Message Sent To:All Staff
Message From:Message from Human Resources
Date Sent:Tuesday, July 7, 2020 07:00 PM CDT

COVID-19 Return to Work and Reasonable Accommodation

Dear Loyola Staff,

Throughout our response to the coronavirus pandemic and planning for the fall and beyond, our top priority continues to be the health, safety, and well-being of our Loyola University Chicago community. Our scenario planning is based on closely monitoring the evolving situation and maintaining open lines of communication that include direct conversations, working through managers, community messages, updates to the COVID-19 website and FAQs, surveys, and exchanges through our COVID-19 email system. Thank you for staying informed while sharing your questions, comments, and concerns. Provided here is an update on fall planning and Loyola’s COVID-19 Reasonable Accommodation Process.

We have been working diligently on our return-to-campus plans and protocols to care for the health and safety of our Loyola community. Loyola will implement a wide range of precautions that include the following: We will conduct frequent testing for COVID-19 and use extensive contact tracing. Faculty and staff will always maintain a minimum of six feet social distancing and will wear masks covering mouth and nose. Use of gathering spaces such as conference rooms, kitchens, eating areas, and so on will be restricted and employees are encouraged to use personal coolers. Staggered work schedules, including different shifts within workdays, will be used to appropriately maintain healthy work practices. Class sizes will be reduced to ensure that students—who must also wear masks—maintain social distancing at all times in the classroom, and markers will be placed on the floor to indicate the precise location of seats. We have extended the times between classes to 30 minutes to allow for reduced crowding when entering and leaving classrooms and buildings. There will be frequent cleaning of high-touch and common areas. Hand sanitizer and sanitizing wipes will be widely available. Return-to-work training will also be made available. We will continue to share announcements as we prepare our comprehensive handbook for reopening.

We recognize the anxiety some staff and faculty may feel in returning to campus, and we will continue to seek input and data from all areas. This week, we will send a new survey to faculty and staff requesting input and feedback. Within the next week, we will make a firm decision about the online/in-person blend this fall. We must communicate this decision to our new and returning students and focus on our preparations to support faculty and staff for the fall. Trade-offs and difficult financial decisions will lie ahead of us if we move to a greater online presence. However, the health, safety, and welfare of our community are paramount even in the face of these difficulties. If you have further concerns, please email us at COVID-19support@LUC.edu.

As the University plans for reopening, we are mindful that some employees are at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19, as identified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This generally includes all individuals ages 65 and over, and those with an underlying medical condition. In addition, Loyola has expanded the CDC criteria to include any employee living in a household with an individual who falls into a COVID-19 high-risk category. As an employer, Loyola is taking steps to reduce risk of exposure to COVID-19 for all employees, especially those in high-risk categories, while meeting the needs of our students and remaining compliant with relevant Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) regulations.

Department managers should first determine their on-campus staffing plan for their area. This will lead to a discussion about on-campus versus remote work options with their individual staff members. We will continue the commitment to minimize the density of people on campus, with only a small number of staff returning and working on campus at any given time. Employees at higher risk can be encouraged to self-identify through this process; however, department chairs/managers should not inquire about an employee’s underlying medical conditions or age, as this can create regulatory violations around discrimination in the workplace. If an employee identifies as being in a high-risk category and does not want to return to campus, in keeping with federal guidelines, the University encourages flexibility in providing a reasonable work accommodation if at all possible. This could be a temporary job modification such as remote working that enables the employee to perform the essential duties of his/her position, with some modification and without creating an undue hardship to the business unit. Undue hardship is defined by the department chair/manager as an action that substantially impedes the ability of the unit to perform its duties satisfactorily and without undue financial burden. For more information, you can refer to undue hardship as defined by the ADA.

For situations where a reasonable accommodation is being requested by the employee for COVID-19 related criteria, a COVID-19 Request for Reasonable Accommodation Form should be completed and submitted to Human Resources. Human Resources will then work with the employee and their department chair/manager in the interactive process to determine if such an accommodation can be made. While the formal request is being processed, if there is no concern that a reasonable accommodation would create an undue hardship for a department, the accommodation should be temporarily implemented.

Human Resources will notify department chairs/managers when requests for reasonable accommodations are received from one of their employees. Department chairs/managers will work with Human Resources and the Office of Faculty Administration to determine final approval for a requested accommodation. Employees will be notified by Human Resources with the decision on the requested accommodation along with any additional documentation that is required. This process is entirely confidential and any personal medical information is HIPAA protected. If you have further concerns, please email us at COVID-19support@LUC.edu.

The path of the virus will remain uncertain for some time. Despite this, we are confident that we will have a productive fall semester as we work together to prudently navigate the new regulations, schedules, practices, and processes required to safely serve our students and community.

Winifred Williams, PhD
Vice President, Chief Human Resources Officer
Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer