Takeaway: If you are being asked to work on campus when your work can be done remotely or in unsafe conditions, the union has provided official language you can use to invoke your contractual right to refuse to put yourself at risk.
It’s the union’s position that anyone who can work remotely, should be permitted to work remotely. On March 25, Senior Vice President for Research & Economic Development, David Kimball, reaffirmed this in no uncertain terms “Research and research related activities that can be performed remotely, must be performed remotely until further notification.”
Kimball went on to explicitly identify what is meant by critical research that may still be on-going on campus:
- COVID-19 related research, both clinical and non-clinical;
- Ongoing clinical research that is key to the health and safety of the patients;
- Other research activities deemed to be critical by the Vice Chancellor of Research and endorsed by the Chancellor and Senior Vice President of Research (Examples: laboratory or field work where discontinuation would result in loss of significant time-series data and samples; work that is directly related to national security; work to maintain rare genotypes in animal research, etc.).
As these expectations are being implemented there continues to be some confusion about who should be working on campus and under what conditions. For anyone who is still required to work on campus, but believes the conditions to be unsafe, you should raise your concerns with your supervisor. You also have a contractual right to refuse to work in unsafe working conditions.
We would like to recommend that you take the following steps to document you work expectations at this time:
- Email your supervisor to clarify that you are expected to be on campus and not permitted to work remotely, despite Rutgers policy. Hopefully your supervisor will comply with the university’s guidelines and allow you to work remotely,
- If they persist, and you would like to invoke your right to refuse, we have provided appropriate language to help communicate it to your supervisor.
Due to the COVID-19 public health crisis and pursuant to Executive Order 103, declaring a State of Emergency and a Public Health Emergency, Executive Order 107 directing all non-essential employees to stay home and if possible work from home,,Article 20 of the parties’ collective agreement which prohibits the University from requiring members to work under conditions that pose “an imminent danger to health and safety” and the New Jersey Public Employee’s Occupational Safety and Health Act (PEOSHA) which provides that it is the responsibility of all public employers to provide a place of employment “free from recognized hazards which may cause serious injury, physical harm or death,” I hereby refuse to place my health and safety at imminent risk, to violate the Governor’s Executive Orders and to compromise the public’s health by continuing to report to work and perform non-essential duties.
We understand that research is important. But it’s not more important than the health and safety of you, of your family, or your colleagues. As we come to terms with what living through a pandemic means, we urge everyone to take the step back to consider what is essential and to not push yourself into dangerous situations driven by a need to continue at all costs or to meet deadlines. If you believe you are being asked to work in such a situation or want to check in with your union, you are encouraged to contact Jacob Chaffin at firstname.lastname@example.org and Damon Fillman at email@example.com
Rutgers AAUP-AFT Graduate Steering Committee