An update from the President on a number of issues that address our collective need to balance work, family and peace of mind in a time of school closures, information overload and emergency proclamations.
Dear Oxy Faculty & Staff
Even prior to the recent coronavirus pandemic, this semester has been challenging for Oxy in so many ways. Thursday’s decision to transition to remote learning will present a number of new challenges for our entire community. We are all working under unprecedented and unexpected circumstances. And we are not alone. Hundreds of colleges and universities are facing similar challenges to the ones we are facing and they, too, will need to navigate these uncharted waters. I understand that at this moment - when we continue to deliver the academic program to our students - every employee of the College is also grappling with these unprecedented circumstances on a professional and personal level.
We are taking every precaution necessary to create a safe environment for employees to come to work. We understand that the anxiety about being in public spaces is especially high, but if we continue to follow the best public health measures encouraged globally, including social distancing, frequent hand washing, staying home when ill, and increased cleaning of high-touch surfaces, Oxy will remain a safe place to live and work.
I want to share with you an update on a number of issues that address the need of all of us to balance work, our families, and our peace of mind in a time of school closures, information overload and emergency proclamations. We hope this additional information will provide some clarity and help alleviate some of the anxiety that we all feel.
Your health matters
Your health, and that of your family, remains the essential concern. If you are not feeling well, please stay home and use sick time. It is not only for your welfare but also for the welfare of your coworkers. If you are in a position that accrues sick time, but do not have any currently, the College will advance up to 10 days (80 hours) of paid sick leave (to accommodate 14 calendar days) to ensure that your income will be maintained during an absence. We will also work with affected employees, in the event that their situation in 2020 requires that additional time be taken.
Supervisors: If someone who reports to you has flu-like symptoms, please ensure that they go home immediately and return only when the symptoms are gone.
It is also important to remember that the people who are at risk of serious illness remain those over the age of 60 and individuals with heart disease, diabetes, lung disease, and those who are otherwise immunocompromised. Individuals who fall into these categories should take additional precautions when deciding whether to go to work or any public environment.
The College’s March 4 announcement indicated that “telecommuting options may be available for employees who are able to work and can perform the essential functions of their job at home.” The College remains open and it is important that we continue carrying out the core functions of our offices. We also understand that some functions can be performed remotely, so we have asked the vice presidents to work with the supervisors in their departments to identify those functions and map out a plan with employees so those essential functions can continue. Of course, the considerations for remote working will need to include the establishment of a clear work plan that meets the College's ongoing needs—as well as the resources that employees will require to meet them. Please keep in mind the following things when developing a telecommuting plan:
- Based on the needs of the department, and the number of people in the department that wish to telecommute, telecommuting may need to be alternated between employees in the department.
- For employees who are paid by the hour (i.e., non-exempt), those who are permitted to work off-campus must abide by California-mandated meal and rest rules, as described in the College’s Employee Handbook. [You can find the handbook on myOxy on the Work-Related page, under the Human Resources tab.] Non-exempt employees must also document all work time. These employees may not work more than eight hours per day or more than 40 in a week without written authorization from their supervisor.
- Employees who need special tools or equipment to perform their duties remotely should work with their supervisor to see if they are available.
Caring for Children
As you may know, many school districts have temporarily closed, leaving working parents with potential, temporary gaps in child care. Employees have access up to two weeks (80 hours) of sick leave for care of children. If needed, there may be other opportunities to use vacation and possible telecommuting. I recognize that employees may be concerned that this situation could exhaust their available accruals in this area. We will also work with affected employees, in the event that their situation in 2020 requires that additional time be taken.
While there may be opportunities for children to be at the employee’s work area for limited durations, family members should not be regularly present in the work area.
Prioritize Your Health
If you have a medical condition which you believe may make you more susceptible to contracting a virus, please speak confidentially with Human Resources. Your supervisor will be involved in any work assignments, but you are not required to disclose any information about a medical condition to your supervisor.
Additional Resources for Remote Medical Services and Mental Health
Self-care is especially important in times like this. We would like to share some additional medical and mental health services that do not require in-person visits which may be helpful, particularly as going to a care provider’s office could be difficult or discouraged in some cases.
Blue Shield of California:
Teladoc number: 1-800-835-2362
Teladoc is a convenient and affordable option that allows you (and covered dependents) to talk to a doctor who can diagnose, recommend treatment and prescribe medication, when appropriate, for many of your minor medical conditions. Through Teladoc you can talk to a doctor anytime, anywhere, by phone or video consult 24/7/36.
Teladoc copay for Trio members is $0. For Access+ HMO and PPO members the copay is $5. Prescription fees will vary based upon your respective Blue Shield plan.
Set up your account by visiting the Teladoc website. Once your account is set up, request a consult when needed. You can download the app by visiting www.teladoc.com/mobile.
*Video visit: 1-833-574-2273
*Must be 18 or older and must have had at least one in-person visit in order to utilize this service.
The video visit is a convenient option that allows you to talk to a doctor who can diagnose and prescribe appropriate treatment for non-emergency/non-major health conditions such as colds, skin rashes and the flu. There is no co-payment to use the service; however, applicable co-payments will be charged should medication be prescribed.
Kaiser members can also take advantage of online e-visits for self-care advice. Through the online visit, members can receive personalized guidance, with prescriptions if necessary, seven days per week, 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. (including holidays). To access an e-visit, log in to your online Kaiser member account accessible at kp.org.
Mental Health & Well Being
A public health crisis such as this one can cause anxiety, uncertainty, discomfort and anger. When unmanaged, these feelings, according to mental health experts, can lead to depression and isolation. The best way to fight these feelings is through good mental health care, such as speaking with a therapist, practicing mindfulness, and engaging with your community. Oxy has a number of valuable mental health resources available to you to assist you during this difficult time.
Emmons Wellness Center
Emmons is available to provide confidential consultation and referrals for mental health services in the Los Angeles area. Please email Sara Semal at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a time to talk.
Blue Shield offers telebehavioral services for mental health (services are only available in California). Video therapy can be accessed using a computer (with webcam), smartphone, or tablet and participants may mix online video and in-person visits. 877-263-9952 (Group #W0070118).
While Kaiser does not offer telebehavioral services, there are providers available for face to face services if desired.
Employee Assistance Program
Full-time employees also have access to the Employee Assistance Program, which can be reached at 800-854-1446.
I encourage you to contact Human Resources if you need any additional assistance or have questions.
I am confident that the Occidental community will find its way through together, to the end of the academic year, together, and graduate the class of 2020. As we do so, all of your contributions are essential and valued.
President Jonathan Veitch