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Employment and Human Resources

COVID-19 Employment FAQs

Updated June 19, 2020

Return to Work Guidelines

As part of USM’s response to COVID-19, employee FAQs are provided below.  The University is monitoring the situation closely and reserves the right to alter the arrangements contained in these FAQs as necessary. You are encouraged to check the University's official COVID-19 website regularly in order to keep up to date with latest information. If you have any queries that are not covered by the FAQs, please contact your supervisor or HR Partner for assistance.

The University does not tolerate any forms of discrimination or harassment and wishes to remind all employees, including student workers, that any such behavior as a result of COVID-19 is not acceptable.

Mississippi Department of Employment Security (MDES) posting.

Congress has enacted a new law effective April 1, 2020, called the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.  In response, University Human Resources has updated the Employee Handbook with two new policies:  5.11 Emergency Paid Sick Leave (COVID-19), and 6.14 Expanded FMLA Leave (COVID-19).  The COVID- 19 Employment FAQs below have been updated to reflect these new policies.  A notice of this new law is also available for review.

Faculty/Staff

What if I have symptoms of COVID-19?

You should not report to work if you have symptoms (a fever of 100.4 F or greater along with cough or shortness of breath).  You should report your absence in accordance with your school/unit call-in procedure, even if you are working remotely or on administrative leave.  Absences due to illness or injury of an employee or member of the employee’s immediate family related to COVID-19 should be treated as sick leave.  Use of Emergency Paid Sick Leave (Employee Handbook policy 5.11) may also be a possibility; the attached request form must be submitted to University HR for review and approval.  Please contact your supervisor for more information.

What if I am sick but unable to get a doctor’s appointment or note?

USM is waiving the requirement to provide a doctor’s note for short-term COVID-19 related illnesses during this time. Medical documentation may be required when requesting longer-term sick leave (more than 2 weeks duration), Emergency Paid Sick Leave or other types of FMLA.

What if I need to take care of a family member who has COVID-19 symptoms?

If you have sudden caring responsibilities for a family member, you should report your absence in accordance with your school/unit call-in procedure.  Absences due to illness or injury of an employee or member of the employee’s immediate family related to COVID-19 should be treated as sick leave.  Use of Emergency Paid Sick Leave (Employee Handbook policy 5.11) may also be a possibility; the attached request form must be submitted to University HR for review and approval.  Please contact your supervisor for more information.  Remote or alternate work possibilities may also be discussed with your supervisor. 

Can I continue to work remotely?

USM intends to resume normal business operations in July; therefore, most remote working arrangements should end at that time.  If you have specific issues or concerns to believe remote work might be a possibility for you, please discuss with your supervisor.  You can also submit a request for accommodation through the Office of AA/EEO.

What if my child’s daycare or school closes and I have to stay at home?

If you are unable to work due to caring responsibilities, you should report your absence in accordance with your school/unit call-in procedure.  As long as you have made remote working arrangements with your supervisor, you will not be charged personal leave. You may also be eligible for Expanded FMLA Leave (Employee Handbook policy 6.14) or Emergency Paid Sick Leave (Employee Handbook 5.11); the attached request form must be submitted to University HR for review and approval.  Please contact your supervisor for more information. 

What if I need to self-isolate?

The answer is condition specific.  For instance, if you have been exposed to COVID-19 and have been ordered to self-isolate, these absences will be treated as sick leave.  Use of Emergency Paid Sick Leave (Employee Handbook policy 5.11) may also be a possibility; contact your supervisor to discuss further. 

If you are self-isolating out of personal choice, these absences will be treated as personal leave unless you have made remote working arrangements with your supervisor. 

If you are self-isolating due to underlying medical conditions for yourself or a family member, you should contact Human Resources to explore if FMLA is an option. Otherwise, these absences will be treated as personal leave unless you have made remote working arrangements with your supervisor or received approval from the Office of AA/EEO for a reasonable accommodation.

What if I or a family member am at high risk for the virus?

We encourage you to discuss your situation with your supervisor so that they are aware of your circumstances, can support you appropriately and discuss your personal needs with you as this situation develops.  HR will ask supervisors to work with the individual to agree how they are best protected.  We will address this compassionately on a case-by-case basis considering individual circumstances and current guidance from healthcare officials.

Do I need to complete FMLA paperwork?

We are not requiring FMLA documentation specifically for short-term COVID-19 symptoms. However, if the absence involves hospitalization, more than a 2-week absence, or involves a school/childcare closure, FMLA paperwork should be requested. For other medical conditions unrelated to COVID-19 (such as surgery or pregnancy), our usual FMLA policy will remain in effect.

Can I receive or donate leave for COVID-19?

Per our donating leave policy, the leave must meet the definition of “catastrophic” in order to qualify.  Human Resources will respond to requests on a case by case basis.

Can I continue to take paid administrative leave?

According to the Governor’s Executive Order No. 1495 issued on June 10, 2020, paid administrative leave is no longer available to state employees, effective July 1.  Supervisors are in the process of communicating revised work assignments to employees who were previously scheduled to remain on administrative leave beyond June 30.  If you have specific concerns about your ability to resume normal work expectations by July 1 as assigned by your supervisor, please discuss with your supervisor or contact Human Resources for further guidance. 

I don’t think it’s fair that some people get to work from home or are placed on administrative leave while others have to come to work.

We are seeking to address individual needs consistently during this evolving situation. Some roles simply cannot be performed from home and as long as the University remains open must continue to be performed.  You are encouraged to speak to your supervisor or you may contact Human Resources for further guidance.

Are student workers or other non-benefit eligible employees eligible for any paid time off related to COVID-19?

Possibly.  All employees of the University, including student workers, may be eligible for Expanded FMLA Leave (Employee Handbook policy 6.14) or Emergency Paid Sick Leave (Employee Handbook 5.11).  Contact your supervisor to discuss further.  Note if you have already been told work is not available for you at this time by your supervisor, these policies would not apply, however, you may be eligible for unemployment. 

Have any changes been made to the payroll cycle?

No.  At this time we are operating on our usual payroll cycles.

Are there any special reporting requirements for exempt employees placed on administrative leave who complete monthly time and attendance reports in SOARHR?

No.  Monthly time and attendance reports should be completed by employees and approved by supervisors each month, as usual.

Can exempt employees complete monthly time and attendance report remotely?

Yes, exempt employees can log into SOARHR from remote locations.  Please contact your school/unit timekeeping liaison if you need assistance.

Are non-exempt employees required to complete time sheets in SOARHR if placed on administrative leave?

Yes, hours must be submitted by employees and approved by supervisors according to timelines established on the Biweekly Payroll calendar.  Hours submitted for administrative leave should be reported as “REG”. 

For employees not eligible for administrative leave, a no-time timesheet still needs to be submitted.

Can non-exempt employees submit time sheets remotely?

Yes, non-exempt employees can log into SOARHR from remote locations. Please contact your school/unit timekeeping liaison if you need assistance.

What if I do not have remote access to complete my timesheet?

Please contact your Supervisor. Make sure your Supervisor has the hours you worked including any vacation, sick or compensatory time.

Who should I contact for payroll questions or concerns?

Please send an email to PayrollFREEMississippi

Supervisors


How can I prepare my team for being impacted?

  • Keep up with the alerts the University is posting on the University's official COVID-19 website.
  • Encourage employees to communicate with you if they have special circumstances or needs so you can support them accordingly as the situation develops.
  • Ensure all employees have access to these FAQs.
  • Consider contingency plans such as remote work or flexible schedules to support social distancing.
  • Establish lines of communication to update employees on any operational changes within the school/unit.
  • Remind employees of the importance of treating all people with respect and address any issues of casual discrimination or harassment as a result of COVID-19.
  • Review and follow the workplace guidelines, available from your manager or Human Resources.

What should we do if our school/unit is exposed to COVID-19?

Consult the workplace guidelines, available from your manager or Human Resources, and discuss with your HR Partner.

Can I approve working remotely?

The intention of USM is to resume normal business operations in July.  While there may be times and circumstances that remote work may continue to be appropriate, those decisions must be reviewed and approved by the division VP.

If approved, an Agreement to Work Remotely, which outlines guidelines for remote working arrangements, must be completed, signed and returned to Human Resources for the personnel file. Remote working possibilities will be dependent upon the specific position and school/unit needs and may be denied given the circumstances. Supervisors should also require remote workers to submit a status report of their activities at least weekly, and HR has provided a Remote Work Log for these purposes. Please discuss with your HR Partner if you have questions about the forms/guidelines.

What if it is believed someone is abusing this situation?

We very much hope that this isn’t the case but if you do have concerns please contact your HR Partner.

What do I do if someone is being harassed for their national origin due to COVID-19?

The University does not tolerate any forms of discrimination and harassment so these instances should be reported and addressed immediately. Please contact your HR Partner for advice.

Should I require employees to provide FMLA documentation?

We are not requiring FMLA documentation specifically for short-term COVID-19 symptoms.  However, if the absence involves hospitalization, more than a 2-week absence, or a school/childcare closure, FMLA paperwork should be requested.  For other medical conditions (such as surgery or pregnancy), our usual FMLA policy will remain in effect.

What if I do not have work available for an employee after July 1?

Contact your HR Partner to discuss further. 

What if I do not have work available for my GA/student workers?

Graduate assistants and student workers should not be hired during the summer unless specific work has been identified for them, preferably work that can be done remotely if necessary. Schools/Units should contact the Graduate School or Human Resources to discuss further.

What if an employee does not have remote access to complete their timesheet?

The Supervisor will notify payroll to enter the hours. Payroll will enter the hours and the Supervisor will approve.

Who should I contact for payroll questions or concerns?

Please send an email to PayrollFREEMississippi.

Contact Us

Employment and Human Resources
301 McLemore Hall (MCL)
118 College Dr. #5111
Hattiesburg, MS 39406

Hattiesburg Campus

Campus Map

Email
hrFREEMississippi

Phone
601.266.4050