10 Aug UICUF Position on Remote/Alternate Work Accommodations
- UICUF Policy Positions on Reopening: UICUF is finalizing positions on ensuring a safe start to the fall semester and the broad resumption of in-person classes, including guidelines on safety, accommodations, and teaching modes.
- Informing Members and Supervisors: We have developed detailed statements intended to inform members and administrators on union positions. We will share them over the next two weeks, delineating current policy as we understand it, our position relative to that policy, and direct advice for faculty navigating these policy areas.
- Position on Accommodations and Alternate Duties: Last year, admin issued guidelines for seeking remote or alternate duty accommodations. Additional options exist through the Office of Access and Equity, which handles requests under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
- Accommodations Position Summary: Seeking accommodation at the unit level is always preferable where possible. It is UIC policy that units should offer maximum flexibility. Accommodations should be discussed in an interactive process, and UICUF will assist if desired.
As we approach the fall 2021 semester, UICUF recognizes that our university community faces many challenges in regard to campus reopening, COVID-19 safety measures, and their impacts on teaching, research, and service. We also recognize that the UIC administration has already established policies to promote campus health and safety while balancing the pursuit of our teaching and research missions as a public R1 university.
UICUF fully supports the vaccine mandate for faculty, staff, and students, and encourages all to register their status with UIC if you have not done so already. We also fully support the requirement that people be masked indoors — even if vaccinated — to help reduce the spread of the Delta variant.
While vaccination is the most effective means of mitigating the effects of COVID-19, UICUF believes it is one of many possible mitigation strategies that the university can and should enact. It is possible that UIC will not reach the specific definition of a fully vaccinated campus as determined by the CDC by the time classes resume, and we strongly believe that the administration should pursue other mitigation steps to keep the campus community safe. These steps include but may not be limited to: continued universal masking indoors in accordance with university policy, an assumption of full social distancing protocols for classroom planning and management, and attention to indoor air quality with the addition of HEPA filtration systems where appropriate.
UICUF also broadly agrees with and supports the campus safety measures currently in place.
However, we have some concerns based on a review of the Illinois Board of Higher Education (IBHE) guidance release on July 19, 2021 and the July 23, 2021 CDC guidance for Institutions of Higher Education (IHEs). Recognizing that circumstances are changing with the Delta variant, we will outline union policy positions as guidelines for our membership and the university administration over our next several communications before the first day of classes. These statements will define our understanding of specific policy areas, our positions relative to them, and guidance to faculty on how to operate within them. These position statements are intended as timely responses to current conditions, with the understanding that conditions will continue to evolve rapidly.
Remote-Work/Alternative Work Accommodations
Current Policy: UIC currently acknowledges two possible paths to request remote work or adjusted duties relative to COVID-19 considerations.
There is a policy by which faculty can work out accommodations directly with their Unit Executive Officer (EO). Faculty can request accommodation under this policy based on personal health risks, family/household health risks, or even other impacts of the pandemic such as childcare needs. Granting of these accommodations is at the discretion of your Unit Executive Officer, but the policy expressly directs Unit EOs to offer maximum flexibility consistent with unit operations.
A separate process, solely for personal health accommodations without regard to family/household issues, also exists under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and can be accessed through the university Office of Access and Equity (OAE). This process is governed by federal and state law and does require disclosure to OAE of your reason for requesting an accommodation, but this information will remain confidential and will not be shared with your supervisor. It may require examination by a university health professional.
You may seek accommodation through either or both of these routes at your discretion. It is important to be aware, however, that in both cases determining the specific nature of the accommodations is an interactive process. This means that the accommodations will potentially represent a compromise that may or may not fully align with your desired outcome. At the same time, we want to remind faculty that university’s position is to work with employees to determine the best solution possible
UIC United Faculty Position: UICUF strongly supports the rights of faculty to accommodations, based not only on their own personal risk factors, but also on household and family considerations. We are satisfied that the referenced policies should adequately address the vast majority of cases.
Guidance to Faculty: UICUF encourages faculty to seek accommodations at the unit level by discussing matters with their Unit EOs wherever feasible. If you feel you are eligible for ADA accommodations based on personal health needs, this may be preferable depending on your relationship with your Unit EO. For faculty who feel that they need accommodations but do not feel comfortable reaching out to their Unit EO and do not qualify for ADA accommodation, we invite you to contact the union directly at UICUnitedFaculty@gmail.com, and we will be delighted to assist you in seeking a solution.
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