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Revised policy for adverse weather, emergency events takes effect

A new Adverse Weather and Emergency Event Policy that went into effect at Western Carolina University on Jan. 1 broadens the definition of “adverse weather” and removes a previous requirement that the National Weather Service has to issue an official “warning” for employees to be eligible to use adverse weather leave to make up for work time lost during those conditions.

Weather can bring additional beauty to the campus as well as challenges in getting to it and around within it.

Weather can bring additional beauty to the campus as well as challenges in getting to it and around within it.

The new policy is specific to the university system and applies to all leave-earning employees, said Cory Causby, associate vice chancellor for human resources and payroll. “On the whole, I believe this policy is a definite improvement over what was in place, and I’m happy that several of the issues and concerns that we encountered last winter have been addressed,” Causby said.

“Adverse weather” is now defined as any weather event that can be deemed to cause a safety risk. As always, deciding when and whether it is safe to travel to work, or if deteriorating weather conditions necessitate an early departure, ultimately lies with each faculty and staff member, he said. Employees are asked to communicate with their supervisor as soon as possible when they are concerned about traveling to and from campus.

Supervisors are responsible for communicating to employees whether they are designated “mandatory” or “non-mandatory.” Mandatory employees are required to work during adverse weather conditions, enabling the university to continue providing services to students during inclement weather, Causby said.

The university may, but is not required to, offer employees designated as non-mandatory the option of “make-up” time for adverse weather. Those employees can charge time lost to leave with or without pay, or work with their supervisors to potentially make up for time lost, Causby said. If “make-up” time is offered, it must be made up within 90 calendar days.

A change from the previous policies is that the university now has the discretion to “call in” employees who are not normally designated as mandatory and temporarily assign them to that status if a situation warrants, Causby said.

The new policy also outlines three condition levels that can be declared by the chancellor or the chancellor’s designee. Condition 1 involves reduced operations, and non-mandatory employees use their own discretion in deciding whether or not to work. Those employees must account for any leave taken, unless an exception is made through the governor’s executive order.

Condition 2 involves the suspension of all but mandatory operations, and all non-mandatory employees must not report to work or must leave the workplace. Employees must account for any leave taken, unless an exception is made through executive order.

Condition 3 involves university closure, and all or a limited number of mandatory employees may be directed to remain at or report to work. In that situation, no employees will be required to charge leave or make up work time missed.

Classroom instructors who cannot travel to class meetings because of inclement weather are asked to communicate with their department heads to discuss plans, and if the face-to-face class meetings must be canceled, to communicate the news with their students as soon as possible, said WCU Provost Alison Morrison-Shetlar. In that case, the instructor should coordinate an alternative and meaningful assignment for students, Morrison-Shetlar said.

When inclement weather causes changes in the class schedule, announcements will be issued by 6 a.m. for day classes and by 4 p.m. for evening classes for both the Cullowhee campus and WCU’s Programs at Biltmore Park, Morrison-Shetlar said. The announcements will be posted on the university’s website and social media channels.

Staff members from WCU’s Office of Human Resources and Payroll are holding information sessions regarding the revised Adverse Weather and Emergency Event Policy. The sessions include a general overview of key changes and a time for questions. Upcoming sessions will be held in the auditorium of H.F. Robinson Administration Building (HFR 101) from 4 to 5 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 2, and from 10 to 11 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 3.

In the meantime, questions about the new policy can be directed to Anne Banks in the Office of Human Resources and Payroll at 828-227-2794 or ambanks@wcu.edu.

– By Randall Holcombe

Categories | The Reporter


Photos | WCU News Services

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