Employee Return to Campus

Why is the College requiring employees to return to campus?

Governor McMaster’s executive order mandates that all state agencies expeditiously return all non-essential employees and staff to the workplace on a full-time basis. As a public agency of the state of South Carolina, the College of Charleston is complying with this directive. 

How will this impact class learning modalities such as online synchronous?

The learning modalities in place for spring 2021 and summer 2021 will not change as a result of the governor’s executive order. In-person, hybrid and online courses will continue to be delivered as they have been throughout the spring semester. 

What is the College's phased-in return-to-campus-to-work plan?

Below is a general outline and summary of what the state approved for our phased-in approach:  

During the Week of March 15 

  • 50-60% of workforce back on campus 
  • The College will bring back all supervisors and those necessary to plan for and make certain campus spaces are ready for a full complement of employees. 
  • Additionally, the College will bring back employees who can easily maintain 6 feet social distance and do not have any other barriers to returning (i.e., serious health risks, childcare). 
  • This phase does not include employees who are seeking medical-related temporary accommodations or have childcare concerns as detailed below. Employees who are seeking a temporary accommodation related to their medical condition(s) should complete the Temporary Accommodation Request to Work Remotely FormPlease refer to the FAQs for additional details on the accommodation requirement. 
  • Meetings that have been virtual will remain virtual in order to accommodate social distancing.  

 

During the Week of March 29 

  • 75% of workforce back on campus 
  • Employees who have not applied for a temporary accommodation to work remotely based on their own medical condition are expected to return to campus. 
  • Those employees without childcare concerns are expected to return to campus. Employees with childcare concerns should be working on making other arrangements and may continue to work remotely. 
  • Meetings that have been virtual will remain virtual in order to accommodate social distancing. 

 

During the Week of April 5 

  • 80–90% of workforce back on campus 
  • All employees who have not received a temporary formal accommodation to work remotely are back on campus. 
  • All employees will return to campus who have been permitted to work remotely due to pre-school or school-age children whose daycare or school is not operating on a full-time or in-person schedule.  
  • Childcare barriers will need to be addressed and, therefore (per direction from the state’s Department of Administration), a lack of childcare is no longer a reason to remain in a remote working status. 
  • Meetings that have been virtual will remain virtual in order to accommodate social distancing. 

  

During the Week of April 26 

  • 90–100% of workforce back on campus 
  • Only those employees with approved accommodations may continue in a remote work status. 
  • Employees with telecommuting arrangements formally approved in accordance with the Telecommuting Policy prior to March 5, 2021, may continue to work in a remote status. Per the directive of the South Carolina Department of Administration, the College is temporarily suspending the approval of any new requests for telecommuting arrangements. 
  • Meetings that have been virtual will remain virtual throughout the spring and summer in order to accommodate social distancing. 

  

Faculty and Instruction 

  • Class schedule and teaching modality do not change for spring 2021. 
  • The College currently has 36% of its sections entirely online and 64% in hybrid and in-person. 

Are faculty who have been teaching fully or partly online expected to return to campus?

In an effort to minimize any disruption to the academic progress of our students and to maintain continuity of instruction, faculty are not expected to change their current teaching routines for the spring 2021 semester. For fall semester 2021, the College expects to return to normal operations, and faculty will report to their on-campus work locations in the same manner in which they did prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

When do I need to return to campus?

The College anticipates returning all employees back to campus in a phased manner over the next few weeks, with the goal of returning the vast majority of employees to campus on a full-time basis by April 5, 2021. 

I’ve been working remotely, remaining productive and responsive without any issues. Why do I need to come back to campus to do my job?

According to the South Carolina Department of Administration, except for those employees working under approved telecommuting agreements prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, it should be considered an essential job function for employees to be in the workplace. 

There are still positive COVID-19 cases in the community and vaccines are not yet available to all. How will the College protect the health and safety of employees?

The governor’s executive order allows agencies and institutions to continue to take measures to reduce the likelihood of COVID-19 transmission in the workplace including, but not limited to, requiring employees to wear masks, reminding employees to wash hands frequently, maintaining directional signs to manage the flow of people in the buildings, disinfecting high-touch surfaces and directing employees to stay home when they are not feeling well. 

The College’s requirements for wearing masks and maintaining social distancing remain in effect. 

What can managers and department heads do to mitigate occupational risk of exposure to COVID-19 for their employees?

Continue to identify ways to modify the workplace to the extent possible to promote the safety of employees. Examples include: 

  • Offering staggered start times to mitigate the congregation of employees at points of ingress/egress.   
  • Spreading out workstations to increase the distance between work areas.   
  • Utilizing common space (e.g., conference rooms) as temporary worksites for some employees to promote social distancing  
  • Installing additional sneeze guards or plexiglass barriers. 

Does the expectation to return to the workplace on campus apply to those with medical conditions?

Yes. However, state agencies and institutions, including the College of Charleston, are still expected to follow the Americans with Disabilities Act, as amended, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), and other federal and state laws. The College will also consider medical conditions identified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that place an individual at a higher risk of severe illness from the COVID-19 virus. 

For example, if an employee has a disability (e.g., congestive heart failure) that the CDC identifies as placing the individual at higher risk for severe illness resulting from the COVID-19 virus, the employee can contact the College’s Office of Equal Opportunity Programs to request a temporary reasonable accommodation to work remotely until the individual has had an opportunity to be vaccinated. The CDC’s website provides a list of conditions that place an individual at a higher risk of severe illness from the COVID-19 virus.  

Employees who are seeking a temporary accommodation related to their medical condition(s) should complete the Temporary Accommodation Request to Work Remotely Form prior to March 29th. Employees seeking a temporary accommodation must submit medical documentation from their healthcare provider which establishes the medical condition and related need for the temporary remote work accommodation. For example, a note from your healthcare provider that states that you have one of the medical conditions identified by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) that places you at an increased risk of severe illness from the virus that causes COVID-19 and recommends that you continue working remotely until you are vaccinated is sufficient. Please do not submit specific medical information to your supervisor; instead, submit all medical documentation to the Office of Equal Opportunity Programs.

The Office of Equal Opportunity Programs anticipates having provisional responses to employees who submit this form within three business days of receipt of the request. If you have not received a response within this time, please contact the Office of Equal Opportunity Programs at 843.953.5754 or eop@cofc.edu 

 

Employees who are seeking leave under the FMLA, please contact the Office of Human Resources at 843.953.5512 or humanresources@cofc.edu. 

Each request for a temporary accommodation will be handled on a case-by-case basis. 

Is an employee expected to report to the workplace if a family member or household resident is at higher risk for severe illness from the COVID-19 virus?

Yes. According to the South Carolina Department of Administration, the Americans with Disabilities Act does not apply when the individual with a disability is a family member or household resident of the employee. Qualifying employees may be eligible for leave pursuant to the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) if they need to care for a family member with a serious health condition. Requests for FMLA leave will need to be made by the employee and processed in accordance with federal law and agency policy. 

If the childcare center or school for the child of an employee is not open to in-person learning full time, is the employee expected to report to the workplace?

Yes. According to the South Carolina Department of Administration, all employees are expected to return to the workplace full time as outlined in the return to campus plan. Employees with childcare situations were granted additional time in the plan to identify childcare solutions. Employees in this category are expected to return to work on campus during the week of April 5th.

Please know that campus leadership understands and sympathizes with those parents who had elected for the 100% virtual/remote option for their K-12 students this school year and how they may now feel stuck between a rock and a hard place.  

Thanks to long-standing partnerships between the College's School of Education, Health, and Human Performance and our local public school districts, campus leadership continues to work with our Tri-county superintendents to address this issue.

If you need assistance converting a K-12 student from a virtual learning environment to face-to-face instruction so that you may return to campus, please contact President Hsu's office at president@cofc.edu. President Hsu's team will work with you to identify the right point of contact within your specific school district. 

 

What resources are available to help employees with child care issues?

Visit the South Carolina Child Care Resource and Referral website or call a CCR&R referral specialists at 888-335-1002 to obtain personalized child care information and regionally based provider lists.

Additional child care resources are available through the Deer Oaks Employee Assistance Program website (For username and password, login to MyCharleston: Employee Tab / Employee Services / Deer Oaks). On the EAP website, select the "Parenting" tab, then "Child Care"  from the drop-down menu. Or call Deer Oaks EAP at 866-327-2400.

 

Also, if you need assistance converting a K-12 student from a virtual learning environment to face-to-face instruction so that you may return to campus, please contact President Hsu's office at president@cofc.edu. President Hsu's team will work with you to identify the right point of contact within your specific school district. 

If an employee has had close contact with a COVID-19 case and/or is symptomatic, will the College still require the employee to quarantine?

Yes. All guidelines regarding isolation and quarantine are still applicable.  

If an employee is required to quarantine based on the College’s or S.C. DHEC’s guidance, the College has discretion to allow the employee to telework during the period of quarantine if the employee can perform his or her job functions remotely. Managers have the sole discretion to determine whether to permit telework while an employee is quarantining. If an employee is permitted to telework while quarantining, the College must return the employee back to the workplace immediately upon completion of the quarantine period. 

Can I submit a request for myself or one of my direct reports for a telecommuting agreement under the College’s telecommuting policy?

The College of Charleston, per the directive of the South Carolina Department of Administration, is temporarily suspending the approval of any new requests for telecommuting arrangements. Any telecommuting agreements that were formally approved per the Telecommuting Policy and in place prior to March 5, 2021, will be honored. 

I did not purchase a parking permit for the 2020-2021 academic year or I purchased a part-time parking permit because I thought I would be working remotely this semester. How do I obtain a permit or exchange a part-time permit for a regular permit?

Employees who need to buy a permit or exchange a part-time permit for a regular permit should go to Campus Services HQ at 162 Calhoun Street. Our hours are Monday-Friday, 8:30 a.m. - 5 p.m. If you are unable to come in before you return to the office and would like for us to set aside a permit for you, please notify us by email at campusservices@cofc.edu.

Please park in one of the parking garages or metered spaces (normal fees and rates will apply) to get your pass and then you may move your car after you get your permit. Reminder: Permits are required in all College of Charleston surface lots. Vehicles parked without a permit will be subject to ticketing.

Available permits will be issued or reserved on a first come, first served basis to employees. Permit prices will be pro-rated based on date of issuance. We have filled parking spaces in surface lots that became vacant in August when some employees opted to not renew their permits for the 2020-2021 academic year. If an employee chose not to renew their permit in August and now requires parking, their new lot/garage assignment will be made on a space-available basis.

Do College of Charleston employees qualify for the COVID-19 vaccine under Phase 1b of South Carolina’s vaccination plan?

Yes. It is the College’s interpretation of the state’s 1b guidelines that College employees are essential personnel who must be in close contact with others to perform their work duties. 

Are employees required to use their leave to receive vaccinations?

Employees are encouraged to be vaccinated during lunch breaks, outside of work hours or on-site, if available. Divisions are encouraged to be flexible to allow employees the opportunity to obtain the vaccine when it becomes available.

If an employee is unable to receive the vaccine during non-work hours or to make up the work time missed to receive the vaccine, the employee will be required to use sick leave, annual leave or compensatory time for their time away from work.

With employees returning to work, how should offices handle in-person visitors?

Having in-person visitors really depends on the office based on space and flow. For smaller areas that are not conducive to in-person meetings, continuing to see students virtually both meets Governor McMaster’s mandate and maintains safety until more people are vaccinated. For those offices where having people drop in poses a problem, the office should have signage on the door with who to contact for assistance.

If someone has been fully vaccinated, can they be approved, through the temporary health accommodation process, to continue working remotely full-time?

No. The temporary health accommodation process applies to employees with underlying medical conditions that place them at an increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19. Employees with these underlying medical conditions who are voluntarily seeking vaccination may apply for a temporary accommodation that allows them to temporarily continue working remotely while they are being fully vaccinated.

When is an employee considered “fully vaccinated?”

According to current information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “people are considered fully vaccinated: 2 weeks after their second dose in a 2-dose series, like the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or 2 weeks after a single-dose vaccine, like Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine.”

What if I am pregnant and need an accommodation but am not seeking to be vaccinated?

The College has an accommodation process for employees based on medical needs caused by pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions. Please contact the Office of Equal Opportunity Programs, and they will work with you on a case-by-case basis to identify an accommodation, as needed.  

What if I have a medical condition and need an accommodation other than that provided through the temporary health accommodation process?

The College has an accommodation process for employees with disabilities. Please contact the Office of Equal Opportunity Programs, and they will work with you on a case-by-case basis to identify an accommodation, as needed.     

What options do employees have if they are having difficulties complying with the return to work on campus guidelines?

Employees should speak to their supervisor or department head about any issues or concerns regarding compliance with the guidelines. Supervisors can work with employees where possible on flexible scheduling options, or discuss the possibility of using sick leave or annual leave for times when the employee cannot be working on campus. Any exceptional circumstances may be addressed by consulting with the division head and Human Resources.