Federal Order Requires COVID-19 Vaccination for University Employees

As many of you may know, President Joe Biden recently signed Executive Order 14042, which has been the focus of guidance from the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force. This order and guidance from the federal government require all federal contractors and subcontractors to mandate COVID-19 vaccinations for employees, including those who work at a university with federal contracts.

As a federal contractor, The University of Alabama, like most higher education institutions, must comply with the Executive Order and accompanying guidance. Consequently, the University is required to ensure that all UA employees are fully vaccinated for COVID-19 by December 8, 2021, unless they have an approved medical, disability, or religious exemption. 

Because this vaccination requirement is mandated by the federal government, UA does not have flexibility in its application or enforcement. Failure to comply will place The University of Alabama in jeopardy of losing hundreds of millions of dollars that we receive through federal contracts and awards as well as thousands of jobs funded, in part, by those dollars.

We continue to closely examine and monitor these federal mandates. In the meantime, if you have not yet been vaccinated, you should begin the process promptly to ensure compliance by the December 8 deadline. The timeframes in which you should act vary, depending on the vaccine manufacturer:

  • Moderna: The first dose must be administered no later than six weeks in advance of December 8, which is October 27, and the second dose no later than November 24, which is two weeks before December 8.
  • Pfizer: The first dose must be administered no later than five weeks in advance of December 8, which is November 3, and the second dose by November 24.
  • Johnson & Johnson: The single required dose must be administered no later than November 24.

All three vaccine options are available at no cost through the University Medical Center, Student Health Center or a number of other medical facilities or pharmacies, but timelines for the two-dose vaccines are short, so schedule your appointment now. The University continues to believe that vaccination is the most effective way to combat COVID-19. More details and frequently asked questions about the vaccines are provided on the healthinfo.ua.edu/vaccine webpage or contact the HR Service Center at 205-348-7732 and hrsvctr@ua.edu

We will follow up soon with more detailed guidance, including information on uploading records and applying for medical, disability, or religious exemptions. We recognize that this is an important topic that will generate many strong feelings. Thank you for your consideration and patience as we finalize details and processes.

Paid Parental Leave Policy in the Works

The University of Alabama has approved the creation of a policy that will allow for four weeks of paid parental leave for all benefits-eligible, full-time and part-time employees. The Department of Human Resources and Office for Academic Affairs are currently drafting this policy with an anticipated effective date of Jan. 1, 2022. This proposed policy will not impact faculty maternity leave detailed in the Faculty Handbook. Additional information will be made available as soon as possible.

2021 Drug-Free Campus and Workplace Policy Summary for Faculty and Staff

The University Of Alabama Drug-Free Campus and Workplace Policy Summary for Faculty and Staff

All members of the University community are encouraged to pursue their individual and collective goals in a healthy work and educational environment, one that is free of the effects of alcohol and substance use disorder. Such misuse adversely affects the University’s achievement of its mission and will not be condoned. As part of its effort to promote a drug-free work and educational environment, the University has issued a comprehensive Drug-Free Campus and Workplace policy. This policy can be found in its entirety on the UA Policies website and on the Higher Education Act Compliance website. Employees of the University consent, as a condition of employment, to abide by this policy. The University urges you to read this policy and become familiar with its provisions. The policy for faculty and staff can be summarized as follows:

I. Standards of Conduct: The unlawful or illegal manufacture, distribution, dispensation, possession, or use of a controlled substance by any employee or volunteer of The University of Alabama while they are at work for the University or at another site where the employee is carrying out assigned duties, is prohibited. No employee may report to work while under the influence of alcohol. The possession, distribution or consumption of alcoholic beverages is not permitted on the worksite or other University property during working hours, unless such occurs in the course of authorized business or special University function that includes alcoholic beverages or where consumption was otherwise approved by the University.

II. Self-Disclosure of Criminal Convictions: Any University employee is required to self-disclose to Human Resources post-employment criminal convictions, other than minor traffic violations and including drug and alcohol-related convictions, within five days of the conviction. Such disclosure shall be made on the Disclosure of Criminal Convictions form and returned to Human Resources at Box 870126.

III. Disciplinary Sanctions: Violation of the policy shall result in the prompt imposition of sanctions. These sanctions depend on the nature and severity of the offense and may range from a warning, a reprimand, required satisfactory participation in counseling or rehabilitation programs, probation, unpaid suspension, or termination of employment and/or referral to proper law enforcement authorities for prosecution. Any sanctions taken against faculty, administrators, or staff will be carried out in accordance with policies and procedures published in appropriate University personnel Handbooks and those imposed by the policy of the University’s health professional schools.

IV. Education, Counseling, Treatment, and Rehabilitation Programs: The Employee Assistance Program (EAP) offers assessment, short-term counseling, and referral services for faculty, staff, and their dependents. In addition, the program is intended to provide crisis intervention, as well as training or consultation services for administrators and supervisors who need to know how to identify or make referrals for individuals whose substance use disorder is affecting work performance and unit morale. Contact information for other facilities offering counseling and treatment services is available on the HR website.

V. Health Risks and Legal Sanctions: Alcohol and substance use disorder can create serious health risks and result in misdemeanor or felony convictions and the imposition of a range of criminal penalties, including large fines and imprisonment. Please refer to the corresponding sections of the Drug-Free Campus and Workplace policy and the additional information found on the Alcohol and Other Drugs Prevention website for a more detailed description of these health risks, laws, and penalties.

Susan Norton Named Senior Associate Vice President for Human Resources

The University of Alabama has named Susan Norton as its Senior Associate Vice President for Human Resources effective Oct. 1.

A headshot of Susan Norton
Susan Norton

“We are very excited to welcome Susan Norton to The University of Alabama as our Senior Associate Vice President for Human Resources,” said Matt Fajack, UA’s vice president for the Division of Finance and Operations. “Her professional expertise will enhance the University’s ability to recruit, develop, serve and retain the best faculty and staff for years to come.”

Norton comes to UA after serving as vice president for human resources at Augusta University and the Augusta University Health System since September 2012. During her tenure, Norton provided leadership, direction and management to the university’s Division of Human Resources, and played a pivotal role in implementing a new model of HR delivery that transformed the division and university.

Norton brings more than 25 years of HR experience with her to the Capstone. She has held multiple roles in the field at Augusta University, Georgia Health Sciences University and Georgia Southern University. Norton has also held numerous memberships and leadership roles in professional organizations, including serving as chair of the national board of the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources from July 2020 to June 2021, assuming a past chair role July 1.

Norton received her bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of South Carolina and also earned a master’s in sports management from Georgia Southern University.

TRS Tier II Employees to Contribute More to Retirement Plan Effective Oct. 1

The State of Alabama enacted new legislation that will increase the amount of money Tier II members are required to contribute to their Teachers’ Retirement System (TRS) retirement plan. Tier II members are those who did not participate in TRS or Employees’ Retirement System (ERS) prior to Jan. 1, 2013.

The University of Alabama is a participating employer with TRS, therefore eligible UA employees are required to make contributions to a mandatory 401(a) retirement plan each pay period. Currently, Tier II members contribute 6.0% of salary each pay period (Certified Firefighters or Law Enforcement Officers contribute 7.0%). Effective Oct. 1, 2021, Tier II member contributions will increase 0.2% to 6.2% of salary (7.2% of salary for Tier II Certified Firefighters or Law Enforcement Officers). At retirement, Tier II members will be permitted to convert sick leave to retirement service credit.

ePAs for the New Academic Year

As we begin the new academic year, this is a reminder to please submit all ePAs for new appointments, reappointments, and new hires as soon as possible, with a submission target date of August 6. Submission of ePAs by August 6 will ensure timely and accurate pay to all employees on the regular pay dates in August.

Visit our ePA Resource Guide for instructions and tutorials on how to complete an ePA

HR Requests Employees Self-Identify with Disability and/or Veteran Status

As part of our Affirmative Action Program, referenced in President Stuart R. Bell’s Reaffirmation of Equal Opportunity, Nondiscrimination, and Affirmative Action Policy Statement, the University is required to track the number of individuals with disabilities and/or protected veterans that are employed at UA. The University invites employees who fall into one or both categories to confidentially identify themselves by completing the Voluntary Self-Identification of Individuals with Disabilities and/or Voluntary Self-Identification of Protected Veterans forms that can be found on the Employee tab under Employee Services on myBama. Employees who have previously submitted this information do not have to submit it again, unless your status has changed. Contact the HR Service Center at 348-7732 with questions

Blue Cross Blue Shield Settlement

In October 2020, Blue Cross Blue Shield Association reached a $2.67 billion settlement in a class-action antitrust lawsuit. If you were covered by any Blue Cross self-funded plan, including the University’s self-funded health plan, between Sept. 1, 2015 through Oct. 16, 2020 you may be eligible for a settlement payment. Additional information, including frequently asked questions, is available on the Blue Cross Blue Shield settlement website.

Both individual employees and UA’s self-funded health plan are considered part of the settlement class and are eligible to file a claim. Spouses and dependents, beneficiaries and non-employees are not part of the settlement class and not eligible to receive payment.

You must submit a valid claim online at www.BCBSsettlement.com or postmarked by mail no later than Nov. 5, 2021. Claim forms and additional information is available at www.BCBSsettlement.com or may be requested by calling (888) 681-1142.

Frequently Asked Question Highlights:

Q1. Will UA file on behalf of eligible employees? No, employees must file a claim on their own to be eligible for payment. The University is eligible to file separately as a self-funded health plan.

Q2. Do individual employees have to file a claim? No, filing a claim is voluntary, however, individual employees will be excluded from receiving any settlement payment unless a claim is filed by the deadline.

Q3. When is the deadline to file? Nov. 5, 2021

Q4. Do I need to collect and submit premium/administrative fee data to submit a claim? No, but you have the option to do so. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama has produced premium and administrative fee data as maintained in the normal course of business, and the Claims Administrator will use that data to calculate claim payments.

Q5. Are spouses and dependents eligible to receive payment? No, they are not included in the settlement class and not eligible to receive payment.

Q6. The claim form asks for Group No. and Subscriber or Member ID. What are those? These fields are not required to submit a claim, but you have the option to include this information. Your Subscriber or Member ID is your Social Security Number and your Contract Number can be found on your Blue Cross Blue Shield ID card for the applicable coverage period. If you were enrolled on the UA self-funded health plan on or after Sept. 1, 2015, then the following Group No. may apply to your claim:

  • If enrolled from Sept. 1, 2015 to Dec. 31, 2017, your Group No. was 79912
  • If enrolled between Jan. 1, 2018 and Dec. 31, 2018, your Group No. was 74150
  • If enrolled after Jan. 1, 2019, your Group No. is 74150 (PPO) or 97368 (HDHP)

Q7. Do I need my subscriber or group ID to fill out the claim form? No, you do not need your subscriber or group ID to file a claim, and you should not reach out to your BCBS plan for that information. If you do not have that information, leave it blank and your claim will still be processed.

TIAA Financial Wellness Webinars May 11-13

TIAA is offering several one-hour live webinars from May 11-13 addressing a wide array of financial issues including information on responsible investing, 529 college savings plans, creating a paycheck for life, mid-career financial checkups and more. Click here for more information and how to enroll for the seminars.

COVID Leave, Accommodations, Staggered Schedules Expire May 15

Over the past several weeks, The University of Alabama has seen low COVID infection numbers, expanded campus vaccinations to all eligible employees and students, and received updated guidance from the CDC. With no COVID positives reported among faculty and staff in the last two weeks, we are pleased with these significant indicators and look forward to continued progress.

The following COVID-related programs will expire on May 15:

  • UA-Provided COVID Leave: When federal COVID benefits expired at the end of 2020, UA President Stuart Bell authorized The University of Alabama to provide faculty and staff campus-funded 2021 COVID Leave as a special temporary benefit. This benefit replaced a similar federal program that allowed employees up to 80 hours of paid leave for certain qualifying reasons related to COVID-19.

No COVID Leave may be used beyond May 31, and new requests for COVID Leave will not be considered after May 15. Anyone with approved COVID Leave that is scheduled before May 15, but extends beyond May 16, can continue with their approved leave through May 31.

  • COVID Accommodations: As previously planned, all temporary COVID accommodations will expire May 15, and staggered work schedules will end the same day. Faculty/staff should return to campus workspaces for regular hours beginning Monday, May 17.

The University was pleased to offer temporary COVID accommodations and leave for specific needs. Although those benefits will no longer be available after May 15, employees will keep and continue to accrue their regular sick leave and annual leave, and may apply for accommodations under pre-pandemic benefits and programs.

The COVID Support Program remains operational and available to answer questions at 205-348-CV19. Vaccinations on campus continue, and everyone is encouraged to be vaccinated as doses and timelines allow. If you previously opted out of a vaccine and wish to reapply, please contact the COVID Support Program.  

We appreciate the dedication, flexibility and resolve shown by UA employees over the last year. If you have any questions related to your return to your campus workspace, please talk with your supervisor, visit the HR website COVID Leave FAQs or the General Employee FAQs, or call the HR Service Center at 205-348-7732.

TIAA Financial Wellness Webinars April 13-15

TIAA is offering several one-hour live webinars from April 13-15 addressing a wide array of financial issues including information on income options in retirement, the power of saving, legacy planning and more. Click here for more information and how to enroll for the seminars.