When I return to campus for work, what information will I have to disclose to the University?
Each day prior to coming to any campus facility or participating in any University activity, employees must complete the survey in the health portal. It has a series of basic questions, such as whether you have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 or are experiencing symptoms. The information sought is just enough to determine whether the survey taker needs to be assessed at Sindecuse Health Center. Sindecuse will be automatically notified of any “yes” answers.
Once at Sindecuse, you enter a HIPAA-protected process wherein health information is not shared beyond your health care providers and those you specify. However, if you test positive for COVID-19, the University is required to report that information, including your identity, to county public health officials. This is necessary so the county health department can conduct contact tracing. The University will also issue a notice to those with a “need to know,” e.g., health care providers, supervisors and close contacts.
Who will have access to any health-related information I disclose, and how will the University protect it?
Only those with a “need to know,” e.g., health care providers, supervisors and close contacts, will have access to your COVID-19-related health information. Individuals outside of Sindecuse with a "need to know" will only know whether you are positive for COVID-19. They will not have access to other medical records or information.
HIPAA and other confidentiality rules are relaxed during instances of public health emergencies, which is what we are experiencing with the current pandemic.
What do I do if I need an accommodation to address either having to wear a mask or working on site?
You and your supervisor must reach out to the Office of Institutional Equity—IE—to begin the interactive process.
Do I have to wear a mask/facial covering at my work location?
Yes, unless you are alone in an enclosed area, you do not expect visitors and your door is closed. The University's facial covering (mask) policy is available online.
Is the University allowed to ask me if I have COVID-19 or any related conditions?
The University may ask you if you have COVID-19 or COVID-19-related symptoms, and will do so via the daily health survey.
The University may not ask you if you have underlying conditions that would increase your risk if you are exposed to COVID-19.
If you do have underlying conditions that place you at a higher risk for COVID-19, you and your supervisor must contact IE to discuss whether your situation is appropriate for a reasonable accommodation.
Is the University allowed to ask me if I or a family member fall into a high-risk category for purposes of COVID-19?
No, but you will have to provide information about yourself if you are seeking an accommodation.
If you are seeking an accommodation, you and your supervisor must contact the Office of Institutional Equity to evaluate whether a reasonable accommodation is available.
What do I do if my supervisor is not following the mask policy or other COVID-19-related policies, procedures or protocols?
Reports should then go to your next level supervisor and, ultimately, to your dean, vice president or the Office of the Provost, as appropriate in your area. No act of retaliation from supervisors for such reporting will be tolerated.
If you are non-academic affairs bargaining unit staff, report to the director of labor relations.
Who determines whether I can telecommute?
Your supervisor determines if the essential functions of your position require that you be in the office.
By University request and governor’s order, it is strongly encouraged that any work capable of being performed remotely (e.g., without employees leaving their place of residence) be performed remotely. However, the ultimate decision whether an employee can effectively work remotely is determined by your supervisor.
For faculty, instructional delivery methods on courses have been determined for the semester based on their selections and are on record with the registrar. Deviation from the registered method for the semester requires an accommodation from Institutional Equity.
Can a supervisor discipline an employee or send them home if they will not wear a mask or facial covering?
Yes, unless you have requested and been granted a reasonable accommodation or fit under one of the other exceptions stated in the mask policy.
Do I have to come to work if I have a medical diagnosis that places me in a high-risk population?
Yes, unless you have requested and been granted a reasonable accommodation based on your disability.
If you have a medical diagnosis that places you in a high-risk category, you and your supervisor must contact Institutional Equity to evaluate reasonable accommodations.
You may also take annual leave, COVID-19 leave or other medical leave options (FMLA, EFMLA, etc.) with supervisor approval, consistent with Employee Handbook Section 11.
Do I have to come to work if I am over 65, which puts me in a high-risk population?
Yes. Age alone is not a disability, so it does not fall under the reasonable accommodation framework of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
If I work in a cubicle or other open workstation, do I have to wear a mask?
Yes, unless no one else is in your workspace and you do not expect others to enter your workspace. Social distancing must be maintained.
If I work in an office with a door, do I have to wear a mask?
No, as long as you are alone in the office and the door is closed.
Is the University providing masks for employees?
Yes. Your supervisor will make two masks available for you.
You may also bring your own face covering as long as it meets the requirements set out in the mask policy.
Do I have to get a COVID-19 test to return to campus for work?
Not unless you have symptoms or have been exposed to someone with COVID-19.
Yes, if either of the above conditions are true.
May I report that I believe a co-worker may have COVID-19 symptoms?
Yes, as long as Michigan remains in a public health emergency due to COVID-19, you are encouraged to report anyone whom you believe may have COVID-19 symptoms and who is not taking the proper precautions.
This information should be reported to your supervisor.
May I report that I believe a co-worker is not wearing a mask/facial covering?
Yes, it is strongly encouraged. Report first to your supervisor.
If you see a student who is not following the mask policy, report that information to the Office of Student Conduct.
Employees may elect to ask anyone they see not wearing a mask to do so. If the person is a guest on campus (not a student, faculty or staff member) and does not comply, then contact the WMU Department of Public Safety.
Will workers' compensation cover my testing if a co-worker is positive and I decide to/am encouraged to get tested?
Not unless you have been granted Workers’ Compensation benefits for COVID-19.
If you think you were exposed to COVID-19 at work, follow the standard University process for evaluating and processing workers’ compensation claims. You may be eligible for no-cost testing at Sindecuse Health Center.
May the University tell my co-workers that I have tested positive for COVID-19?
The University may disclose the existence of a positive COVID-19 result to prevent a serious or imminent threat or to prevent the spread of disease.
For employee cases, the University will issue warnings to buildings indicating there has been a positive test result. The identity of the individual with the positive test result will be released “on a need-to-know basis,” as determined by safety needs as necessary to prevent the spread of the disease.
Can the University require me to stay home if I have a positive COVID-19 test?
Yes. The University may require that you stay home until you are no longer infectious according to your health care provider or the latest Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.
Are there specific rules that apply to research laboratories?
Yes. Contact the Office of Research and Innovation for more information.
Do I have to pay to have a COVID-19 test? How does workers' compensation apply?
Maybe. Sindecuse will be conducting free COVID-19 testing for all non-temporary employees and students who are symptomatic or who have been exposed to someone with COVID-19. If you are asymptomatic and have not been exposed to someone with COVID-19, Sindecuse will cover four no-cost tests for the 2020-21 academic year. See Sindecuse’s website for details.
Insurance information will be collected and insurance will be billed. For eligible employees and tests, the University will cover co-pays, deductibles or co-insurance. If you think you were exposed to COVID-19 at work, follow the standard University process for evaluating and processing workers’ compensation claims.
For supervisors and managers:
If an employee refuses to wear a face covering, what options do I have?
If the employee is refusing to wear a mask because they say they have a condition (medical, disability, etc.) that prevents the employee from wearing a mask, you must work with that employee to find a reasonable accommodation. Do not ask the employee if he or she has a disability that prevents the individual from wearing a mask. Contact the Office of Institutional Equity (IE) for assistance in the interactive process to develop a reasonable accommodation for that employee. Supervisors should not provide informal accommodations without going through the process. All requests for accommodation must go through IE.
If the employee is refusing to wear a mask for reasons unrelated to a disability that makes wearing a mask difficult, you may send them home until the employee is willing to comply. Both Michigan Emergency Rules and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention require masks be worn inside. You may require an employee to use personal leave for any time away from work because of refusal to wear a mask. COVID-19 Allowance Leave may not be used for this purpose. If necessary in this situation, an employee may be disciplined for refusing to wear the mask.
Michigan legislation prohibits retaliation against anyone for not reporting to work if they “display the principal symptoms of COVID-19.” May I require employees to report to work?
a. Yes. The executive order applies only to individuals “at particular risk of infecting others.” This order protects those who test positive for COVID-19, display one or more of the principal symptoms or come in close contact with an individual who fits into either of those categories. Unless an employee is prohibited from reporting to work based on b) or c) below, they must report to work as usual.
b. An employee who has been exposed to COVID-19 may not return to work until the employee completes a 10-day quarantine period:
- Twenty-four hours have passed since the employee’s last day of isolation without fever-reducing medication and an improvement in symptoms; and
- Ten days have passed since either the symptoms first appeared or the employee received the positive COVID-19 test result.
c. An employee who has been in close contact with someone who tests positive for COVID-19 or who displays one or more of the principal symptoms may not return to work until one of the following occurs:
- Ten days have passed since the last close contact with the sick or symptomatic individual; or
- The individual displaying COVID-19 symptoms receives a negative COVID-19 test.
d. Employees may be subject to discipline if they display one or more of the principal COVID-19 symptoms, have been exposed to someone who tests positive for COVID-19 or are exposed to someone who has one or more of the principal symptoms, if they do not get tested after five days, at minimum, of any of the above criteria. Those who are displaying symptoms should get tested as soon as possible.
Is a medical diagnosis that places an employee in a high-risk population a legitimate reason to not report to work?
Yes, but they need medical documentation of such a diagnosis. Recognizing that many medical professionals are extremely busy, new approaches may be necessary, such as reliance on local clinics to provide a form, a stamp or an email to certify that an individual does not have the pandemic virus.
Once the employee submits evidence of a medical diagnosis that puts that individual in the high-risk population, the supervisor and employee must contact the Office of Institutional Equity (IE) for assistance in the interactive process to develop a reasonable accommodation for that employee. Supervisors should not provide informal accommodations without going through the process. All requests for accommodation must go through IE.
Is living with someone who is in a high-risk population and being concerned about exposing that person a legitimate reason to not report to work?
Maybe. In those cases, if the employee cannot telecommute, such a request should be treated as a request for FMLA, EFMLA or FFCRA. These federal regulations are complex, are assessed on a case-by-case basis and are not easily addressed by FAQs. See HR’s website for handling FMLA, EFMLA or FFCRA requests, or contact HR directly. Presently, on Dec. 31, 2020 EFMLA and FFCRA are set to expire. Look for additional communication if and when new legislation is passed.
Is being 65 years old or older sufficient to justify not reporting to work during the pandemic?
No. To be protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act, an individual must have a medical diagnosis or disability. Supervisors may not prohibit someone from coming to work simply because they are 65 years old or older.
May I request that an employee schedule a telehealth appointment with a Sindecuse Health Center provider if the employee has COVID-19-like symptoms?
Yes. A Sindecuse provider must clear the employee to return to work. Encourage the employee to use the resources at Sindecuse. All assessment visits to Sindecuse are free to employees at this time. Using Sindecuse enables the University to effectively contact trace and protect our community.
If necessary, employees may be disciplined if they refuse to comply.
Under what circumstances should employees telework?
Until further notice, all supervisors are encouraged to allow employees to telework; however, the decision whether an employee can feasibly perform his or her work remotely is determined by management. If an employee requests telework as an accommodation under the ADA, supervisors must evaluate whether doing so will cause an “undue hardship.” Supervisors and employees should work with Institutional Equity in making this evaluation.
The University’s current recommendations may change as the COVID-19 circumstances change. Check this resource for any updates.
Does sharing information about a positive test case violate HIPAA and confidentiality laws?
Not during a Public Health Emergency. So long as those who receive the information have a “need to know” and keep that information confidential, covered entities (Sindecuse Health Center, Unified Clinics, Kalamazoo Autism Center and Athletics) may share COVID-related information when necessary.
The Michigan Occupational Health and Safety Administration requires that WMU notify the public health department and those who may have come in contact with someone with a known case of COVID-19. Guidance from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services explains that the state of emergency and public health concerns outweigh personal privacy concerns as long as the state of emergency continues. At WMU, only Sindecuse Health Center will make those notifications. Co-workers and supervisors should not do so unless they have consent of the employee whose information is being shared.
You should not ask questions about family members, but you may ask if the employee has been exposed to “anyone” with COVID-19 or related symptoms.
If you know your employee or someone who was in close contact with your employee has tested positive for COVID-19 but your employee has not accurately reported this information on his or her daily screening, you must notify your employee to make a telehealth appointment with Sindecuse Health Center. Contact either the Department of Environmental Health and Safety or Sindecuse for further resources.
Is disciplinary action an option for an employee who refuses to answer the questionnaire or refuses to have their temperature taken?
Yes, as long as COVID-19 remains a pandemic.
You may allow an employee to return home. The employee must use leave to account for such time if they cannot telework.
May I ask someone who does not have symptoms if they have a medical condition that makes them high risk?
No. An employee may voluntarily disclose a medical condition. In such a circumstance, the employer may use the information to evaluate whether a reasonable accommodation is necessary. Contact IE for further information.
Do I need to provide the same, new or different accommodations for employees who already had accommodations?
Maybe. Circumstances may have changed, so employees may request a review of any existing accommodation or may request a new accommodation.
Only when an employer can demonstrate that a person with a disability poses a direct threat, even after reasonable accommodation, can it lawfully exclude the employee from employment or employment-related activities.
You should address these requests as soon as possible; however, the extraordinary circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic may result in delays in discussing requests and in providing accommodation where appropriate. After you and your employee have contacted IE to begin the accommodation review process, supervisors should work with employees to find interim solutions to enable employees to keep working as much as possible.
Are there documents or cards that employees could have that exempt them from wearing a facemask?
No. The Department of Justice has issued a warning noting there are many fraudulent offers for mask exemption documentation.
The ADA does not provide a blanket exemption to people with disabilities from complying with mandated safety requirements necessary for safe operations.
May I inform other employees if a co-worker tests positive for COVID-19?
No. Sindecuse will ensure that the University meets its disclosure requirements in a way that protects the privacy of those individuals involved.
If you hear that an employee tested positive at a site other than Sindecuse, please inform Sindecuse.
May I inform my other employees if their co-worker answered yes on a screening question?
No. Sindecuse is automatically notified if an employee answers “yes” on a screening question and will take the proper steps to ensure the safety of the University community.
If an employee has no cellphone or internet access, do they still have to answer the screening questions?
Yes. They should either submit their responses in paper format or use the internet when they report at work to complete the questionnaire. If the employee answers “yes” to one of the questions in a hard-copy report, the supervisor should immediately share that information with Sindecuse.
Note: This information is subject to change as state and federal requirements, local public health official guidance and best practices evolve.