Employee FAQs on COVID-19

Posted Saturday, March 14, 2020 at 11:09 p.m.

Answers to the following set of frequently asked questions, based on answers prepared by Minnesota Management and Budget (MMB), are important for you to have:

What measures is the university taking to minimize the spread of COVID-19 and protect employee health?

  • Minnesota State and Metropolitan State University have cancelled all gatherings that involve 100 or more participants to minimize contact that may spread COVID-19.
  • Cleaning staff on the Dayton’s Bluff campus have increased their attention to “high touch” areas such as door handles, faucets and flush handles. Facilities staff is working with our host campuses in Minneapolis and Brooklyn Park and with our landlord in Midway to assure that increased cleanliness is maintained in our facilities.
  • Sanitizing wipes and hand sanitizer have been distributed to offices and classrooms and dispensers of hand sanitizer are located throughout our facilities. As concerns about COVID-19 have mounted throughout the United States, it has been challenging to get sufficient supplies of these items. As supplies are received they are being distributed.
  • We are asking supervisors to make plans for more telework by employees. These discussions will be occurring over the next week. For those who will be on campus we are making sure that appropriate physical distancing can be maintained and encouraging the use of ZOOM meetings.
  • We are following the Chancellor’s direction to move all courses to remote instruction.

May a supervisor ask an employee who is returning to work whether they have travelled to a region that is affected by COVID-19 or whether they could possibly have been exposed to the virus during travel?

Yes, supervisors may inquire about whether an employee has traveled to a COVID-19 affected region or about possible exposure to the virus during travel. However, if these inquiries are made, they must be directed to all employees known or believed to have recently traveled to these areas; such inquires cannot be directed only to employees of certain races, ethnicities, national origins, or other protected categories.

Can an employee who has traveled recently be required to stay home for 14 days?

Under CDC guidelines, anyone who has traveled from or through an area with a Level 3 Travel Health designation can be required to stay home. As of March 13, Level 3 designated countries included China, Iran, South Korea and all continental European countries. If the CDC guidance indicates you should stay home but you are otherwise able to work, supervisors will work with you to consider alternative or flexible work options that allow you to work from home.

What if an employee has traveled within the United States or from or through other countries not on the Level 3 Travel Health list?

Discuss your travels with your supervisor to determine if social distancing is advisable and a work from home option is available.

What happens if the Minnesota Department of Health or my physician prohibits me from reporting to work?

If you are ill and unable to work, even with an alternative or flexible work option, continue to follow normal policies and procedures for leave under your collective bargaining agreement or compensation plan. Additionally, the university must continue to follow normal policies and procedures for Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and other leave. Under updated guidance from MMB, FMLA paperwork must be completed after 4 days of continuous illness.

How much information may a supervisor request from an employee who reports feeling ill at work or who calls in sick?

Supervisors may ask employees who report feeling ill at work or who call in sick if they are experiencing symptoms associated with COVID-19. Remember, all information about employee illness must be maintained as a confidential medical record in compliance with the ADA.

What should you do if you have been confirmed to have COVID-19?

Get the information to the CHRO as soon as possible or report via the web form at https://www.metrostate.edu/COVID. The CHRO will consult with the appropriate State of Minnesota department to determine appropriate steps to take.

May an employee take leave from work when the request is based on a perceived threat of exposure to COVID-19 from other employees?

We understand that your fears and anxieties about illness are heightened at this time. You can discuss an alternative or flexible work arrangement with your supervisor, but if such an arrangement is not possible, you may request time off from work using normal leave policies and procedures. If these anxieties are interfering with your ability to work and carry out other life activities, please remember that the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is a free, confidential counseling service available to you. Please see more details of EAP at: https://mn.gov/mmb/segip/health-and-wellbeing/eap/eap-work-life.jsp

What can employees who are concerned about potential exposure to COVID-19 do to maintain their own health?

Follow the same precautions used to avoid contracting colds, influenza, or other infectious diseases. These precautions include staying home when sick, washing hands, covering coughs and sneezes, and not touching your face. Please see the CDC website for prevention recommendations: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/downloads/workplace-school-and-home-guidance.pdf

Will HR be sending FMLA paperwork to employees if they miss more than 4 days of work due to COVID-19?

Yes. Make sure you keep Human Resources informed so paperwork can be sent.

If schools or daycares are closed, can I take leave to take care of my children?

Under current rules, you are not eligible to use sick leave for childcare, unless caring for an ill child. You may be able to use accrued vacation leave or comp time, or take unpaid leave, but must follow normal policies and procedures to request and receive approval for leave use.

What if someone is exhibiting COVID-19-like symptoms in the workplace and refuses to go home?

The employee will be treated the same as any other employee who displays symptoms of a contagious disease. After consulting with the CHRO, supervisors may send employees home who display symptoms of contagious diseases, as long as all employees who display such symptoms are being treated similarly.

We strongly encourage all employees who are sick to stay home; all regular leave policies apply. If the employee is well enough to work, the supervisor can establish work from home assignments. For this reason, anyone with a laptop should take their laptop home with them every day.