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Answers to HR Questions from Community Forum

Q. Are RIFs, furloughs and/or layoffs being considered?  If so, would you please explain what they are and what the difference, especially as it pertains to pay, benefits, tuition exchange and qualifying for unemployment.

 As previously announced, the University has committed to paying all salaried and full-time employees through May 31.  Divisional and Department leaders are assessing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on our operations and finances and determining what types of staffing changes will need to be made, both for immediate and long-term institutional stability. No staffing decisions have been made at this time. 

If it is determined that a staffing change is needed, we will utilize an established set of selection procedures that ensure the University retains the employee(s) with the skills, knowledge, and ability required to meet the essential requirements and operational needs of the services, programs, and activities that will continue. In all decisions, we will be fair, compliant with our policies and the law, and respectful to all impacted parties.

In regards to the differences in the types of reductions:

·   A furlough is generally a temporary short-term lay-off in which an employee is not paid but generally has access to employee benefits and is anticipated to return at a specified future date.  Goals of furloughs are generally salary savings. 

·   Lay-offs are position reductions when the employee is terminated from employment with the University.  It is possible that the service may be resumed at some point, and if so, the laid-off employee would be given an opportunity to reapply for positions related to resuming that service or role.

·   A reduction in force (RIF) is when we have permanent position eliminations due to a changed organizational strategy. Employees in those eliminated positions are terminated, and there is no plan to resume the role or its functions in the future. Goals for position eliminations are generally to restructure operations to achieve a new, and often more cost effective, approach to operations.

If there is any loss of salary, either temporarily or permanently, an employee is within their rights to apply for Unemployment Compensation through the State of Ohio.  The State determines eligibility for receipt of Unemployment Compensation benefits so we cannot say if and how much in benefits you may receive. The University’s role in the Unemployment process for an employee who loses salary due to furlough or layoff generally is to share position information and the reason for job or salary loss.  

If it is determined at a future date that a staffing change is needed, specific details on the status of employee benefits will be shared with impacted employees based on the decision that is made regarding the future of their positions.  I can share what our current policies and practices are when dealing with similar situations, keeping in mind that there may be different processes to address these unprecedented times.  Under our current policies, when people go into an "unpaid" status for some reason for a short period, but remain an employee, we have the option to continue their benefits coverage and generally we work out the benefits premium payments in a way that can be managed by the University and the employee.  If a layoff or termination from the University was required, the employee would continue on benefits through the end of the month of their last day of work and then they would have the option to continue medical and dental benefits coverage through COBRA, in which the employee pays for the cost of coverage.   

Q. If someone is laid off or furloughed, and has university property (computers, etc.) at their home, what are they to do with them? 

If an employee is terminated from the University, HR and their supervisor will make arrangements to facilitate the return of University property.  If the employee is furloughed, their supervisor may choose to allow the employee to keep the property during the furlough period until the employee is recalled. However it is important to note, no University work should be performed while the employee is furloughed.  An employee must be paid for any work that is performed while on furlough, and any payment for work can impact the employee’s ability to receive unemployment compensation benefits.

Q. What consideration has there been for vacation time? Will consideration be given for vacation that has been unused as of this time? If staff are furloughed or laid off, will vacation be paid out? What about those who have had rolled vacation days from 2019 to 2020, can consideration for extending use of that vacation to a post crisis time be given?

Since furloughed employees remain employees of the University, their unused, accrued vacation time will not be paid out and will remain available for their use upon return.

For employees who are terminated from employment, as per our current policies, employees will receive a lump-sum payment for unused accrued vacation days. Such vacation payments may be offset by debts owed to the University as of the termination date. Unless approved by Human Resources in advance, no terminating employee shall continue on the payroll for the purpose of exhausting unused vacation time.

Vacation balances from 2019 that rolled into 2020 will be extended until September 30, 2020.  It is recommended that you discuss opportunities to use remaining balances with your supervisor before the new expiration date. 

 Q. For anyone laid off, when the University looks to refill those positions, will the laid off employee be given first priority for that position, without having to interview for the position?

No staffing decisions have been made at this time.  If staffing changes are needed, it is anticipated that furloughed employees would be recalled within a specified timeframe, and they would retain their status as an employee and return to their position within the organization. 

Laid off employees who are terminated can apply for open positions and may be selected for employment as a result of their qualifications, skills and knowledge critical to perform the essential functions, duties and responsibilities of the job. Former employees who left the University in good standing may be considered for re-employment. For employees who are re-hired, eligibility for benefits parallels that of new hires.

Q. What will go on with the performance evaluation process? Jobs have been significantly changed by going online. We’ve mastered new online tools and developed new procedures on the fly. Can evaluations be properly returned to employees and/or their supervisors if they are furloughed/laid off/had their positions eliminated? Would it make sense to suspend performance evaluations for the time being?

The performance evaluation process has been extended for one week for all active staff employees with the completion date for the supervisor review to be done by April 20.  If a supervisor has not started their review, the evaluation can be returned upon request to the employee so that they can update their employee self-evaluation. If the supervisor has begun their portion, there may be other alternatives to adding additional information into your self-evaluation. Requests and concerns can be addressed to Jasmine Lastery, HR Generalist.  Supervisors can also discuss their needs for the performance reviews with Jasmine and should also remember that the evaluation is “editable” once the process reopens for delivery in May.

 Q. Who will be communicating layoffs, furloughs, etc. to affected employees and how will they be communicated?

Selection decisions will be  reviewed with both the Divisional Vice President and the Assistant Vice President of HR prior to any conversation occurring with the impacted employee. The impacted employee will be given a formal notification of a furlough or layoff via a personal discussion that will be led by the supervisor of the employee with support from HR.

Q. During the restructuring that occurred a few years ago, members of SLT took voluntary pay reductions to help solve the University’s budget shortfall. When this occurred, JCU had fewer members of SLT than we do now. What are the members of SLT and upper administration doing to contribute to budget conservation? Have they taken pay reductions or given this any consideration?

The Senior Leadership team will consider all possible options to address the budget deficit position, including pay reductions for SLT and upper administration.

Q. When will we know what HR’s plan is for beyond May 31?

John Carroll’s divisional leadership, not HR, will be making determinations on a month-to-month basis, and we all need to be prepared that the serious implications of this pandemic event to our finances may make some change necessary. If it is determined by JCU leadership that some type of staff reduction is needed, the HR team's role in this will be stewarding leaders and impacted employees through the decision process and its result based on an agreed-upon approach that will be consistently applied. 

 Q. How will decisions for beyond May 31 affect 10 month employees? Would 10 month employees be eligible for unemployment from Ohio and federal stimulus?

The services and functions of 10-month employees will be considered and treated equally with other services provided by other staff members in the University.

Ohio Unemployment Compensation law governs eligibility for unemployment compensation benefits.  The law establishes special eligibility provisions for individuals employed by educational institutions and educational service agencies regarding benefits during break periods. As an employee who has accepted a defined 10-month assignment, you would not be able to apply for unemployment between terms or during summer break  because you have reasonable assurance for return, on your usual yearly return to work date of August 1.  

Only if you were given notification that your job was terminated and there was no expectation or guarantee of return would you be eligible for  unemployment compensation benefits.


Q. How will you evaluate who would be laid off? Who will make this decision?/ Q. If you are planning layoffs, who will do the work in my department?/ Q. What if we’re forced to take time off, but things need to get done from a business aspect or to serve current and/or prospective students?

No employment decisions have been made at this time.

Leaders are being asked to determine the essential functions that will continue with respect to the changed circumstances due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. In their decision process, if it includes  temporary furloughs or permanent elimination of a position, they will need to consider the redistribution of the furloughed/laid off employee’s work tasks and new reporting structures. Ideally, we want to retain employees whose skills, abilities, and training best suit them to contribute to the cost effective operation for the needed time frame.  Employees who do not possess the required skills and abilities and who require substantial training in order to successfully perform at a new assignment or who demonstrate difficulty or unwillingness to acquire new skills may be identified for reduction.

Q. If people are doing extra work due to layoffs, will they be fairly compensated?

The ability to work cross-functionally is a highly desired trait, and retained employees may be asked to perform duties outside of their normal scope. No one should feel that they are being taken advantage of.  Our goal is to ensure fair compensation, with respect to the external market and internal equity, for the work that is being performed. 

An employee’s changed work assignments should be effectively balanced by their leader so that it can be accomplished in the normal work timeframes.  However, a different work assignment does not necessarily mean the job is more complex. 

If there is belief that due to a reorganized workforce, a job requires more advanced skills, has a different level of independence or responsibility, or will require significantly more  hours or effort in addition to the normal work hours, please contact your supervisor or HR to discuss. 

 Q. Will changes in staffing after May 31 be temporary or permanent (furloughs vs. layoffs)?

No decisions on staffing have been made as of this date.  John Carroll’s divisional leadership will be making determinations on a month-to-month basis, and we all need to be prepared that the serious implications of this pandemic event to our finances may make some change necessary.

Q. If you lay off employees, will they receive severance? 

 If it is determined that employees must be laid off, a plan will be developed to assist  the impacted employees, such as notifying employees as to possible eligibility for unemployment compensation.  Decisions on eligibility for severance or other assistance  will be made depending on the circumstances at that time. 

Q. If employees are laid off, what will their options be for healthcare coverage?

Depending upon the circumstances, when people go into an "unpaid" status for some reason for a short period, but remain an employee, we have the option to continue their medical benefits coverage, and generally we workout the payments in a way that can be managed by both University and the employee.  If a decision was more permanent and would require a layoff or termination, the employee would continue on benefits through the end of the month of their last day of work and then they would have the option to continue on COBRA, in which the employee pays for the cost of coverage.   

Q. Are staff the only group on campus who would be affected after May 31? Lower wage workers will take the biggest hit.

The faculty are continuing to teach, advise, and serve the University community in the online model, and they will continue to do so through the end of the academic year.  The faculty is not assigned to work in the summer. 

 If a reduction is needed, we will treat all impacted employees fairly and with respect as we manage the changing needs of the campus.

Q. If people have to take a reduction in pay, will their hours be reduced?

Our salaries are based upon the scope and complexity of the work, so pay would only be reduced if anticipated effort or hours were reduced.

Q. If people have to take a reduction in pay, will that be permanent or temporary? If temporary, can you anticipate for how long?

We don’t anticipate any reduction in pay without a corresponding reduction of effort.  It is unknown if this would be temporary or permanent.  These decisions will be made by the divisional leaders on a month-to-month basis through the end of the COVID-19 crisis.