HRM-032: Disruption of Normal University Operations Resulting from Weather or Emergency Events

Date: 12/13/2010 Status: Final
Last Revised: 04/17/2017
Policy Type: University
Oversight Executive: Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer
Applies To: Academic Division and the College at Wise.
Reason for Policy:

The University seeks to protect its students, faculty, staff, patients, and visitors, its research enterprises, and its facilities during periods of inclement weather and other emergency events. To that end, the University has established requirements to maintain operational continuity and recovery when a change in operating status is necessary.

Definition of Terms in Statement:
  • Critical Incident Management Team (CIMT):

    A group of senior University leaders who are assembled and directed by the Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer to plan for, guide, respond to, and recover from a crisis. The CIMT is the team identified in the University’s Critical Incident Management Plan (CIMP).

  • Designated Employee:

    An employee whose assigned job duties and responsibilities are considered critical to maintaining the essential operations of the University when changes in operating status occur due to an emergency event. Designated employees are first responders needed to meet the immediate needs of students, patients, research programs, or general operations.

  • Emergency Event:

    Any event, natural or man-made, with the potential to cause significant injuries or deaths, shut down the University, disrupt operations, or cause physical or environmental damage. Examples include:

    • Fire
    • Hazardous Materials Incident
    • Flood
    • Severe Weather
      • Winter Weather
      • Hurricane
      • Tornado
    • Earthquake
    • Communication Systems Failure
    • Technology Systems Failure
    • Utility Failure
    • Radiological Accident
    • Civil Disturbance
    • Explosion
    • Biological or Chemical Release
    • Public Health Threat (excluding flu outbreak which is covered under State policy)
    • Acts of Violence
    • Acts of Terrorism
  • Essential University Operations:

    University operations that must be maintained at all times includes, but is not limited to: services basic to health care, law enforcement, safety, daily care of students, research projects including animal care, and University infrastructure (buildings and grounds, utilities, business, financial and student information systems, and electronic communications).

  • Full Shift Modification:

    A decision made by the President (or designee) to require only designated employees responsible for maintaining essential University operations to report to work for a specified period of time. 

  • Grace Period:

    A maximum of up to two hours past the start of the normal shift to report to work.

  • Non–Designated Employee:

    An employee whose assigned job duties and responsibilities are not immediately critical to maintaining the essential services of the University when normal University operations are disrupted as a result of an emergency event. 

  • Partial Shift Modification:

    A decision made by the President (or designee) to modify normal University operating hours for non-designated employees for a specified period of time as a result of an emergency event.

  • Wage Employee:

    An employee whose terms and conditions of employment stipulate an hourly rate of pay rather than a fixed salary and who is paid on an hourly basis for actual hours worked. Wage employees are not eligible for leave or other benefits. These employees are not covered by the Virginia Personnel Act and are non-exempt for purposes of overtime compensation as defined by the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Policy Statement:

As a general practice, the University makes every effort to maintain its normal schedule of operation. However, in the event of unforeseen circumstances or emergency events, the University may change its hours of operation. At such times, the University has a prescribed method for evaluating and communicating these changes to University students, faculty, staff, patients, and the general public.

The University maintains the right to change the provisions of this policy as warranted by circumstances during an emergency event.

  1. Decision to Authorize a Full or Partial Shift Modification:
    The University President (or designee) has the sole authority to make decisions regarding any changes to the normal operating schedule of the University. Disruption of operations may be for a partial shift, such as in the case of delayed openings and early closings (partial shift modification) or a full shift.

This authority is delegated to the Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer who makes all such decisions in consultation with the Executive Vice President and Provost and the University’s Critical Incident Management Team. Academic and administrative units are expected to abide by any decision made regarding operating status.

  1. Satellite Office Closings:
    Satellite offices, including the University’s College at Wise, remote centers of the School of Continuing and Professional Studies, research stations, and other sites may operate on a full or partial shift modification schedule. The Chancellor and directors of these facilities are to consult with the Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer (or designee) prior to making and announcing any changes to operating schedules.

  2. Supervisor Flexibility:
    Supervisors should be flexible in granting appropriate leave and should give consideration to those employees who feel that it is not safe to travel in bad weather when the University is open. Employees come from a wide geographic area; conditions can vary substantially over the region. Supervisors should be especially sensitive to the child care and family problems that result from school closings, weather or emergency events.

  1. Assignment of Designated/Non-designated Employee Status:
    The University uses the term “designated” to identify those employees who are first responders required to work during an emergency event to maintain essential University operations. Those employees identified as “non-designated” are instructed to stay at home when a full shift modification is announced, or report after the start of their regular schedule, or depart early if there is an announcement of a partial shift modification. The designated/non-designated terminology is used throughout the University, by both the Academic Division and the Medical Center.

Deans and department heads should determine the critical operations within their respective schools and units and ensure that those essential services are maintained during an emergency event. Supervisors should consult with schools and department administration in order to consistently identify designated employees needed to maintain operations during emergency events.

On an annual basis, supervisors shall ensure that every employee in their unit is aware of his/her status as designated or non-designated. Supervisors are responsible for updating the employee’s designated/non-designated status in the University’s Integrated System. It is both the employee’s and supervisor’s responsibility to ensure that emergency contact information such as address, land-line phone, and/or cellular phone numbers, is kept up-to-date.

At the time of hire, all new employees are to be informed by their supervisor of their designated/non-designated status. Supervisors are responsible for ensuring that employee job descriptions are kept up-to-date and that both job descriptions and job postings include the designated/non-designated status.

During an authorized full or partial shift modification, non-designated employees are to stay at home. This allows the University to respond to and recover from an emergency event by clearing parking lots, transferring power to essential services, etc. Non-designated employees should report to work during a disruption to normal operations only if they are requested to do so by their supervisor.

The status of non-designated employees may change as a result of the duration of the emergency event and the specific needs of their departments to both maintain essential operations and to respond and restore normal University operations. It will be the supervisor’s responsibility to determine if additional employees are required during this time. In such cases, supervisors may contact non-designated employees to report to work at the start of their regular work schedule or at a specified time.

Based on the type and duration of the emergency event, supervisors may determine and require that certain or all non-designated employees work either at home or at alternate work locations (see Section 8, Telecommuting from Alternate Work Locations). Emergency events may also impact employees who have approved alternate work schedules.

  1. Communication of Full or Partial Shift Modification:
    The University will announce full and partial shift modifications through various media sources. The Office of University Communications will provide announcements to local television and radio stations to cover all day, evening, night, and weekend University work schedules. Standardized messages covering employees of both the University and the Medical Center will be broadcast. (See: “Communicating University Closings.”) It is the supervisors’ responsibility to share and discuss with employees the University’s standardized messages announcing disruptions to normal operations affecting partial and entire shifts.

Announcements of partial shift modification to leave work early will be communicated through the University’s chain-of-command.  Employees will be notified of the early departure by their supervisors.

Up-to-date shift modification information is maintained on the University’s online Operations Status Board. Additional media sources will also be used to communicate shift modifications to the University community. These may include the University web site, University email, and LCD screens around Grounds. Employees may also call the University’s closings and delays hotlines 243-7669 or 924-7669 to obtain the latest information.

  1. Cancellation of Classes:
    All matters related to changes in class or school schedules are decided by the Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer in consultation with the Executive Vice President and Provost and the Critical Incident Management Team. Changes to class or school schedules will be announced in the same manner as Full or Partial Shift Modifications (see Section 3 above).

  2. Compensation during Full and Partial Shift Modifications:
    Designated employees deemed non-exempt under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) who work their scheduled shifts during a full or partial shift modification, will be credited for all hours actually worked. If the designated, non-exempt employee is required to work beyond the normally scheduled workweek as a result of the emergency event, the employee will receive compensation pay in accordance with FLSA and University policy.

Non-designated employees will be paid for the hours that they were scheduled to work during an authorized full or partial shift modification. (See: "Agency Closing and Comp Special Agency Closing Leave.")

Non-designated employees on an approved alternate work schedule will be paid for the hours that they were scheduled to work during a full or partial shift modification.

  1. Treatment of Wage Employees during Full or Partial Shift Modifications:
    Typically, wage employees are not required to work during emergency events. Wage employees include: student workers, work-study students, graduate teaching assistants and graduate research assistants. Schools and departments should discuss University notifications as well as emergency plans and communications with individuals in these categories. In certain events, schools and departments may elect to require individuals to work and assign them designated status (e. g., a graduate research assistant providing assistance to maintain a critical research project or to provide care to research animals).

  2. Failure to Report to Work:
    Designated employees are to report to work according to their regular work schedule during an emergency event. If for any reason a designated employee cannot report to work at the scheduled time, the employee should immediately contact the supervisor and provide an explanation. The designated employee’s supervisor may accept this explanation or offer the employee other options such as providing transportation to pick up the employee or requiring the employee to use accrued leave, with or without pay as appropriate. When road conditions and transportation difficulties cause a designated employee to arrive late, supervisors may credit the employee for time worked and not charge the lost time to the employee’s leave balance.

Non-designated employees must report to work when requested to do so by their supervisors. A non-designated employee may also be requested to work at home or at an alternate work location. Like a designated employee, a non-designated employee who cannot report to his/her regular work location, alternate work location, or cannot work at home when requested by the supervisor, must immediately contact the supervisor and provide an explanation.

Designated and/or non-designated employees who fail to report, fail to contact their supervisor, or fail to respond to a supervisor’s request may be subject to disciplinary action.

  1. Telecommuting from Alternate Work Locations:
    Supervisors may require a non-designated employee to work from home or an alternate work location during a University closing, especially if the closing may last several days. Requiring an employee to work at home or at an alternate work location will not change their non-designated status to designated.

  2. Allowing a Grace Period:
    Supervisors may allow a grace period for employees who encounter extreme transportation difficulties reporting for work as scheduled. This “grace period” will be considered time worked.

  3. Roles and Responsibilities:

The employee is responsible for:

  • Knowing and understanding his/her designated/non-designated status and the responsibilities thereof;
  • Understanding University emergency event notification communications protocols; and
  • Contacting the supervisor, if a designated employee, when unable to report to work at the scheduled time during an emergency event.

The dean and department head is responsible for:

  • Determining the critical operations of the school or department;
  • Ensuring the appropriate staff are designated to respond and recover from an emergency event; and
  • Ensuring staff are appropriately trained to respond and recover from emergency events.

The supervisor is responsible for:

  • Identifying each employee as designated or non-designated and notifying the employee of his/her status annually;
  • Ensuring that each employee, if designated, understands the role he/she is to perform in each type of emergency event as well as logistical arrangements such as where to park, and whether meals, lodging, and the like will be provided;
  • Ensuring that non-designated employees understand that they are to remain at home during full shift modifications unless specifically directed to report by their immediate supervisor or others in their chain-of command/leadership;
  • Ensuring that non-designated employees understand that during a partial shift modification they are to report at the time specified (not earlier than) and depart promptly (not later than) the specific time indicated in the partial shift modification announcement unless specifically directed otherwise by their immediate supervisor or others in their chain-of command/leadership;
  • Exercising flexibility in granting appropriate leave and giving consideration to those employees who encounter extreme difficulties during an emergency event;
  • Ensuring that each employee understands University full and partial shift modification announcements and where and when to find them as well as school and/or department directives to follow;
  • Ensuring that Fair Labor Standard overtime requirements are met;
  • Identifying and notifying employees who have the capability and type of work to work at home or at an alternate location during an emergency event;
  • Ensuring that job descriptions and postings include the designated/non-designated status; and
  • Ensuring that new employees are notified and understand the meaning of his/her designated/non-designated status.

The Office of University Communications is responsible for:

  • Notifying radio and television media of University full and partial shift modifications; and
  • Maintaining the University's closings and delays information hotlines, 243-7669 or 924-7669.

The Office of Emergency Preparedness is responsible for:

  • Working with departments/schools to include announcements about changes in services and events on the University’s Home Page as appropriate;
  • Supporting the Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer’s decision-making through information gathering and coordination with key operating units and the Critical Incident Management Team; and
  • Providing advice and guidance regarding this policy.

University Human Resources is responsible for:

  • Providing advice and guidance regarding this policy;
  • Maintaining the official record of the employees’ designated/non-designated status; and
  • Ensuring job descriptions and postings indicate designated/non-designated status.
Procedures:

Communicating University Closings/Reporting to Work
Critical Incident Management Plan
Timecard Processing - University Closing
U.Va. Alert Sign-up

Related Information:

HRM-012, Alternative Work Schedules
HRM-013, Telecommuting from Alternative Work Locations
HRM-014, Standards of Conduct Policy for University Staff
HRM-046, Overtime Management for Non-Exempt Employees

Operations Status Board: This website contains up to date information on University shift modifications, academic schedule, and modifications to other events, programs, or schedules.

State Policy:
Commonwealth’s Policy 1.35 Emergency Closings
Commonwealth’s Policy 1.60 Standards of Conduct
Commonwealth’s Policy 4.17 Emergency/Disaster Leave
Commonwealth’s Policy 4.52 Public Health Emergency Leave

Major Category: Human Resource Management
Next Scheduled Review: 03/17/2020
Approved by, Date: Policy Review Committee, 12/13/2010
Revision History: Updated 4/17/17, 3/17/17, 11/20/13.
Supersedes (previous policy):
Inclement Weather policy