What is the leave policy for employees who miss work due to a COVID-19 infection?
Employees who need to take time off work to care for themselves or a family member who has contracted COVID-19 may use their family or medical leave, or they may work with their supervisor to make short-term arrangements to work from home if feasible. Faculty cannot simply switch face-to-face courses to remote or Zoom. If faculty become ill or need to care for an ill family member, please contact your chair or dean to discuss and determine how to keep the class on track. Under current state statutes and federal regulations, there is not an approval or mechanism for COVID-related emergency paid sick leave.
What if an employee is requesting an exception to the expectation that they return to work on campus?
If an employee is requesting a change due to a preference, high-risk condition of a family member, or any other condition that is NOT a personal medical condition, the employee should contact their supervisor or Department Chair to discuss any options they may have. If an employee is requesting a change because of a medical condition, that is considered an ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) Accommodation request, and the employee can contact the EORC (Equal Opportunity and Regulatory Compliance) at ext. 7735. The ADA Coordinator/EORC Director, Kimberly DeVries, will discuss options with the employee and route them through the interactive process, which includes providing medical documentation, reviewing the accommodation request, discusing the essential elements of the job, and ultimately reaching a conclusion about an appropriate accommodation.
If the individual’s condition does not qualify for an accommodation from EORC or the issue is not their health but the health or issue with a family member, they may contact HR to determine if their situation warrants approval of leave under medical leave and/or the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
As a supervisor, what should I do if an employee or student discloses they either tested positive for COVID-19, resides with someone who tested positive, or has been exposed to someone who did?
Supervisors cannot inquire if an employee or student is vaccinated, however, supervisors can share the following guidance:
- If the employee has tested positive for COVID-19: Per the Mississippi State Department of Health statewide Order for the Isolation of Individuals Diagnosed with COVID-19, all persons (vaccinated and unvaccinated) residing in Mississippi must immediately home-isolate on first knowledge of infection with COVID-19. The CDC has updated its guidance for a shortened isolation period when infected and a shortened quarantine period when exposed. The MS State Department of Health (MSDH) recommends the updated guidance as well. People with COVID-19 should isolate for five days and if they are asymptomatic or their symptoms are resolving (without fever for 24 hours), follow that by five days of wearing a mask when around others to minimize the risk of infecting people they encounter.
- If the employee has been exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19: In the cases of exposure to someone who has COVID-19 and the employee or student has received a booster dose OR received two doses of Pfizer or Moderna within the last six months OR received 1 dose of J&J within the last two months, they do not have to quarantine unless they are or become symptomatic. They are recommended to receive COVID-19 testing five days after exposure to rule out infection.
- The current definition of exposure to COVID-19 remains 15 minutes of cumulative contact over a 24-hour period at <6 feet. An infected person can spread COVID-19 up to 2 days before they have symptoms or 2 days prior to positive test if they have no symptoms, therefore, contacts should be identified who were exposed up to 2 days prior to onset or test date accordingly.
- People who have tested positive for COVID-19 within the past 3 months and recovered do not have to quarantine or get tested again as long as they do not develop new symptoms.
All employees or students should be asked to identify 1) any persons in our university community with whom they had contact before the onset of symptoms, 2) any areas of campus they visited during that time, and 3) if employees are comfortable doing so, they may tell those who they have been around that they have tested positive.
Unless the employee is experiencing symptoms, supervisors cannot require an employee to go home or stay home. If the employee requests to work remotely, supervisors may approve it if the employee is able to be productive and effective. See more in the university’s flexible work location policy under “occasional work from home” section.
As a supervisor, be sure to inform the student or employee that UM students and employees must report positive COVID-19 tests to University Health Services. See this page for the ways that can be done.
As you engage the student or employee, show empathy but do not provide medical advice. Please advise the student or employee that they may contact the physicians at University Health Services for questions, including guidance on treatment and preventive measures to minimize the risk of infection to others. The telephone number for Student Health is 662-915-7274. The telephone number for Employee Health is 662-915-6550.
After speaking to the student or employee, please contact the physicians at Student or Employee Health. The physicians will determine what additional precautions may be warranted, including closing an area and following up with MSDH. You should also alert Facilities Management at 662-915-7003 to determine whether any area of campus must be cleaned or disinfected.