Last updated April 11, 2022
We continue to face a fluid and dynamic situation for health and safety. New questions and concerns will arise as time goes on, but please review this page carefully for answers to questions we currently know about. If your concern is not addressed here, or if you have additional comments or questions about health and safety, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Click on any of the questions below to see the answers.
What is the current Rutgers policy on testing and contact tracing?
Rutgers still has contact tracers and is still alerting what they define as “close contact” exposure to COVID-19, in accordance with CDC guidance. Unfortunately, the CDC defines exposure as “a minimum of 15 minutes within 6 feet of a person who has COVID-19, without appropriate protection.” The University provided more information on this in their “Navigating Our Classrooms and Student Spaces” document.
Under the current procedure, faculty will not be alerted to positive cases in their classrooms unless their interaction meets the above criteria. We have pushed back on this and will continue to do so. The university justifies not adopting a more conservative policy than the CDC by claiming it will open them up to potential liability concerns for non-compliance with the current standard of care.
What if I have multiple cases of COVID-19 reported to me 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 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.
Does our health insurance cover in-home rapid COVID tests?
Yes. You can get up to eight in-home rapid COVID tests per month for everyone who has OptumRx prescription drug coverage under the State Health Benefits Program (SHBP). Covered family members are also eligible, so a family of four covered under OptumRX could get up to 32 tests per month. The eight-test monthly limit resets on the first day of each month.
You can purchase the tests at any pharmacy, other store, or online retailer. You only need to present your OptumRX card at a Rite Aid Pharmacy, Sam’s Club Pharmacy, or Walmart Pharmacy (OptumRX considers these participating in-network providers), and the tests will be free of charge. If you buy them anywhere else, OptumRX will reimburse you up to $12 per test. To request reimbursement, fill out this online form. Be sure to save your receipts and be prepared to upload them when you fill out the form. We’re hopeful that other pharmacies will be added soon to the list of participating in-network providers, so check here for updates.
I have a medical condition that puts me in the “high risk” or “immunocompromised” category, and I want to continue working 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 email@example.com. 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, feel free to contact the union for assistance at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Is there a supply of vaccines and booster shots at Rutgers? Are booster shots open to the general public or just Rutgers employees?
All three Rutgers campuses have open pod vaccination sites that are open to employees and the general public. They offer vaccines, including various booster doses, daily depending on vaccine history and other factors. Appointments are highly preferred, but walk-ins are also accepted. Camden and Newark have Janssen and Moderna vaccines available. New Brunswick has Pfizer, Moderna, and Janssen vaccines available. Click here for information about making an appointment.
Does Rutgers have a supply of children’s doses, so employees could potentially vaccinate their children 5–12 years old?
The FDA authorized the Pfizer vaccine for children 5–11 years old on October 29. Rutgers is offering Pfizer children’s doses for the general public, but only at the Piscataway vaccine site. Those planning to vaccinate their children at this site should plan to make an appointment in advance.
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.
What if I have been vaccinated but can’t receive the booster due to a recent medical condition (other than COVID-19)?
If you have complied with the vaccine requirement but are unable to receive a booster shot because of other medical conditions or reasons, you should follow the medical exemption procedure detailed in the question above. Please note that a physician must be able to certify the condition that prohibits receiving the additional booster shot.
What enforceable protections are in place for a safe work environment?
Fortunately, the Rutgers AAUP-AFT agreement with the University already contains robust health and safety language. 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.”
I have some concerns about COVID protocols at my work site. What are my options for reporting my concerns?
If you have concerns about your work site, 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.
Some of the reporting options include:
- If an Article 20 Health and Safety violation is identified, you may be able to file a grievance under the Article 9 grievance procedure.
- A Rutgers Observation Reporting Form can be submitted, by a named complainant or anonymously, directly to the university. You should submit this form to report any concerns at all, whether or not you also report these concerns to the union.
- A PEOSH (Public Employees Occupational Safety and Health) Complaint Form) can be submitted—by a named complainant, anonymously, or by the union—directly to the Department of Labor.
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.