Last updated October 27, 2023
We continue to face a fluid and dynamic situation for health and safety, with new questions and concerns arising as time goes on. Below, we have answered some of the questions we hear most frequently about general health and safety, COVID-19, building maintenance, and classroom security. If your concern is not addressed here, or if you have additional comments or questions about health and safety, please email email@example.com.
General Health and Safety
Can the union ensure that I have a safe working environment?
The Rutgers AAUP-AFT agreement with the University contains robust language to protect your health and safety. Article 20 ensures that “No negotiations unit member shall be required to work under conditions where there has been a determination, on a reasonable basis in fact, that those conditions pose an imminent danger to health and safety. It shall be the responsibility of the University to make such determinations as rapidly as possible.” [Note: this link goes to Article 20 from our old contract. We will link to the completed new contract as soon as it is available.] If you believe your working conditions are putting your health and safety in danger, contact your union immediately by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
I have concerns about safety and conditions at my work site. What are my options?
The first thing you should do is contact the union and discuss your options with a member of the Contract Enforcement Team. There are several reporting avenues available, and the union can help you determine what may be most effective in finding a resolution. To contact a union representative, email email@example.com.
If I have a medical condition that requires extended time off, what are my protections?
A department or unit is required to notify Human Resources if a unit member has indicated a warranted need for a leave of absence because of their own serious health condition, to care for a family member, and/or related to the New Jersey SAFE Act (a leave available to address circumstances resulting from domestic violence or a sexually violent offense). Human Resources will make a determination as to whether the unit member is eligible under the federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), the New Jersey Family Leave Act (NJFLA), the New Jersey SAFE Act, and/or any other applicable law, and, if so, designate the leave under the applicable law(s).
All paid time off must be used (including, if applicable, sick time or sick leave, closed ranks, and/or vacation) simultaneously with any unpaid statutory leave. If a unit member’s available paid time is exhausted, the remaining statutory leave time shall be unpaid.
We encourage you to bring any questions with regard to closed ranks and accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and/or the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD) to the union’s attention. Our staff can assist in finding answers related to statutory leave requirements and help navigate a very complicated landscape of laws related to federal- and state-sanctioned leaves.
What does “closing of ranks” mean?
“Closed ranks” is available to faculty members who are experiencing short-term illnesses or disabilities and are unable to meet their obligations for a period of time, normally up to one semester. Unlike other types of employees, faculty do not accumulate sick-leave benefits; closed ranks simply means that the department or unit will figure out a way to cover the duties of a faculty member who temporarily cannot fulfill them due to illness. This is accomplished most frequently by asking a colleague to step in or hiring an adjunct lecturer. Faculty members who are experiencing an illness and unable to meet their duties should have a conversation with their chairperson or director as soon as practical in advance of needed coverage.
If there are multiple cases of COVID-19 in my class, do I have the option of holding classes remotely for a week or two?
If you have a concern related to COVID-19, such as a large number of positive cases among your students, and you want to temporarily hold your classes remotely, we suggest making a request to your chair. Chancellors have been advised to be flexible with reasonable and temporary COVID-19 related remote requests.
I have a medical condition that puts me in the “high risk” or “immunocompromised” category, and I want to work remotely. What can I do?
You’re entitled to seek reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). At Rutgers, this requires both the employer and a certifying physician to submit an Accommodation Request: Medical Inquiry Form and return it to firstname.lastname@example.org. Submitting a request does not guarantee that the university will grant a remote work accommodation, but they are legally required to engage in an interactive process to determine how the additional needs of employees with a disability or medical condition can be met while performing their work obligations. The university also faces the burden of proving that not granting an accommodation presents undue hardship to the department.
I have a high risk/immunocompromised family member. Can I seek remote accommodation on this basis?
Unfortunately, the administration is not under the same ADA obligations to accommodate employees who have a household member who is immunocompromised. We hope that Rutgers will do the right thing to help its employees protect the lives of their family members. In the meantime, you should contact your department with your concerns and request continued remote work. If your department is unsupportive of your concerns, contact the union for assistance at email@example.com.
How can I seek a religious or medical exemption from the Covid-19 vaccine mandate?
Employees seeking a medical exemption can download and complete a medical exemption request form and submit it to CovidMedicalExemption@rbhs.rutgers.edu. Those seeking a religious exemption can download and complete a religious exemption request form and submit it to CovidReligiousExemption@rbhs.rutgers.edu. More information about exemption requests can be found in the current covered individuals vaccine mandate policy.
Are there job protections for anyone who requires time off because they have contracted COVID-19?
Under New Jersey law, employers cannot impose discipline or termination, nor subject an employee to any form of discrimination, if they require time away to quarantine or seek testing due to COVID-19. It is important to note that employees must be able to produce a note from a medical professional instructing them to quarantine or seek testing.
If I become ill with COVID-19, will I have to use my accrued paid time off (PTO)? What about if I need to care for a child or family member with COVID-19?
Many of the federal programs that supplemented income for an employee requiring time away from work due to COVID expired at the end of 2020. The current Rutgers policy requires an employee to use their own PTO (including, if applicable, sick time or sick leave, close ranks, and vacation) in the event of a required COVID leave. We are working with the administration to determine if an alternative policy can be reached. Federal policy may also change.
If you require time away from work to care for a family member, you can always take leave under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which provides for up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave. You can find out more about leaves in Article 16 of the Rutgers AAUP-AFT agreement with Rutgers. It’s possible you may also qualify for New Jersey’s Family Leave insurance program. The New Jersey Department of Labor has an online eligibility tool to determine what protections and benefits may apply to your circumstances.
The temperature in my building is too hot or too cold to work or hold classes safely. Is there anything the union can do to get this fixed?
The first thing you should do is contact facilities and submit a work order request. The Coalition of Rutgers Unions (CRU) Health and Safety MoA addresses this specifically as follows:
In cases of complaints filed with University Facilities regarding temperatures below or above the indoor work environment range recommended by PEOSHA—68 degrees to 79 degrees—the University shall initiate corrective action. If the University is unable to provide a workplace within the temperature range recommended by PEOSHA, at the discretion of the employees’ department head or designee, employees may be permitted to work from an alternate University location or work remotely. However, if a determination is made that the workplace temperature is unsafe or unhealthy, the University will immediately initiate remedial action, including relocating employees or permitting remote work.
Contact the union at firstname.lastname@example.org if you need additional assistance getting a timely facilities response and/or an alternate workspace or remote work.
I have a different maintenance or sanitation problem at a building on campus. What should I do?
If you have problems that need to be addressed right away, contact the Facilities service call center at 848-445-1234. Contact email@example.com if you are not getting a response or if you’d like the assistance of the union in addressing a problem.
I have concerns about the security of my classroom. What security measures have been implemented, and who can I contact if I have concerns?
The Rutgers administration has committed to improving the security of our classrooms in the face of the threat of mass school shootings. Each classroom will be individually assessed, with the goal of having doors that can be from the inside in the event of an active shooter for every classroom. The administration says this effort has been underway for more than a year and should be complete during this current academic year.
If you have concerns related to your facilities, lighting, lock, alarm, or access control, you can contact the Facilities service call center at 848-445-1234. You can also email firstname.lastname@example.org for concerns related to locks, alarms, access control issues. Please also check Emergency Notification System information page to verify that your contact information in the emergency notification system is correct. You can click here for Active Shooter Resources published by the university. Note that the “Community Education” section explains how to identify an outreach representative for your campus and arrange for a personalized active shooter education for your department.