Paul L. Caron

Saturday, July 4, 2020

Who Gets To Teach Remotely? Who Decides?

Chronicle of Higher Education, Who Gets to Teach Remotely? The Decisions Are Getting Personal:

CoronavirusFaculty input is one thing. Individual exemptions are another.

Early promises made by administrators to listen to faculty input are now making way for actual rulings on faculty requests. And like everything else during the coronavirus pandemic, the process is complicated and the results vary from institution to institution.

Federal agencies have issued some guidance on how employment protections apply during the pandemic, including for people who don’t have high-risk health conditions but are in regular contact with those who do.

The ADA does not require that an employer accommodate an employee without a disability based on the disability-related needs of a family member or acquaintance, according to information from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, though the webpage notes that an employer is free to provide such flexibilities if it chooses to do so.

Under the FMLA, leave taken by an employee for the purpose of avoiding exposure to the disease would not be protected, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Instead, employers should “encourage” sick employees and those with sick family members to stay home, and should consider flexible leave policies.

And under the Occupational Safety and Health Act, employees are permitted to refuse to work if they believe they are in “imminent danger,” said Mark H. Moore, a partner with the law firm Reavis Page Jump. That’s a tough standard to meet, he said. Moore noted that a university is typically a more “collegial” workplace than, say, a meat-packing plant. It may be more difficult to tell a professor with tenure or with union protections that they have to return to work than it would be in other industries, he said.

That hasn't kept some prominent college leaders from making the ask.

Some, like Christina H. Paxson, Brown University’s president, have stumped for a return to in-person instruction, arguing that without face-to-face instruction, students will suffer.

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