We have compiled a collection of resources related to COVID-19, remote work, and the university response on this page. Below, you will find a recording of the Danforth Campus and CFU staff town hall, a collection of links to useful information for Danforth staff, and an FAQ that includes answers to questions posed during the town hall event. We will continue to add resources to this page as they become available.
Danforth Campus and CFU town hall recording
Direct questions to firstname.lastname@example.org
Direct questions to email@example.com or call 314-935-2332
Employee Crisis Relief Fund
The university has established a crisis relief fund for employees as part of efforts to support the community through this crisis. The fund is available to help employees and contractors with costs related to the pandemic. Furloughed and non-furloughed workers can apply. Go here to apply for help: https://hr.wustl.edu/crisis-response-fund/ (Please note the deadline is May 4.)
HR has prepared information about the CARES Act and how it impacts your retirement plans at WashU. https://hr.wustl.edu/covid19-employee-support/financial-well-being/cares-act/
Mental Health Resources
HR also offers mental health resources for employees. https://hr.wustl.edu/covid19-employee-support/mental-health-resources/
Here is HR information about online learning: https://hr.wustl.edu/develop-and-learn/online-learning/
Early in the town hall, Webber mentions the chancellor’s blog post about the values informing our path forward. Read it here: https://andrewdmartin.wustl.edu/the-values-informing-our-path-forward/.
Filing for Unemployment
To file for unemployment benefits please visit https://www.mo.gov/work/unemployment/. Employees must wait until May 5 (or their first day of unemployment) to apply.
We also want to remind you that our staff ombudsperson, Jessica Kuchta-Miller, is available to discuss a wide variety of issues impacting staff at our university. Please follow the link below for more information about Kuchta-Miller’s office, including contact information. staffombuds.wustl.edu/staff/
A word from the Danforth Staff Council
In these unprecedented times, the Danforth Staff Council wants to ensure your voice has a place and that your contribution to Washington University continues to matter. As we move forward in the weeks ahead, every staff member, no matter your work status, is an essential contributor to the greater good of our students, our research, higher education, and the St. Louis community. We will continue to support you and ensure that your voice as well as your concerns have an impartial forum as we move toward a stronger, committed WashU.
Please reach out to us with your concerns, comments and questions on our website: https://staffcouncil.wustl.edu/contact/
WashU Main COVID Site
Q&A from April 29, 2020 staff town hall
(Updated May 5, 2020)
FURLOUGHS AND OTHER WORKFORCE REDUCTIONS
How many employees are expected to be furloughed as of now? Approximately 500 employees from the Danforth Campus and CFU are being furloughed. This is in addition to approximately 1,300 employees on the Medical Campus.
When will employees be notified that they have been furloughed? Most notifications for the current furloughs on the Danforth Campus and the CFU were made during the week of April 27 – May 1.
Can employees perform work while on furlough? No. Furloughed employees are not authorized to perform any work during the furlough (including checking and responding to their work email and remotely accessing their workstation, except for the purpose of receiving updates about furlough duration and employment status). Furloughed employees may not volunteer to perform unpaid work during the furlough.
Can furloughs and reduced work schedules be extended? And if so, is there a maximum length for a furlough or a reduced work schedule? The total length of a temporary reduced work schedule or furlough should not exceed 90 days. The university anticipates being able to recall nearly all furloughed employees and return hours to normal schedules upon a return to normal operations.
Why have some positions been eliminated? In considering the appropriateness of workforce reductions during the pandemic, management has evaluated reduced work schedules, furloughs, and layoffs. Most actions have taken the form of furlough, with fewer employees having their work schedules reduced. In some very rare instances, management has determined that there is no longer a need for a position on an ongoing basis. In those few cases, positions have been eliminated. The university anticipates being able to recall nearly all furloughed employees and return hours to normal schedules upon a return to normal operations.
Does the university expect to furlough employees in the fall if there is another wave of coronavirus? It is very difficult to predict the future of the pandemic and know exactly how it will impact the university. Our hope is that the recent furloughs are the only, or the vast majority, of furloughs for the university. Future steps the university takes will depend on the severity of the pandemic and its economic impacts.
Will employees have health insurance during their furlough? Employees will maintain their health insurance while on furlough.
Can employees opt to not have health insurance while on furlough? An unpaid leave is not considered a qualifying life event, so employees are not eligible to opt out of health insurance while on furlough.
Can employees voluntarily go on a reduced work schedule? Workforce reduction decisions are made at the school, department, and unit level. Employees interested in voluntarily going on a reduced work schedule should contact their manager.
How will employees pay their health insurance premiums for the duration of their furlough? When they are recalled, employees are responsible for paying their premiums for the duration of their furlough. Under most circumstances, those premiums will be withheld from the employee’s paycheck over the course of several months, not all at once.
Does the six-month orientation period for new employees pause during the furlough? The orientation period for new employees will pause during furlough and resume upon their return to work.
If my 403b retirement plan matching from the university was supposed to start during the time that I’m furloughed, will that matching start when I return? During a furlough, there is no service credited towards attaining the initial 7% university contribution or the 10% university contribution. Employees do not lose service or incur a break in service due to being on furlough.
Would benefits be extended if furloughs move into the fall semester? An employee’s benefits eligibility status does not change during temporary reduced work schedules or furloughs up to 90 days. After 90 days, there may be a change to an employee’s benefits eligibility status.
Can employees continue to participate in the university’s wellness activities while on furlough? Yes, employees may voluntarily participate in the university’s wellness activities while on furlough. These activities and other well-being resources can be found on the HR website.
Where can furloughed employees find the list of local organizations that need volunteers that was referenced during the town hall? In partnership with the Gephardt Institute, these volunteer opportunities will be posted on the employee well-being hub on the Human Resources website.
Are furloughed employees required to return their university property (e.g., computer) within a certain period of time? No. Because they are still university employees, though in an unpaid status during their furlough, employees do not need to return university property during the furlough.
If an employee has downloaded Microsoft Office on their personal computer through the university’s Office for Home offering, can the employee continue to use those applications on their personal computer for personal reasons while on furlough? Yes. Because they are still university employees, though in an unpaid status during their furlough, employees are still eligible to utilize this program.
Will furloughed employees be able to access university systems and buildings? Furloughed employees will retain access to their university email account and the self-service functions in HRMS. They will also be able to access LinkedIn Learning should they choose to voluntarily take advantage of that resource, as well as a select set of other systems. Because furloughed employees are not authorized to perform any work during the furlough, they should not be accessing university systems or coming to campus to perform any work. However, furloughed employees will retain swipe access to their building should they need to retrieve items from their workspace or office.
How often should furloughed employees be checking their university email to see when they are being recalled? When they are furloughed, employees will be notified of the expected duration of their furlough. Employees are encouraged to check their email once a week for an early recall notice, or two to three times per week within the last few weeks of the furlough. Specific information will be provided on university protocols and guidelines, particularly related to social distancing and workplace safety measures.
How likely is it that people who are furloughed will be asked to come back to work early? The news and guidance about the pandemic change frequently, making it difficult to determine the immediate course of action for the university. The university is in the planning stage of how to begin the transition back to normal operations. Information about these plans will be made available when they are finalized.
How will employees who are not furloughed know if an employee they are trying to contact has been furloughed and therefore cannot respond?
Furloughed employees will be requested to use out of office messages for their email and voicemail. Those messages should include who to contact for additional assistance.
Are managers required to keep the internal furlough process confidential? Managers are expected to keep information about personnel decisions, including the recent furloughs, confidential, and work with employees to determine the best way to inform colleagues about their time away from work.
Applying for unemployment
When should furloughed employees apply for unemployment? Will the university’s mass unemployment claim be sufficient for furloughed employees to receive unemployment benefits, or will furloughed employees need to file for unemployment benefits individually? Furloughed employees will need to file for unemployment benefits individually. Employees are strongly encouraged to submit their unemployment application on the first effective day of their furlough.
Can an employee create an account with the state unemployment office prior to the effective date of their furlough? Yes, although the employee should not apply for unemployment benefits until the effective date of their furlough.
If I am considered a Danforth Campus employee but work on the Medical Campus, which address should I use for unemployment purposes? Employees should use the address of their department for unemployment purposes.
How quickly will furloughed employees receive their unemployment benefits? Processing unemployment benefits is handled at the state level. The university has taken multiple steps to support furloughed employees’ efforts to apply for unemployment benefits, including providing web links, videos, and basic information and tips for filing. Employees who need assistance are encouraged to contact firstname.lastname@example.org. The university has also filed mass unemployment claims so that the state of Missouri is aware that university employees will be applying for unemployment.
Do furloughed employees have to file separately for regular unemployment benefits and the additional $600/week from the CARES Act? During the time period covered under the CARES Act, furloughed employees who are eligible to receive regular unemployment weekly payments from the state will receive the additional $600/week payment. More information is available on the Missouri Department of Labor website.
What about furloughed employees who will make less while on unemployment than what they normally earn? For most employees, the additional $600/week from the CARES Act, through the end of July, will either eliminate or dramatically lessen the financial burden of being furloughed and receiving unemployment benefits. Employees who earn less than $57,000 will, in almost all cases, earn the same or more than they would when they were working. Through unemployment benefits (including the extra $600/week from the CARES Act) and a special furlough payment from the
university, employees with salaries under $70,000 will see no loss of pay. Employees who earn more than $70,000 will experience a modest reduction in earnings.
If your hours are reduced, can you still collect the $600/week from the CARES Act? The Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) program provides an additional $600 payment per week to those eligible for at least $1 in regular unemployment benefits during that week. Employees whose hours are reduced may be eligible for unemployment benefits. There is a partial benefits calculator on the Missouri Department of Labor website that may be helpful.
Will employees be able to register for 2020-21 parking permits while they are on furlough? Employees will be able to access the permit application system while they are on furlough.
Will employees continue to be charged for parking during the university’s alternate operations? Parking & Transportation will maintain open-park rules until August 1, and there will be no payroll deductions for permits during the months of April through July. Individuals with an active permit who paid with cash, check, or credit card will be refunded for the months of April through July. More information is available on the Parking & Transportation website. Questions about permits and permit payroll deductions should be directed to Parking & Transportation: email@example.com.
Has the university identified a date when employees will be returning to campus? What are some of the return-to-campus options being considered for staff? The university has not yet determined when employees will be returning to campus, although multiple groups are developing plans to transition back to normal operations for teaching, research, and patient care as soon as stay at home orders are lifted and it is possible to allow some employees to return safely. The university is developing a phased plan to transition from alternate operations to normal operations on the Danforth Campus. The final plan will be informed by infectious disease experts at the university, guidance from the CDC and other government entities, and the operational needs of the university. Measures included in the final plan will address social distancing, cleaning protocols, and other workplace safety measures. The university will follow all state and local government orders related to the pandemic.
What about Staff Day? Along with other events that have been canceled for the remainder of the fiscal year, Danforth Staff Day and Service Awards and the School of Medicine Service Award ceremonies have been delayed and plans will be announced later in the year. We continue to find ways to show appreciation, recognizing the incredible work of our employees. From employees on the front lines to those supporting COVID-19 efforts, along with staff adapting to remote operations, we value our community’s ability to adapt and step up for the greater good. As a part of this effort, please note the new “Care and Connection” initiative focused on sending support and cards to employees on the front lines, as well as the recognition hub honoring employee contributions.
When and how will the Sumers Rec Center be reopened? Along with all other university facilities, the operation of the Sumers Rec Center is being evaluated by university leadership as part of the plan to transition back to normal operations. More information about that plan is available in the Q&A about the return-to-campus plan.
What measures is the university taking to reduce costs during the pandemic? The university is taking a comprehensive approach to reducing costs during the pandemic. All capital projects have been reevaluated and many have been postponed or eliminated. The university is forgoing merit salary increases on July 1, 2020, and has instituted a hiring freeze except for a limited number of clinical and other essential positions. Salaries have been voluntarily reduced for university leaders, including the chancellor, dean of the medical school, the chief administrative officer, and university officers. In addition to making significant spending reductions in the fourth quarter of the 2019-20 fiscal year, schools and departments are in the process of revising their budgets for 2020-21 fiscal year to identify areas to cut costs.
Are faculty taking pay cuts? University leaders, including some faculty, have voluntarily reduced their salaries, and many faculty will be financially impacted by the pandemic, particularly faculty at the School of Medicine whose compensation is based in part on clinical activity, and others who are no longer receiving typical stipends for summer teaching or other activities. The economic impact of the pandemic on the university is severe enough that the university must pursue multiple measures to reduce spending.
Why isn’t the university using a reserve to cover employee pay during the pandemic? The university is using its reserve to cover some of the increased costs associated with the pandemic. The economic impact of the pandemic is severe enough that the university must rely on multiple measures, including but not limited to spending from its reserve, to continue operations and protect the long-term stability of the institution.
Why is the university taking such drastic measures compared to other institutions in the St. Louis area and around the country? In evaluating how best to respond to the economic effects of the pandemic, the university must first consider its own circumstances. Though we may have similarities to other institutions in the region and around the country, each institution has a different mix of factors that affect its economic situation during the pandemic. Many other institutions around the country are taking significant steps to address the economic impact of the pandemic, including but not limited to hiring freezes, furloughs, and changes to capital spending.
Will summer salary be awarded? What about summer salary that was part of a grant that has been proposed and awarded? Due to possible variances in policy within the Danforth schools, individuals with questions about summer salary should contact their respective dean’s office.
Will trades workers in Facilities Planning & Management on the Danforth Campus receive pay increases on July 1, 2020? No. These university employees will not be receiving pay increases on July 1, 2020.
Is the university receiving funding through the CARES Act? The university has received money from the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund established by the federal CARES Act. This fund was established to reimburse health care providers for healthcare-related expenses or lost revenues attributable to COVID-19. Due to preparations necessary to address the public health emergency in our region, the School of Medicine has lost significant revenues; thus far, we have received $16.5 million from the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund.
We also were eligible to receive an allocation under the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund. Like most other higher education institutions, we currently are facing extraordinary financial challenges due to the unforeseen circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, after careful consideration of the possible regulatory liabilities associated with the Fund, we have concluded that accepting this funding would not be the correct course of action for our long-term recovery. We remain firmly committed to providing financial support to our most vulnerable students through other means, and will dedicate additional university resources to ensure that we are able to meet demonstrated need.
How significantly might the pandemic and its economic consequences on the university impact the WashU Pledge? The university remains committed to making an undergraduate education affordable for all admitted students. This includes fully delivering on the WashU Pledge, a financial aid program that will provide a free undergraduate education to incoming, full-time Missouri and southern Illinois students who are Pell Grant eligible or from families with annual incomes of $75,000 or less. The measures the university is taking to reduce spending in a variety of areas will help ensure that the university can deliver on this, and other, important components of its three-part mission of excellence in teaching, research, and patient care.
While employees are working remotely, can the City of St. Louis earnings tax be discontinued? For purposes of determining whether an employee is obligated to pay the City of St. Louis earning tax, temporary remote work arrangements do not constitute a change in work location.
If an employee is selected to be laid off, will it be possible for that employee to choose to retire rather than be laid off? If an employee is eligible to retire, they can elect to retire rather than being laid off.
Does the university plan to raise wages so that employees are not earning more on unemployment than while actively working for WashU? The university has one of the highest minimum wages among large employers in the St. Louis region. Despite the pandemic, the university remains committed to its previously announced plan to raise its minimum wage for regular employees and basic service contractors to $15/hour by July 2021. Under normal circumstances, the maximum state unemployment benefit in Missouri is $320/week, which is about $4/hour less than the university’s current minimum wage. Some employees may earn more on furlough during the pandemic, but that is because of the additional $600/week provided by the federal government through the CARES Act, which is an unprecedented measure to address the severe economic consequences of the pandemic.
What steps will the university take to avoid furloughs during future financial challenges? The university has a long history of being a relatively stable employer, including during the Great Recession. The current pandemic is truly unprecedented with deep impacts on unemployment that have reached historic levels in a very short period of time. During both normal and extraordinary circumstances, the university evaluates how best to ensure its financial stability. The university will continue to evaluate the circumstances surrounding the pandemic and consider how best to manage the budget, endowment, and reserves to ensure short- and long-term financial stability.
Are employees allowed to use the COVID-19 special pay intermittently? Effective April 10, special pay may be recorded by the hour and used in combination with regular pay within the same day.
If alternate operations are extended for several more weeks/months, will employees be able to use more than 10 days of COVID-19 special paid time off? After an employee uses their 10 days of special pay (prorated for part-time employees), if the employee elects to continue to be paid, they must use personal days first (if they have any) followed by vacation. Employees who previously earned personal days must use those days by June 30 or risk losing them. Once personal and/or vacation days have been exhausted, employees may use up to 20 days of sick time, even in situations where neither the employee nor a family member is sick, when special circumstances occur and this is approved by management. (This is an interim modification to the university’s sick leave policy due to the COVID-19 pandemic.) If an employee exhausts special pay, personal days, vacation, and the 20 days of sick time, they will then be placed on non-paid leave.