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Emergency Closing Policy

Title: Emergency Closing Policy
Effective Date: September 5, 2014
Responsible Office: Vice President for Administration/Chair of Emergency Management Team
Last Updated: First Version

I. Scope

This policy applies to William & Mary as a whole university, including the Virginia Institute of Marine Science. It applies to 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.

III. Definitions
  • Delayed opening/early closing is the modification of normal operating hours for non-essential employees.
  • 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.
  • An Essential Employee is 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. Employees designated as essential are needed to meet the immediate needs of repair and restoration, student care, academic programs, research programs, and/or general operations.
  • An Emergency Event is 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 event, hazardous spill, civil disturbance or public health threat. 
  • Essential University Operations are 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. 
  • An Evacuation is the decision to close the residence halls, academic, administrative and auxiliary facilities and restrict access to university buildings.
  • Grace Period is the maximum of up to two hours past the start of the normal or altered scheduled work day to report to work.
  • A Non-Essential Employee is 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.  
  • A Non-Exempt Employee  is an employee covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) 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 authority to make such decisions for the Virginia Institute of Marine Science campus to its Dean.

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, staff 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. 

For students, evacuation may be guided by their Personal Evacuation Plans.

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 Office of Human Resources 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. Closings – All or Partial Day

Essential Employees

Essential Operational and Professional employees will be credited with administrative leave for the total number of work hours the university was closed in accordance with their work schedule. The amount of administrative leave will depend on employee’s work schedule. 

Non-exempt employees required to work during an emergency closing will receive additional compensation for each hour worked during the closing. Non-exempt employees will be compensated with either leave or pay in accordance with their overtime election designation on file with Human Resources. As required by the FLSA, non-exempt employees are eligible for overtime pay or leave if total hours worked in the work week exceed 40 hours. Administrative leave and all other leave hours are not included in the calculation for hours worked.   

Exempt employees will receive compensation in the form of compensatory leave for those hours worked during authorized closures.

Employees designated as essential who do not report to work and are not on pre-approved leave are not eligible for administrative leave and must submit appropriate leave for the entire closing. 

Employees on pre-approved leave with pay for the authorized closing will not have the time charged to their personal leave balances. 

Non-essential Employees

Non-essential Operational and Professional employees will be granted administrative leave for the total number of work hours the university was closed in accordance with their work schedule. The amount of administrative leave will depend on the employee’s work schedule. Non-essential hourly employees do not receive administrative leave and are not compensated for hours they have not worked.

Non-exempt employees must work and/or be in a paid leave status on the last workday before and the first workday after an emergency closing to be eligible for the administrative leave. Employees on pre-approved leave with pay for the authorized closing will not have the time charged to their personal leave balances. 

Non-essential employees whose scheduled day off falls on a day when their work area is closed will not be credited with administrative leave.

B. Reporting to Work

Essential Employees

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 leave for the hours missed during the closing.   

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

Non-Essential Employees

Non-essential employees 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 an authorized closing 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 require them to do so to maintain essential operations and/or to respond and restore normal university operations. 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; if this situation occurs during an authorized closing, the employee will receive compensation in addition to the administrative leave granted for these closures.

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 contact the supervisor immediately 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.

C. 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 or other conditions, the employee will receive administrative leave for the hours the university is closed as provided in Section VI.A.1.2.

D. Liberal Leave

If the university remains open during a regional emergency event, non-essential employees who are unable to come to work may be authorized to use leave from their available balances 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 line 757-221-1766 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 methods of communication announcing disruptions to normal operations.  

VIII. Authority and Approval

This policy was approved by the President.   

IX. Related Policies or Other Documents

*This policy replaces the Inclement Weather Policy