Fall 2020 Furlough FAQs

Human Resources has put together this information to assist employees with questions about furloughs related to the Fall 2020 semester (which only affect certain staff members who have been individually notified).

August 2020

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What is the difference between a full furlough and a partial furlough?

  • A furlough of any kind is an unpaid absence assigned to an employee. During a furlough, the employee does not work at the College and is not paid by the College. The expectation is that a furlough is temporary.

  • A full furlough is an unpaid absence for more than than one pay period. This includes employees who are fully furloughed for a period less than the 18 weeks between August 31 and December 30.

  • A partial furlough is a job status in which an employee does not work and is not paid for a specified period of up to one pay period. Partial furloughs are defined by the percentage of days worked during the partial furlough period, as compared to the full number of days that an employee would normally work. Partial furloughs include employees who receive a reduction in hours or who will work alternate pay periods.

Work Expectations

Employees are not authorized to perform any work of any kind for their department during the period of their furlough, including checking and responding to work email. You may not volunteer to perform unpaid work for the department during a furlough. Employees paid hourly who are on a partial furlough can only perform work during their scheduled work hours.

What do I do if I am partially furloughed?

Your manager will notify you of your scheduled weekly hours (or weeks off, for salaried employees) for the duration of your partial furlough. For hourly employees, all work must be performed during the work hours scheduled by your manager. For salaried employees, the work is defined in terms of a week, so all work must be performed during the work week scheduled by your manager. Getting any work done outside of scheduled work hours is not permitted during the furlough period. Because of applicable law, salaried employees must take furloughs in uninterrupted seven-day, Sunday-Saturday periods (however, since the regular work hours of the College are Monday-Friday, this will generally mean Monday-Friday).

Employees on furlough should utilize the out-of-office email message for the duration of the furlough period. Consult with your manager to fill in the required information.

What do I do if I am placed on a full furlough?

Employees who are on a full furlough are not authorized to perform any work at all for the department during the period of their furlough. Managers will notify employees of their return from full furlough using the primary telephone number and personal email account listed for the employee in College records.

Employees on full furlough should utilize the out-of-office email message on their Oxy account for the duration of the full furlough period.


Benefits Information

Your medical, dental and vision benefits will continue during a full furlough or partial furlough. As a reminder, benefits are funded in two parts: the employer contribution, paid by Oxy, and the employee contribution, which is deducted from your paycheck. The College will continue to pay the employer contribution toward the employee's health care.

Further information about health benefit payments and information about other benefit programs is provided below.

Partial Furlough

Health, Dental and Vision Coverage

As indicated, you will be continued under the College’s group medical, dental and vision plans during the furlough.. Your contributions will continue to be deducted from your paycheck, where possible. The College will continue to pay its portion of the premium(s), if applicable.

Flexible Spending Account (FSA)

Your contributions will continue to be deducted from your paycheck during your partial furlough.

Life Insurance/Accidental Death & Dismemberment (AD&D)

Your basic life, accidental death & dismemberment, supplemental life, spouse and/or child life insurance will remain in place during partial furlough. Where possible, your contributions will continue to be deducted from your paycheck.

You may elect to reduce the amount of supplemental, spouse and/or child life insurance coverage. You do not need a qualifying event to make any changes to life insurance coverage(s). Keep in mind that reduced coverage(s) cannot be later reinstated to higher levels without the approval of your life insurance provider.

Long-Term Disability

Your long-term disability insurance will continue while on partial furlough.

Tuition Assistance Programs

You will remain eligible for Oxy tuition remission benefits while on partial furlough based on current eligibility. You will also remain eligible for the Tuition Exchange program.

Retirement

You will continue to receive employer retirement contributions on your earnings for the hours that you worked in that pay period during this time. You may continue to make voluntary contributions if you are partially furloughed and have earnings during the particular pay period.

You can change your voluntary retirement contributions at any time.

Employee Assistance Program (EAP)

You and your household members will remain eligible for EAP benefits while on partial furlough. To use the benefit, call 1-800-854-1446 and identify yourself as an Oxy employee or household/family member of an Oxy employee.

Full Furlough

Health, Dental and Vision Coverage

As indicated previously, you will be continued under the College’s group medical, dental and vision plans during the furlough. You may pay your portion of the monthly insurance premium by personal check or, where possible, you may elect to have your contribution come out of your vacation payout. You could cancel your College health, dental and vision coverage, but this is strongly discouraged unless you have other coverage available. Aside from canceling coverage, you may not make any changes to benefits coverage at this time. You may, of course, make changes for the following year in the annual open enrollment period (traditionally in late October).

Flexible Spending Account (FSA)

You remain eligible to submit expenses to a FSA during a full furlough. You will have access to your full annual election amount for a health care FSA and access to money you have contributed to date for a dependent care FSA.

Your contributions to the health care FSA will not be billed, but will be collected when you return to work.

Being placed on full furlough would allow you to make changes to a health care and/or dependent care FSA.

Tuition Remission and Tuition Exchange Programs

You will remain eligible for Oxy tuition remission benefits while on full furlough based on current eligibility. You will also remain eligible for the Tuition Exchange program.

Retirement

You will not receive employer retirement contributions while fully furloughed and you are unable to make voluntary contributions.

Employee Assistance Program (EAP)

You and your household members will remain eligible for EAP benefits while fully furloughed . To use the benefit, call 1-800-854-1446 and identify yourself as an Oxy employee or household/family member of an Oxy employee.


Frequently Asked Questions

How many people or positions were placed on furlough as a result of the labor-related budget moves announced by the College on August 3?

  • There are 66 full furloughs
  • There are 63 partial furloughs

Which departments are affected by the furloughs?

The departments most impacted are Dining Services, Facilities Management, and Student Affairs. ITS and Academic Affairs were also impacted.

What is the anticipated time period for the furloughs?

The expectation is that the time period will begin on August 31 and end on December 30, with a possible return date of December 31, 2020. However this is not definite and is subject to change, depending on the state of the pandemic and the College's operating needs.

How was this December date decided?

While it is difficult to predict the behavior of the pandemic, there is hope for a spring return of employees and students to campus. The end of the calendar year provides a reasonable basis for us to define an end period for this furlough period.

Why isn't there a definite return date?

This return date is not definite primarily because we are unsure of how the pandemic will evolve and its effect on the College's operations. It should also be noted that, according to the Employment Development Department of the State of California, "[i]f you are not given a definite return-to-work date, any vacation or holiday pay you receive when your job ends is not deducted from your weekly [unemployment] benefit amount."

How was it decided which positions and which people would be affected?

With the decision to go to all-remote instruction this fall, each department was reviewed to determine which functions will be needed to serve the community at this time. Based on these operational considerations, positions were identified with functions for which there would be no demand or that could be carried out on a less than full-time basis. Wherever possible, employee positions were maintained by cutting other expenses and leaving open positions unfilled. Where positions were affected for the duration of the semester, the College explored the feasibility of reducing employee workload through partial furloughs prior to implementing full furloughs. In all cases, positions affected were determined by their role in providing the services required to support our students, employees and community. In cases where two or more employees sharing the same title in the same department were impacted, decisions were based on seniority and the ability to perform the remaining work.

How are employees being informed of these decisions?

Employees were first informed of the overall need for these changes in an August 3 email announcement from President Elam, followed by a virtual all-staff meeting that same morning that was recorded and posted on the Oxy website. Affected employees were informed directly by their supervisor and/or department head and pertinent information was reviewed individually with employees by members of the Human Resources Office. Employees are also receiving a written notice of this change, sent via U.S. mail.

What is the unemployment benefit?

The unemployment benefit in California is based on income received over the previous 12 months, with a maximum amount of $450 per week. The Employment Development Department provides a calculator to provide an estimated benefit at https://edd.ca.gov/Unemployment/UI-Calculator.htm. The site indicates that quarterly earnings of $11,685 may provide the basis for a claim of $450 per week. Any unemployment claim amount would be reduced by earnings provided for the College. For example, if an employee is eligible for a $450 benefit and the College has provided $100 in earnings, then the unemployment benefit will be $350 ($450 - $100 = $350).

Am I eligible for unemployment?

According to EDD, an individual would be considered eligible for unemployment benefits in “[a]ny week of less than full-time work, if the wages payable to him or her with respect to the week, when reduced by twenty-five dollars ($25) or 25 percent of the wages payable, whichever is greater, do not equal or exceed his or her weekly benefit amount . . .” This means that someone would be eligible if they are working less than 25% of their normal full-time work in a particular week and are now earning less than the unemployment benefit amount (which is a maximum of $450 per week).

How do I apply for unemployment?

At this point, the best way to do it is via an online application by going to https://edd.ca.gov/. The Human Resources office is available to help you with this application. While we cannot file this application on your behalf, you can set up a time for a member of the Human Resources office to work with you in completing the application. You may not apply for unemployment benefits until the first day that you are actually not earning income.

Will the vacation payout be counted against me when I apply for unemployment?

As we are not providing you with a "definite return date," the vacation payout should not be counted in the unemployment benefits claims calculation. As cited previously, according to the Employment Development Department of the State of California, vacation will not be applied to the calculation of the potential unemployment benefit if there is not a "definite return date." While we are hopeful that the return date will be December 31, we cannot provide this date as a "definite return date," which is why we believe that vacation payout will not be counted in the unemployment benefit calculation.

Will I be eligible for the federal unemployment subsidy?

On Saturday, August 8, a federal executive order was enacted which may provide additional unemployment benefits of up to $400, depending on certain state action. At the time this answer was drafted, the determination as to whether these benefits will exist in California has not yet been determined.

Full Furloughs

Will my email account be discontinued during this time?

No. Email will not be deactivated during furloughs. However, please note that employees may not do any work for the College during furloughs, including responding to or writing emails that are related to the employee’s work responsibilities.

I want to continue to receive community-wide emails that don't relate to my work. How can I continue to do so during this time?

While your Oxy email will continue to receive community-wide emails, it is recommended that you set up an email forward for addresses where you would expect community-wide emails to come from, so that you can receive these emails easily without accessing work-related emails.

May I read job-related magazines or books or attend professional events for my own personal enjoyment, even though they may be related to my job?

Yes. You are free to do anything you wish for your own personal reasons, as long as it is not work that is assigned, either directly or implicitly, by anyone at the College.

May I attend College events or functions?

Yes, you may attend public events at the College, but you may not attend work-related employee events while fully furloughed.

Will I accrue vacation or sick leave while fully furloughed?

Vacation and sick leave will not be accrued during the full furlough.

Can I use my vacation to make up for some (or all) of the earnings that I would have earned during this time?

In general, employees will be paid the sum of their vacation earnings in their final paycheck prior to the full furlough. This is in accordance with California state law. College employees in positions represented by SEIU who are on full furlough will have until September 1 to elect to cash out any or all of their vacation earnings. So, while vacation accruals cannot be applied during a full furlough, most employees can consider the vacation payout to be similar to using vacation pay to replace earnings.

Can I use my sick time to make up for some (or all) of the earnings that I would have earned during this time?

No, sick time cannot be used while fully furloughed. The sick leave accruals currently earned will be available to the employee upon their return from the full furlough.

Can I use the supplemental sick time provided by the city ordinance passed in April to make up for some (or all) of the earnings that I would have earned during this time?

On April 7, the city of Los Angeles passed a public order relating to Supplemental Paid Sick Leave Due to COVID-19. Unfortunately, this sick time cannot be used while furloughed.

I have already taken a furlough this summer. Can the time already spent on this previous furlough count toward my new full furlough?

If you took a furlough prior to August, took vacation time to continue pay, and your position has been identified as requiring a full furlough, the College will account for that vacation lost in your vacation payout.

Will the vacation payout be counted against me when I apply for unemployment?

As we are not providing you with a "definite return date," the vacation payout should not be counted in the unemployment benefits claims calculation. As cited previously, according to the Employment Development Department of the State of California, vacation will be applied to calculate the potential unemployment benefit if there is a definite return date but will not be applied if there is not a "definite return date." While we are hopeful that the return date will be December 31, we cannot provide this date as a "definite return date," and for that reason believe that vacation payout will not be counted in the unemployment benefit calculation.

Partial Furloughs

If my position is subject to a partial furlough, may I continue to work for the College during the times that I am not expected to work?

You may not continue to work for the College during times that you are not expected to work. You may not perform any work for the College unless the work is specifically assigned to you, in writing, by an official representative of the College.

Does responding to email or phone calls relating to my job count as work?

Yes, email or phone calls where it could reasonably be assumed that you are performing work related to your position at the College would be considered to be work. For this reason, you are not to respond to emails or phone calls that would be considered work during your partial furlough.

Will my email account be discontinued during the time that I will not be working?

Your email account will continue, but you will be provided instructions on how to set up a forwarding address to a colleague who is not on partial furlough so that important emails and phone messages are addressed. You will also be provided with directions on how to set up an out-of-office message that can be placed on your account.

May I come to campus to pick something up or just to hang out?

During this extraordinary time, the campus will be closed to visitors and, while you are and continue to be a valued member of our community, we ask that you keep campus visits to a minimum. If you need to pick something up, you are not prohibited from coming to campus, but we ask that you take great care and please consider any alternatives for the time being. If you do come to campus for any reason, remember that you are required to use the College's Daily Health Check System to verify that you are free of any COVID-19 symptoms or recent exposures.

May I read job-related magazines or books or attend professional events for my own personal enjoyment, even though they may be related to my job?

Yes. You are free to do anything you wish for your own personal reasons, as long as it is not work that is assigned, either directly or implicitly, by anyone at the College.

How is my work schedule being set during this time?

Your work schedule should be set up based on what is needed to continue services to College students, employees and community members. Your schedule should be established by your supervisor in consultation with you. Where possible, supervisors are being asked to handle employee scheduling in ways that take into consideration potential unemployment benefits. For salaried employees, the minimum duration of a furlough is one full week (Sunday through Saturday). For hourly employees, the minimum duration of a furlough can be in one-hour increments; however, keep in mind that any pay that an employee earns during the week reduces their unemployment benefit for the same week. For this reason, it is recommended that hourly employees receive one-week furloughs at a minimum if operationally practical. In all situations, the schedule must be communicated with Human Resources so that we can ensure that College records, including pay records, are set up correctly.

How will my partial furlough be recorded?

HR will work with your supervisor to gather the necessary information. If you are paid based on a timesheet, you will continue to record your actual time worked. If you are salaried and recording your time on a leave report, you do not need to record the furlough on the leave report.

Can I use my vacation to make up for some (or all) of the pay that I would have earned during this time?

During this time, employees may use vacation accruals to take time away from work. Employees may also elect to cash out vacation between now and September 1 as a way to use vacation to make up some (or all) of the pay that would have potentially been earned during this time. This is a one-time window.

Can I use my sick time to make up for some (or all) of the earnings that I would have earned during this time?

Sick time may be used to maintain earnings for a day when an employee cannot perform their assigned work due to illness but cannot be used to replace earnings for days spent out on partial furlough or work interruption during this period.

Can I use the supplemental sick time provided by the city ordinance passed in April to make up for some (or all) of the earnings that I would have earned during this time?

On April 7, the city of Los Angeles passed a public order for Supplemental Paid Sick Leave Due to COVID-19. Sick time may be used to maintain earnings for a day when an employee cannot perform their assigned work due to illness but cannot be used to replace earnings for days spent out on furlough.

I have already taken a furlough this summer. Can the time already spent on this previous furlough count toward this new furlough?

If you took a furlough prior to August, took vacation time to continue pay, and your position has been identified as requiring a partial furlough, the College will return the vacation accrual used in the July furlough to your vacation account.

If I am working one week on and one week off (or two weeks on and two weeks off), how does the unemployment process work?

Everyone who files for unemployment benefits first sets up an account with the state Employment Development Department (EDD) and makes an initial claim. The HR office can help you set up that account and is available to help you make an appointment to set up the initial claim.

Once the unemployment claim is set up, you can “reopen” your claim via the EDD. This claim reopening is designed to be an expedited process in relation to the time needed to set up the initial claim. Directions on what is required can be found at the EDD website.