Emergency Closing Policy - Proposed

This proposed policy would amend and replace the Inclement Weather Policy.

Please share your comments or questions about this proposed policy, through the policy comment form.  The policy it would amend and replace is the Inclement Weather Policy.

Effective Date:  [_____], 2014
Revision Date: Draft Proposal
Responsible Office: Vice President for Administration, Chair EMT

I.  Scope

This policy applies to the College of William & Mary, including the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (the university) and to all of its employees including instructional and research faculty and students as well as agents of the university.  It defines the policy and procedures related to closing the university or a portion of the university in the event of an emergency.

II.  Purpose

The university seeks to ensure the safety of its students, faculty, staff, and visitors, safeguard its academic programs, preserve its academic research and protect its facilities in the event of an emergency.   This policy defines the process for closing all or part of the university as well as expectations for university employees and students.  It establishes requirements to maintain operational continuity and recovery when a change in operating status is necessary. It also establishes the policy and procedures for compensating employees for absences and work during an emergency closing, in compliance with Virginia Department of Human Resources Management Policy 1.35.[1] 

III.  Definitions

Delayed opening/early closing: The modification of normal operating hours for non-essential employees.

Emergency Management Team: The Emergency Management Team (EMT) is responsible for overall coordination of the university's emergency preparedness efforts that  plan for, guide, respond to, and recover from a crisis.

Essential Employee: An employee whose assigned job duties and responsibilities are considered critical to maintaining the essential operations of the university when changes in operating status occur due to an emergency event.  Designated employees are  needed to meet the immediate needs of repair and restoration, student care, academic programs, research programs, and/or general operations.

Emergency Event: Any event, natural or man-made, with the potential to create unsafe conditions, cause injuries or deaths, disrupt operations, cause physical or environmental damage, and/or close the university.  Examples include but are not limited to: severe weather, radiological events, hazardous spill, civil disturbance or public health threat. 

Essential University Operations: Those operations defined in the university’s emergency response plan as essential for the response to, the recovery from or the continuation of critical operations in an emergency event. 

Evacuation:  The decision to close the residence halls, academic, administrative and auxiliary facilities and restrict access to university buildings.

Grace Period: A maximum of up to two hours past the start of the normal work day to report to work.

Non-Essential Employee: An employee whose assigned job duties and responsibilities are not critical to maintaining the essential services of the university when normal university operations are disrupted as a result of an emergency event.  

Non-Exempt Employee:  An employee covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act who is entitled to overtime pay for hours worked over 40 during a work week.  Exempt or non-exempt status is documented in an employee’s position description.

IV.  Closing Policy

A. Closing

The authority to close the university, to cancel classes or to maintain academic activity is delegated to the Provost who makes all such decisions in consultation with the President and the Emergency Management Team.  Academic and administrative units are expected to abide by any decision made regarding operating status.  The Provost has delegated to its Dean authority to make such decisions for the Virginia Institute of Marine Science campus.

The university will strive to remain open, especially during periods when classes are in session.  If, however, conditions are such that maintaining a substantial level of academic activity is impossible or dangerous, the university will be closed. Such announcements will cancel all classes and work obligations for everyone except those personnel identified as essential. Faculty and students should monitor the university Home Page and local media for closing and re-opening information.

Vice Presidents, Deans and department heads should determine essential services and personnel based on their respective Continuity Plans to ensure that those essential services are maintained during an emergency event. See Section V below.

B.  Evacuation

If the emergency event is predicted to be of major significance and duration, the university may, in addition to ceasing normal operations, require the evacuation of campus.  This will result in the closing and securing of all buildings on campus.  Faculty, staff and students other than those essential to the response to and recovery from the event will be required to remain off campus. 

Residential students are required to file an evacuation plan with the Office of Student Affairs to inform the university of their planned destinations in the event of an evacuation.

C.  Notification

The decision to close the university in full or in part or to evacuate will be announced as soon as practicable using available data.  See Section VII below.

V.   Assignment of Essential /Non-essential Employee Status

The university uses the term essential to designate those employees who are required to work during an emergency event to preserve and maintain essential university operations.    Schools, departments and offices will determine, in consultation with the Office of Human Resources, and where applicable the school’s Dean, which employees are deemed to be essential.

At the time of hire, all new employees will be informed by their supervisor of their essential/ non-essential status. Supervisors are responsible for ensuring that employee job descriptions include the essential/ non-essential status. Supervisors are also responsible for updating the employee’s essential/ non-essential status and informing the Human Resources offices of any changes.

Supervisors shall reaffirm every employee’s status as essential or non-essential annually.  It is both the employee’s and supervisor’s responsibility to ensure that emergency contact information such as address, land-line phone, and/or cellular phone numbers, is kept up-to-date.

VI.  Pay and Leave During Closings

A.  All-Day Closings

1. Non-essential, full-time employees absent due to an authorized closing will be granted administrative leave.  

2.  Essential non-exempt employees required to work in excess of the hours in their normally scheduled day will be paid overtime for such overtime unless compensatory time for those hours can be taken during the same work week.

B. Partial-Day Closings

1.  When conditions result in authorized changes in the work schedule, such as late openings or early closings, employees will be paid for such authorized absences. To qualify for such payment, non-exempt employees must work all or part of the work schedule not affected by the authorized change.

2. Essential employees required to work additional time will be compensated as provided in Section VI, A, 2 above.

C.  Closings on Employee's Scheduled Day Off

Employees whose scheduled day off falls on a day when their work area is closed will not be credited with compensatory leave.

D.  Reporting to Work

Essential employees are expected to report to work according to their regular work schedule during an emergency event.  Essential employees who fail to report to work will be charged with annual leave for the hours missed.   

If an essential employee is unable report to work at the scheduled time, the employee should immediately contact his/her supervisor and provide an explanation.  The employee’s supervisor may offer the employee other options such as providing transportation or allowing the employee to take annual leave. 

Employees identified as “non-essential” are encouraged, and under certain conditions may be required, to stay away from campus when the university is closed.  This allows the university to respond to and recover from an emergency event in a safe and efficient manner.  Non-essential employees should report to work during a disruption to normal operations only if they are requested to do so by their supervisor.

Non-essential employees may be directed to return to work if the specific needs of their departments to both maintain essential operations and to respond and restore normal university operations require them to do so.  It will be the supervisor’s responsibility to determine if additional employees are required during this time. In such cases, supervisors may request that non-essential employees report to work at the start of their regular work schedule or at a specified time.  A non-essential employee may also be requested to work at home or at an alternate work location during a university closing, especially if the closing is of significant duration.

Requiring an employee to work at home or at an alternate work location will not change their non-essential status to essential; nor will the employee receive compensatory leave for the time worked.  Emergency events may also impact employees who have approved alternate work schedules.

Non-essential employees must report to work when requested to do so by their supervisors.   A non-essential employee who cannot report to his/her regular work location or alternate work location or who cannot work at home when requested by the supervisor, must immediately contact the supervisor to  provide an explanation.

Essential and/or non-essential employees who fail to report, fail to contact their supervisor, or fail to respond to a supervisor’s request may be subject to disciplinary action.

E. Grace Period/Inclement or Emergency Conditions

For employees who encounter extreme transportation difficulties under emergency conditions, supervisors may allow a maximum of up to two hours past the start of  a normal or delayed opening  to report to work.  This grace period will be considered lost time and need not be applied to leave balances, nor should the employees otherwise experience loss of pay, if in the judgment of the supervisor such lost time was justifiable in view of weather conditions.

F.   Liberal Leave

If the university remains open during a regional emergency event, non-essential employees who are unable to come to work may be granted annual leave without receiving prior approval.

VII.  Communications

The university will announce closings, late openings and evacuations using a variety of internal and external media including the university’s mass notification system, the university’s website, Facebook, Twitter and local public media outlets. Employees may also call the university’s closings and delays information telephone lines 221-1766 to obtain the latest information.

The Office of University Relations will provide announcements to local television and radio stations.   It is the responsibility of individual supervisors to share and discuss with employees the university’s standardized messages announcing disruptions to normal operations.  

VIII.     Authority and Approval

This policy was approved by the President. 

IX.    Related Policies or Other Documents

  • University Emergency Response Plan
  • University Continuity of Operations Plan
  • Individual Position Descriptions
  • University Compensatory Leave Policy

[1] DHRM Policy 1.35, Emergency Closings, provides guidelines for compensating classified employees during emergency closings.  In compliance with DHRM Policy 1.35, this Policy is consistent with and incorporates, where applicable, the provisions of DHRM Policy 1.35. 

*This policy replaces the Inclement Weather Policy