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UA Will Provide Employees Campus-funded COVID Leave in 2021

UA President Dr. Stuart Bell has authorized The University of Alabama to provide faculty and staff 2021 COVID leave time to replace the federal benefits that expired Dec. 31.

The University-provided 2021 COVID Leave helps employees affected by COVID-related illness and complications, and replaces a similar program provided by federal law, allowing employees up to 80 hours of paid leave for certain qualifying reasons related to COVID-19. It covers gaps created by the federal programs’ lapse.

“We have implemented this program to protect the campus community from the spread of the coronavirus while acknowledging that balancing work and our personal lives is an important part of the University’s mission,” said Bell. “We want to assist our outstanding faculty, staff and student workers when they need time for illness or to care for their children during this unprecedented pandemic.”

All full-time, part-time, temporary or contingent on-call faculty, staff and student workers who are unable to work or telework because of a qualifying reason related to COVID-19 are eligible no matter their date of hire or service time. It does not replace the University’s existing leave benefits.

Qualifying reasons for employees include:

  • Diagnosed COVID-19 subject to a quarantine or isolation order
  • COVID-19 symptoms awaiting a medical diagnosis or testing confirmation
  • An order to quarantine or isolate because of close contact with an infected individual or directed by a case manager with the UA COVID-19 Support Program
  • Side effects experienced within two weeks of a COVID-19 vaccination
  • Caring for children under the age of 18 whose school, place of care or childcare provider is unavailable because of COVID-19 precautions

Employees or their supervisor should call the UA COVID-19 Hotline, 205-348-CV19, as soon as possible if experiencing symptoms, diagnosed with the illness or been in close contact with an infected individual. Employees should not call the hotline for leave issues related to childcare.

Employees who request 2021 COVID Leave should submit the 2021 COVID Leave Request Form. The employee’s myBama username and password are required to access the request form. HR may request additional supporting documents, if necessary.

Specialists in the Benefits Office will determine eligibility and respond to requests via email in about five business days. If approved, an employee’s leave request will be retroactive to the requested start date on the form. 

The 80 hours of paid leave, about 10 work days, will be prorated for part-time employees who are less than one full-time equivalent employee.

The rate of pay for the days is two-thirds of the employee’s regular rate, but an employee can supplement the remaining one-third pay with accrued sick leave, annual leave or compensatory time, if available. The one-third calculation will be handled by UA Payroll for those who elect to supplement.

Last year, the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act provided employees nationwide with certain paid leave benefits related to COVID-19, which expired on Dec. 31. UA’s 2021 COVID Leave, effective Jan. 1, covers the gaps created when the federally mandated benefits lapsed.

More information on 2021 COVID Leave is available on the UA Human Resources website, including a list of frequently asked questions. The 80 hours of leave should be visible under “Leave Balances” under the employee menu in the MyBama web portal.

2021 COVID-19 Accommodation Form Now Available

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, older adults and people of any age who have certain underlying medical conditions are considered to be members of a ‘vulnerable population’ that are or might be at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19.  For more details on the CDC’s definition of ‘vulnerable population,’ please visit the CDC website. This list is subject to change based on emerging scientific evidence and may be periodically updated on the CDC’s website.

Vulnerable employees and/or employees who share a household with or have primary care responsibility for someone who is in the vulnerable population may complete the online form to request temporary COVID-19 accommodations for Spring 2021. Examples of COVID-19 accommodations include working remotely, changing shifts and/or changing work schedule to allow for staggered arrival and departure times, physical work site modifications, providing additional personal protective equipment (PPE), temporary leave of absence, etc.

Request a 2021 COVID-19 Accommodation*

Employees who are currently approved for a COVID-19 accommodation for the Fall 2020 semester must reapply for Spring 2021. When seeking such accommodations, employees must have their healthcare provider complete a medical inquiry form to determine whether the employee is eligible to request an accommodation. However, medical documentation is not required for age-related accommodation requests. Human Resources will review all forms to determine eligibility. While supervisors and leaders are included in accommodation planning, only HR can deny an accommodation request.

For those requesting temporary COVID-19 accommodations for Spring 2021, please do so as soon as possible after determining the potential need for such an accommodation because there is a short window of time before the winter holiday break. Human Resources has established the following deadlines:

  • November 20: Deadline to submit 2021 COVID-19 Accommodation Request Form
  • December 4: Deadline to return medical inquiry form to Human Resources

Any accommodation requests received after these deadlines will be processed, however, a decision on late submissions is not guaranteed until after the winter break. The employee’s Dean or Assistant Vice President will receive a copy of the request to initiate the approval process, which may also include input from the Office of Academic Affairs or Human Resources if additional review is necessary.

Approval of a requested accommodation is not guaranteed. Requests will be reviewed in accordance with the University’s health and safety protocols and subject to an undue hardship analysis. Because an accommodation implicates an essential function of the employee’s job, any approved accommodation will be provided on a temporary basis. Employees will receive a system-generated email with a final decision after evaluation of the employee’s accommodation. All approved accommodations will automatically expire on May 15, 2021. However, please note that the approved accommodation may, in the University’s discretion, end at any time prior to May 15, 2021.

Employees who have a disability and need accommodations should continue to follow the established Employee Procedures for Requesting Reasonable Accommodations per the ADA.

Direct questions to the HR Service Center at (205) 348-7732 or hrsvctr@ua.edu. Detailed FAQs are available on the HR website.

* NOTE: An alternative 2021 COVID-19 Accommodation Request Form is available for the following groups only: 1) newly hired employees who do not have an assigned CWID, 2) employees with a secondary/overload position for which they need to request an accommodation, and/or 3) employees who do not currently have an active job. The same approval levels, accommodation examples and processing timeline described above applies. Click here to complete the alternative request form in Qualtrics.

TIAA Paycheck for Life Webinar

TIAA will be presenting a live webinar “University of Alabama System: Paycheck for Life” on November 16th from 11am-12pm. Participants will learn how creating a diversified income plan can help reduce risks in retirement. Click here for more information, including how to register.

Important Update on Returning to Campus

Remote employees should plan campus return by Nov. 9

Based on the current campus and community transmission rate, the University has loosened many restrictions and expanded opportunities thanks to the resilience, diligence and resourcefulness of our faculty, staff, and students.

 

Many faculty and staff have returned to work on campus, and supervisors have been asked to develop plans to bring remaining remote employees back to campus, maintaining thorough health and safety protocols.

 

Plans will include evaluating and adjusting workspaces, providing safety equipment, establishing health and safety rules, and coordinating workplace schedules in accordance with the policies and directives related to health and safety outlined in the UA plan for a return to full operations.

 

By Monday, Nov. 9, employees who have been working remotely due to the pandemic are expected to work a minimum of two to three days a week on campus unless they have remote work agreements unrelated to the pandemic or those with approved, temporary COVID-19 accommodations. Supervisors and deans will have the option of planning on-campus/remote hybrid work schedules where appropriate.

 

Those with current temporary accommodations related to COVID-19 will continue to operate under those accommodations until Dec. 31. Employees who may need temporary accommodations for the remainder of 2020 may apply using the current process. If accommodations are necessary in the new year, employees should apply using the 2021 COVID-19 accommodations process, available later this month. The 2021 COVID-19 accommodations will require medical certification, so those who may need them should contact their health care providers as soon as possible to complete the medical inquiry form.

 

Before returning to campus, all employees are required to:

 

Upon returning to campus, everyone must:

  • Maintain social distancing with appropriate protective equipment.
  • Wear face coverings in enclosed offices and outdoor settings when physical distancing is not possible or when distancing is difficult.

 

More details and frequently asked questions are available on the HR Employee FAQ site. Medical questions, including those related to COVID-19 testing, should be directed to the COVID-19 hotline at 205-348-2819 or to the Student Health Center, University Medical Center, or a personal healthcare provider.

 

Faculty and staff should direct any questions their supervisors cannot answer to the HR Service Center at 205-348-7732 or hrsvctr@ua.edu.

TIAA Financial Webinars November 10-12

TIAA is offering several one-hour live webinars from November 10-12 addressing a wide array of financial issues including legacy planning, investing basics, the power of saving, online tools and retirement. Click HERE for more information and how to enroll for the seminars.

TIAA Financial Webinars October 13-15

TIAA is offering several one-hour live webinars from October 13-15 addressing a wide array of financial issues including retirement assets, Medicare, alternative investments, Health Savings Accounts and cybersecurity. Click HERE for more information and how to enroll for the seminars.

Expanded Family Medical Leave Eligibility Update

On September 11, 2020, the Wage and Hour Division of the Department of Labor (DOL) released revisions to the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) published on April 1, 2020. The revisions are in response to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York’s opinion in State of New York v. U.S. Department of Labor and are effective September 16, 2020 through December 31, 2020.

Initially, the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act contained a broad exemption for “health care providers” and “emergency responders.” The broad exemption for employees working as “emergency responders” remains unchanged, however, effective September 16, the DOL has narrowed the definition of “health care provider” which now includes two distinct groups that remain ineligible for Expanded Family Medical Leave:

1) Anyone who is a licensed doctor of medicine, nurse practitioner, or other health care provider permitted to issue a certification for purposes of the FMLA, or

2) Any other person who is employed to provide diagnostic services, preventive services, treatment services, or other services that are integrated with and necessary to the provision of patient care and, if not provided, would adversely impact patient care. This group includes employees who provide direct diagnostic, preventive, treatment, or other patient care services, such as nurses, nurse assistants, and medical technicians. It also includes employees who directly assist or are supervised by a direct provider of diagnostic, preventive, treatment, or other patient care services. Finally, employees who do not provide direct heath care services to a patient but are otherwise integrated into and necessary to the provision those services—for example, a laboratory technician who processes medical test results to aid in the diagnosis and treatment of a health condition—are health care providers.

Impacted Departments: Based on the above definitions, certain employees working for the following UA departments remain designated as “health care providers” or “emergency responders” and are therefore exempt from receiving Expanded Family Medical Leave: College of Community Health Sciences, Student Health Center, Brewer-Porch Children’s Center, Psychology Clinic, RISE, Speech and Hearing Center, Capstone Village Retirement, Women and Gender Resource Center, Counseling Center, Collegiate Recovery, The University of Alabama Police Department (UAPD), Working on Womanhood (WOW) Program, Youth Services Institute (YSI), Marriage and Family Therapy Clinic, and Autism Clinic.

Updated Eligibility: Certain types of employees in these departments previously classified as “health care providers” are now eligible for Expanded Family Medical Leave beginning September 16. The DOL clarified that a person is not a health care provider merely because his or her employer provides health care services or because he or she provides a service that affects the provision of health care services. For example, IT professionals, building maintenance staff, human resources personnel, cooks, food services workers, records managers, consultants and billers are not health care providers, even if they work at a hospital or a similar health care facility.

Additional information about the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act is available on the HR website under COVID-19 FAQs. Direct questions to the HR Service Center at (205) 348-7732 or email hrsvctr@ua.edu.

Work Location and Return to Campus

HR Assistance to Supervisors: Test + Train + Check 

As we continue to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic and prepare for the start of the fall semester, there are three things that all employees, including faculty and staff, must do before returning to campus in any capacity (part-time or full-time) to help protect the safety and well-being of everyone in the campus community. All employees must complete the following: (1) COVID-19 Testing; (2) COVID-19 Training; and (3) enroll in the UA Healthcheck. 

Enforcement of the testing, training, and Healthcheck requirements plays a critical role in our efforts for a successful Fall. Enforcement must occur at multiple levels, and must be supported by administrators and supervisors. Effective enforcement requires compliance monitoring. In order to accurately monitor compliance, administrators and supervisors need to document the work location of employees to allow for efficiently and effectively providing PPE and other necessary precautions for the employees. 

Below are resources for HR Assistance to Supervisors on (1) Employee Work Locations, (2) Employee Compliance, (3) Enforcement, (4) Case Response Protocol, (5) Accommodations, and (6) Additional Resources. 


Assistance to Supervisors: Employee Work Locations 

As before, supervisors will be making the determination on when to bring their direct reports back to campus, which includes making decisions about who can continue to effectively work remotely. If the supervisor believes an employee can continue to be productive working remotely full-time or part-time, absent an employee request for an accommodation (discussed below) the supervisor has the discretion to allow the employee to continue working remotely. For purposes of continuing to track employee work locations during the University response to COVID-19, Human Resources has been working with OIT to develop a Work Location and Clearance Status web page. Supervisors will be receiving information on how to access the web page in the very near future. This web page will replace the spreadsheets in Box that have been regularly updated since March. 

In this new system, instead of categorizing employees into Group 1 (“work on campus”), Group 2 (“work remotely”), or Group 3 (“not working”), supervisors will now be able to indicate the work location of each employee within the web page. A dropdown list will allow supervisors to choose a location of “Campus Only,” “Remote Only,” or “Hybrid.” 

  • The “Hybrid” designation indicates that the employee will be working remotely and on campus. The ”Hybrid” approach should be considered for situations where an employee is unable to be campus only but can work effectively from a remote location while also having the ability to report to campus for periods of time. 
  • “Campus Only” means an employee will be limited to working only on campus. 
  • “Remote Only” means an employee will be working off campus only. Employees who continue to work remotely do not have to sign another telecommuting agreement. 

At this time, there is no definitive return to work date for all employees. If such a date is set, however, it will be communicated to you. In the interim, supervisors can generally move employees between these three categories as appropriate to address office needs or employee needs. For instance, an employee who can effectively work from home who also has childcare issues due to school or daycare closures could be placed in a “Remote Only” or “Hybrid” designation that allows for the childcare issues to be addressed (or moved from a “Remote Only” to a “Hybrid” or “Campus Only” designation if those childcare issues are resolved). If a supervisor determines that it is essential to the function of their area that an employee be in the “Campus Only” designation, should that employee have childcare issues, the employee may be entitled to EFML (see below for more details). When an employee’s status changes, updates to the designation should be made. 

The ultimate determination on an employee’s designation within these categories is left to the discretion of the supervisor, who may consult with Human Resources and their VP and/or Dean for assistance on such decisions. Stated differently, subject to any accommodation requests that will be handled through HR or any EFML needs, supervisors will decide where their employees will work—on campus, at home, or a mixture of both. Supervisors best understand the needs and performance of their area, including the need for and the ability of direct reports to be productive at work. Consequently, supervisors are in the best position to designate their employees based on the needs of their area. 


HR Assistance to Supervisors: Employee Compliance 

The Work Location and Clearance Status web page will also provide supervisors with information regarding the Testing, Training, and UA Healthcheck Enrollment compliance statuses of their employees. The Testing, Training, and Enrollment statuses will automatically update with the current status of employees as “Compliant” or “Not Compliant.” Please know that the data uploads for compliance may be delayed and are not reported in “real time.” The Testing, Training, and Enrollment status will reflect whether the employee is “Compliant” or “Not Compliant” in each category. No private 

health information will be provided to the supervisors. Supervisors will not have access to sensitive personal information regarding the statuses of employees. 

If an employee is noted as being “Compliant,” that means they have completed the required testing and training, and enrolled in UA Healthcheck, which means they are clear to return to campus. If an employee is “Not Compliant,” the supervisor, in consultation with Human Resources, should address the non-compliance with the employee and follow the enforcement steps identified below. 


HR Assistance to Supervisors: Enforcement 

The University takes the health and safety of the campus community very seriously. Failure to complete the COVID-19 Testing, COVID-19 Training, or enroll in the UA Healthcheck will have severe repercussions. Noncompliance will result in the following: 

  • Employee will be sent home without pay
  • If the employee is not compliant after three business days, the employee’s employment will be terminated. 

Termination of a faculty member will follow the procedure set forth in the UA Faculty Handbook. 

Once an employee returns to work on campus, certain COVID-19 safety measures, such as wearing a face mask, completing the required reports on the UA Healthcheck, social distancing, etc., must be followed. If an employee fails to follow the on-campus safety requirements, consistent with UA’s campus plan, the following progressive discipline by a supervisor will apply: 

FIRST VIOLATIONVerbal Counseling 

SECOND VIOLATIONWritten Counseling 

THIRD VIOLATIONFinal Warning and a three-day unpaid suspension 

FOURTH VIOLATIONTermination of Employment 

If an employee is not compliant, the supervisor, in consultation with Human Resources, should address the non-compliance with the employee. 


HR Assistance to Supervisors: Case Response Protocol 

Inevitably, an employee in your area will test positive for COVID-19, exhibit symptoms of COVID-19, or have close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 or exhibited symptoms of COVID-19. In those situations, the impacted staff should contact the HR Service Center at (205) 348-7732 or the COVID-19 hotline at (205) 348-

CV19. Faculty should contact the COVID-19 hotline. Any necessary contact tracing will be handled through those areas. 

Supervisors and employees who have been in close contact with an employee who has tested positive for COVID-19 or exhibited symptoms of COVID-19 will be contacted by Human Resources or the COVID-19 hotline. 

Supervisors who have employees who will be missing work as a result of testing positive for COVID-19, exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19, or having close contact with someone who is symptomatic of tested positive for COVID-19 will be notified by Human Resources or the COVID-19 call center. Any enhanced cleaning of your area that may be required as a result of one of these situations will be coordinated by HR or the call center. 


HR Assistance to Supervisors: Accommodations 

Employees who believe they need a medical or other accommodation, such as access to a computer, to enable them to complete the steps required to return to campus or, upon returning, comply with all mandated safety measures, should address those issues with and obtain approval from their supervisor and Human Resources prior to returning to campus. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, older adults and people of any age who have serious underlying medical conditions are considered to be members of a ‘vulnerable population’ that might be at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19. Faculty, Staff, and Student Workers/Graduate Assistants who are members of this ‘vulnerable population’ may be concerned about working on campus. Vulnerable employees and/or employees who share a household with or have primary care responsibility for someone who is in the vulnerable population may complete the online form to request temporary, COVID-19 accommodations. Examples of COVID-19 accommodations include continuing to work remotely, changing shifts and/or changing work schedule to allow for staggered arrival and departure times, physical work site modifications, providing additional personal protective equipment (PPE), leave of absence, etc. 

In addition to the COVID-19 accommodations, employees who have a disability and need accommodations should continue to follow the established Employee Procedures for Requesting Reasonable Accommodations per the established ADA process. 

Additionally, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act provides employees with Emergency Paid Sick Leave (“EPSL”) and Expanded Family Medical Leave (“EFML”) for specified reasons related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Specifically, Expanded Family Medical Leave provides up to twelve (12) weeks of leave for employees who have childcare issues as a result of a school or child care closing due to COVID-19. Remember that EFML may be taken intermittently. Additionally, the hybrid option can potentially be used for employees who can report to campus at times but also need to work remotely as a result of childcare issues due to childcare and/or school closing as a result of COVID-19. 


HR Assistance to Supervisors: Resources for Questions 

Medical questions, including questions related to COVID-19 testing, should be directed to the COVID-19 hotline at (205) 348-CV19 or to the Student Health Center, University Medical Center, or your personal healthcare provider. 

Faculty and staff should direct all other questions to the HR Service Center at (205) 348-7732 or hrsvctr@ua.edu. Students should direct all other questions to the Office of Disability Services at (205) 348-4285 or ods@ua.edu. 

PDF OF THIS ANNOUNCEMENT

TIAA Webinars September 15-16

TIAA is offering several one-hour live webinars from September 15-16 addressing a wide array of financial issues including asset allocation, 529 college savings plans, the Presidential election and the economy, and saving for your ideal retirement. Click HERE for more information and how to enroll for the seminars.

New Paid Leaves and COVID-19 Accommodations Webinar

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act provides paid leave protections to employees who qualify for Emergency Paid Sick Leave and/or Expanded Family Medical Leave. Employees unable to work or telework due to a COVID-19-related reason, including childcare issues, may be eligible to request these paid leaves. In addition, employees who are members of vulnerable populations at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19 and/or employees who share a household with or have primary care responsibility for someone in a vulnerable population may request temporary, COVID-19 accommodations. Additional information is available on the HR website under the Coronavirus (COVID-19) FAQs.

Live, instructor-led webinars about the new leaves and COVID-19 accommodations will be held 2-3 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 1, and 9:30-10:30 a.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 9. Registration for the webinars is available in UA LMS. Direct questions to the HR Service Center at 205-348-7732 or hrsvctr@ua.edu.

TIAA Webinars August 11-13

TIAA is offering several one-hour live webinars from August 11-13 addressing a wide array of financial issues including Social Security for married couples, the post-coronavirus investment outlook, and financial housekeeping. Click here for more information and how to enroll for the seminars.