testing for COVID-19 to include people who are reporting to work in person. In order to be eligible, you must be regularly scheduled on campus at least once a week for operational needs.

You must receive an email and fill out the form (long form first time and short form subsequently) on their platform to make an appointment to be tested. You can also choose to be tested independently using a PCR test and upload your negative results to the platform.

Please notify us if you haven’t received an email for testing but are expected to report to work regularly at union@ura-aft.org.

Using PTO time for COVID-19 Reasons

The change in Rutgers policy to use your Paid Time Off (PTO) time for COVID-19 reasons has begun. We are still advocating for management to reconsider implementing the COVID Paid Leave program from last March.

If your supervisor is not approving your use of PTO time for any COVID related reason, quarantining, care for a COVID positive person, or remote learning for your school aged child, please reach out to us immediately so we can help.

We will advocate for you and help resolve the issue. Use of PTO time can be used in conjunction with your telecommuting agreement.

Local 1766