Frequently Asked Questions for Employees

Work Location and Schedule Options

What’s a staggered schedule?
When possible and appropriate, employees can stagger work schedule start- and end-times. This option is applicable for those who are working remotely and for those with necessary on-campus roles. Employees should discuss the feasibility of the option with their supervisor.
Can I do flextime?
Where possible and appropriate, an employee can work longer but fewer days similar to the flextime option that some employees take advantage of during the summer. This option is applicable for those who are working remotely and for those with necessary on-campus roles. Employees should discuss the feasibility of the option with their supervisor.
Can I reduce my work schedule and supplement with benefits time?
Employees who wish to adjust their schedule to work reduced hours, from home or on campus, can supplement their remaining time by using their available compensatory time (hourly only) or vacation time. This option is applicable for those working remotely and for those with roles where an on-campus presence is necessary.

Help with Employment Issues

I have a question about my employment. Can I go to the HRS main office to get it answered?
During this time, HRS will not be accepting walk-in or face-to-face appointments. We are ready to help, and we ask that you email or call for support. Many of our staff are working remotely and are able to answer your questions via email. Please email humanresources@niu.edu or call 815-753-6000. Also, please note that during this time the Swen Parson Service Center will only be open for paycheck distribution.
Can I apply for unemployment because of COVID-19?

Anyone can apply for unemployment, and the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) will make the determination on eligibility.

There are three eligibility requirements to collect unemployment in Illinois:

  • Your past earnings must meet certain minimum thresholds.
  • You must be unemployed through no fault of your own, as defined by Illinois law.
  • You must be able, available and looking for work.

Procedures and rules are changing with COVID-19, please visit the IDES website for the most up-to-date information.

Returning to Campus Guidelines and Training

What do I need to do before returning to campus for work?
Before returning to campus for work, you must take a brief training on COVID-19 safety measures and protocols. If you do not have access to the internet, speak to your supervisor about taking the training on campus when you return. All employees should perform a self-assessment of their health each day before coming to work. If you feel like you are or might be sick, you must inform your supervisor and not come to campus or any NIU facility.

Physical Distancing and Face Masks

It’s hard to maintain physical distancing in elevators and stairwells. What should I do?

If possible, use the stairs and avoid touching handrails. If handrails must be used, wash your hands or use hand sanitizer after exiting the stairwell. Where possible, building representatives should take the lead on designating stairwells as “up” or “down.”

If you must use an elevator, face masks must be worn. No more than four persons should be in an elevator at any time. Avoid touching handrails and stand in one of the corners of the elevator. After exiting an elevator, employees should wash their hands or use hand sanitizer as soon as possible.

How many workers can be in a work area?

Restrictions remain in place regarding the size of groups, with no more than 10 people to be together in a room or area. In places where physical distancing cannot occur, face masks are required to be worn.

What if I or one of my employees can’t wear a mask because of an underlying medical condition?

If you cannot wear face masks or other PPE, you should notify your supervisor immediately and continue working from home until you are given further instructions. Employees and supervisors are expected to practice patience and work together to resolve issues or concerns. If a resolution with an employee cannot be reached, supervisors must consult with other appropriate offices, such as Human Resource Services and/or the Office of General Counsel, before making any final decisions.

Further, employees who cannot wear face masks or other PPE because of underlying medical conditions must contact, or be referred to, Affirmative Action, Equal Opportunity and Education (AAEOE) for assistance. AAEOE will engage in an interactive process with the employees and their units to determine any reasonable accommodations that might be necessary to assist the employees in performing their jobs.

If employees self-disclose that they or their immediate family members with whom they live are at-risk, DO NOT ask those employees to disclose or identify any specific medical conditions that they or a family member might have. Instead, please let the employees know that if they have underlying medical conditions, they can seek reasonable accommodations for those conditions by contacting Affirmative Action, Equal Opportunity and Education (AAEOE).

Cleaning and Sanitation

Has NIU flushed domestic water systems in campus buildings? What procedures were followed?

Yes. To avoid stagnant water concerns while buildings are not regularly occupied, building water systems have been and will continue to be flushed monthly from all water points until buildings are regularly utilized to maintain regular water flow. This flushing action helps sustain appropriate water quality throughout the distribution system and allows the water source treatment methods from the City of DeKalb public water system to properly function.

The below CDC references provide general guidelines for water quality and the general recommendation for flushing water systems when building water systems do not experience regular use. This includes flushing all domestic water systems, hot and cold, throughout entire facilities where a person could access potable domestic water, such as showers, bathtubs, sinks, drinking fountains, utility sinks, kitchen sinks, etc. Additionally, NIU is a registered community water system/drinking water system operator under the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency’s (IEPA) drinking water program and regularly monitors water quality to adhere to standards set by IEPA.

What is being done to building ventilation systems to address COVID-19?

According to the guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and professional trade associations, such as the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), primary efforts for ventilation systems should focus on increasing overall air flow (air change rate), increasing filtration levels, and increasing the outside air mix. 

The guidelines acknowledge that building ventilation systems are designed specifically for the unique air quality demands for each facility and will have limitations for accommodating increases for these system parameters. NIU staff is working diligently to adjust ventilation system parameters in concert with each other, as system capabilities allow, and achieve an overall increase for these complex building systems.

Enhancements to accommodate HEPA-level filtration or ultraviolet germicidal irradiation are being reviewed for feasibility and effectiveness. In general, most enhancements of this nature require ventilation systems to be entirely redesigned to be effective towards addressing the possible risk of COVID-19 transmission through the ventilation system. Introducing possible enhancements to one parameter of a ventilation system without accounting for all operating factors could be counterproductive for the overall system and air quality for a building.

Office/Workplace Procedures

Can I use the office refrigerator?

Yes. However, food and drink in refrigerators should be clearly marked with the person’s name and removed at the end of each day. Employees should not share food, including condiments and creamer. Also, keep in mind that protective face masks must be worn in kitchens and other shared areas.

Can I have in-person meetings on campus?

Remote meetings are strongly encouraged. Restrictions remain in place regarding the size of meeting groups, with no more than 10 people to be together in a room or area. In places where physical distancing cannot occur, such as a meeting room, face masks are required to be worn.

Where can I eat a snack or lunch?
Food consumption should take place in a person’s individual workspace or outdoors in a manner that is compliant with physical distancing. Employees should always wash their hands after eating. Disposable utensils must be used in kitchens. Reusable items (such as flatware, dishes and cups) should not be used. Additionally, use of microwaves, coffee pots and toasters is discouraged. Please do not use vending machines during this time.

Personal Health

What should I do if I believe I am at-risk?

Some employees and other members of our community are more vulnerable or “at-risk” for contracting or having complications with COVID-19, depending on their individual risk factors. Risk factors include but are not limited to pregnancy, older age or the presence of chronic medical conditions, including immunocompromising conditions. There are also environmental risk factors to consider—for instance, having “at-risk” people at home, such as immunocompromised family members, the elderly or newborn or young children; or working, living or interacting with others in areas that might have potentially higher exposure risks to COVID-19. 

If you have an underlying medical condition that you believe puts you at risk, please notify your supervisor and directly contact the Office of Affirmative Action, Equal Opportunity and Education (AAEOE) to speak with a staff member about reasonable accommodations for a medical condition. AAEOE will engage you in an interactive process to determine what reasonable accommodations you might need to assist you in the performance of your job. As an employee, you are under no obligation to disclose any specific medical condition that you or your family member might have. Please understand, though, that you might have to disclose such medical conditions to an AAEOE representative during the reasonable-accommodations process.

If you are working at home or off-site, please remain there until you receive approval to return to campus facilities. Please do not wait until the last minute to raise your concerns or issues. Many of these situations can be complicated, and there might not be an immediate answer. Issue resolution at the local level is typically the most effective and efficient manner to address employee concerns. You can also raise the concern or issue with Environmental Health & Safety or Human Resource Services.

What if I feel like I might be coming down with a sickness while I’m at work?

If you are sick, or suspect you might be getting sick, you must inform your supervisor, go home immediately and not come to campus or any NIU facility until cleared to return. Please immediately contact your health care provider and self-quarantine until further guidance is provided by your health care provider or the DeKalb County Health Department (DCHD). You must also complete the COVID-19 screening checklist. Until cleared to return, you will be prohibited from entering the workplace or physically interacting with co-workers or students. Those who refuse to answer questions about whether they have COVID-19 symptoms and whether they have been tested will also be barred from campus.

Employees who are able and feel well enough to work from home can do so. Otherwise, employees should use available sick leave benefits.

I tested positive for COVID-19. Do I need to notify my employer?

If you have been diagnosed with COVID-19, you must notify Human Resource Services immediately and complete the COVID-19 screening checklist. HRS will maintain confidentiality and work with the DeKalb County Health Department to determine exposure to other members of the NIU community. Employees who have tested positive for COVID-19 can return to work once they have documentation showing clearance from a doctor or a county health department.

The Health of Others

As a supervisor, how should I assist employees who believe they are at-risk?

The university expects supervisors to work with employees who are members of vulnerable populations or have close family who are members of vulnerable populations, and who express concerns or issues with the workplace environment in relation to “at-risk” factors. If an employee is represented by a union, supervisors must consult with Employee/Labor Relations in Human Resource Services before implementing any resolutions to employee concerns/issues.

Supervisors should practice patience and compassion, while exercising flexibility and exploring all available options in addressing the concerns or issues raised by employees. Employees should be encouraged to speak up and responded to in a clear and respectful manner. 

If employees self-disclose that they or their immediate family members with whom they live are at-risk, DO NOT ask those employees to disclose or identify any specific medical conditions that they or a family member might have. Instead, please let the employees know that if they have underlying medical conditions, they can seek reasonable accommodations for those conditions by contacting the Office of Affirmative Action, Equal Opportunity and Education (AAEOE). Otherwise, please ask the employees to describe any issues or concerns they might have with protocols, procedures, use of PPE, etc., so that you can work with the employees on resolving their concerns. Should an employee self-disclose any medical condition to you, you must keep this information confidential and refer the employee to AAEOE for a determination on reasonable accommodations that the employee might need.

The university understands that not all concerns or issues raised by employees will have easy answers or satisfactory resolutions for all involved. Employees should not return to the workplace until there is some resolution to the issues or concerns raised. In the event that a supervisor and an employee cannot reach a resolution, supervisors should advance the matter up their administrative supervisory chain and seek additional consultation from appropriate offices on campus, such as Human Resource Services and/or the Office of General Counsel, before making any final decisions.

What happens if one of my co-workers tests positive for COVID-19?

The work area of the employee will be cleared, and deep cleaning and sanitization will take place before employees can return. You will receive a call from the health department if they believe you might have been exposed. Generally, that would require you to have been in regular contact with the person for more than 15 minutes and at a distance of less than 6 feet. If you do not hear from the health department, it is unlikely you have been exposed.

One of my co-workers called in sick or went home early because of sickness. Should I be concerned?

Contact tracing is conducted with each person who tests positive for COVID-19. The local health department will ask the person a series of questions about who they have had contact with over the last several days. The health department will contact you if they believe you might have been exposed. Generally, that would require you to have been in regular contact with the person for more than 15 minutes and at a distance of less than 6 feet. If you do not hear from the health department, it is unlikely you have been exposed.

I’m a supervisor. What should I do if one of my employees goes home or calls in sick with COVID-19 symptoms?

The employee should be instructed to call his or her health care provider and complete the COVID-19 screening checklist. The supervisor should then notify HRS at HRSCOVID@niu.edu and their own supervisor. Until cleared to return, the employee will be prohibited from entering the workplace or physically interacting with coworkers or students. Those who refuse to answer questions about whether they have COVID-19 symptoms and whether they have been tested will also be barred from campus.

Additional employee COVID-19 FAQ can be found on the Human Resource Services website.

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