Staff Senate invites you to ask any question about the University of Wyoming or your employment here. We will do our best to discover the answers from the experts on campus and publish them (anonymously) in the staff newsletter.
Click here to submit a question. Answers to previous questions can be found below.
"Is there a University committee that makes landscaping and tree removal decisions on campus? Why were the spruce trees removed at the College of Business?"
ANSWER: (from Assoc.VP of Operations Mark Collins): "Decisions on tree removal are authorized by UW Administration upon the recommendation of UW Physical Plant. UW Landscaping and Grounds maintains a comprehensive tree inventory for the UW campus. They closely monitor trees for stress, disease and potential hazards. In the case of the trees at the College of Business (COB), they were highly stressed during the construction of the COB addition. There was heavy construction/equipment traffic in this vicinity for a significant period of time. UW Physical Plant has worked with the trees since construction in an attempt to save them. Efforts included additional water and deep root fertilization. Those efforts did not prove successful, and the trees had to be removed. UW Physical Plant attempts to be proactive about tree removal to be sure that dead and dying trees do not potentially blow down in a wind storm and become a severe safety issue. The trees will be replaced with 20- foot blue spruce trees this spring."
"How should employees handle workplace proselytizing and other forms of unwanted communication?"
After visiting a local church, an employee has been asked frequently by a coworker who attends that church about his/her involvement in church events. The employee is a private person who keeps work and personal life separate, and finds these conversations to be inappropriate and embarrassing, especially when they occur in front of other colleagues. The employee has tried for several weeks to quietly brush these comments aside or change the subject, or to indicate that s/he is not going to events and please stop asking, but to no avail. What should the employee do?
ANSWER: The first step in solving this type of problem is for the employee affected to communicate the discomfort with the coworker directly, firmly, and respectfully. This could be done in private if the employee affected is comfortable in doing so, or in a formal meeting with a supervisor present if the employee does not feel comfortable talking to the coworker alone.
It is important, before further solutions are considered, that the coworker understand clearly the extent to which his/her unwanted invitations and conversations are affecting the employee and creating an uncomfortable work environment. It can be difficult to be direct and explicit when communicating with others this type of information, but it is to everyone’s benefit to make sure that the employees know where they stand with one another and to respect each other’s personal boundaries in topics not relating to the workplace.
If the unwanted communications continue, it should be brought to the attention of the employee’s supervisor. If the employees have different supervisors, the employee affected should consult with his/her own supervisor, whose responsibility it is to deal with all parties involved. If the situation is still problematic, then the supervisor’s supervisor may be needed to address it, and up through the chain of command. Human Resources does not step in to negotiate a problematic work relationship at the outset, but has an expectation that employees will communicate directly and effectively with one another. Once this occurs and if problems continue, or if a power issue is involved (e.g., a supervisor-employee relationship), then the Office of Diversity and Employment Practices may become involved.
"There used to be a mediation alternative offered to staff through HR where a staff member could ask for an HR representative to assist them in resolving employment problems. It’s still listed on the website, but I was told by an HR rep that this option isn’t offered anymore. Could Staff Senate please find out what other options there are and post a clarification of this policy? Thank you!!"
ANSWER: Mediation was a service that was discontinued and taken out of the handbook back in 2011.
Staff Senate is currently investigating whether alternatives to mediation are available.
"In light of recent mass shootings, including at an Oregon community college, does UW have guidelines in place for an active shooter situation on campus?"
ANSWER: The University of Wyoming Emergency Preparedness and Response Guide lists the following as the safest response to an active shooter situation:
Remain calm, do not engage the intruder.
Attempt to escape quickly and quietly if you can do so safely.
If attempting to escape, keep your hands elevated with open palms visible, especially if encountering law enforcement officers.
If you cannot safely exit the building, seek secure shelter.
Close and lock windows, lower blinds, stay out of sight, turn off lights.
Once secured inside, take cover behind concrete walls, thick desks, and filing cabinets that are away from windows and doors.
Remain quiet, turn off cell phone ringers.
Only one person from the room should call police at 911 and tell them where you are, where the dangerous person is, and the condition of others with you. Follow their instructions. If you cannot speak, leave the line open so the dispatcher can hear what is happening.
Assist others if they are injured.
Do not respond to any unfamiliar voice commands until you can be sure they are coming from a law enforcement official
Further information can be found at the Department of Homeland Security website:
Get the University’s Emergency Response Plan here.
"Apart from enforcing the rule not to take vacation leave in the month in which it is accrued, can departments require employees to have a minimum amount of vacation leave before they are able to use what they have accrued?"
ANSWER: (from Associate Vice President Nell Russell, Human Resources): "The short answer is ‘no.’ The Employee Handbook does not make any provision for departments to amend the vacation policy. I believe that requiring all departments to adhere to the vacation policy as currently published in the Employee Handbook is absolutely necessary in order to maintain consistency in the application of this university rule and to ensure fairness for all university employees. To allow otherwise will only serve to compromise the University’s standards."
"I understand that employment benefits at UW have been extended as a stipend amount to same-sex partners of benefited employees. How does this stipend amount compare with benefits available for married couples and their children?"
ANSWER: The Domestic Partner Health Insurance Benefit policy went in force in September 2011, and has recently been updated. The full policy is available at:
A Domestic Partner must meet stated eligibility criteria and must not be eligible for coverage under another employer plan in order to qualify for this benefit. All statements made hereafter assume that the Domestic Partner qualifies for the benefit. For questions concerning this, please see the full policy.
How Does the Benefit Work?
Qualifying domestic partners cannot be put on a UW employee’s insurance.
Qualifying domestic partners must purchase their own insurance for themselves and/or their qualifying dependents (who are not also dependents of the UW employee).
The UW-provided financial benefit is intended to offset the cost of insurance premiums from outside providers.
Qualifying domestic partners with no qualifying dependents will receive a financial benefit equal to the difference between the employer contribution for Employee Only and Employee Plus Spouse coverage, or the cost of the insurance, whichever is less. In other words, if the actual insurance premium cost is less than the financial benefit amount offered, the actual cost will be used.
Qualifying domestic partners with qualifying dependents will receive a financial benefit equal to financial benefit equal to the difference between the employer contribution for Employee Only and Family coverage, or the cost of the insurance, whichever is less. Again, if premium cost is less than the financial benefit offered, the actual cost will be used.
The Domestic Partner Health Insurance Benefit offers the best benefit available to UW employees and their qualifying Domestic Partners within the confines of State law and insurance rules. For additional questions on the policy, please contact the Human Resources Department at 766-2437.
Answers provided by Rick DelaCastro, Director of Human Resources
“Can an employee be required to work during winter closure by their supervisors if they are not previously designated as an “essential employee” by their Appointing Authority?”
Yes. Supervisors may require employees, either exempt or non-exempt, to work over the winter closure. If the employee was not previously designated as “essential,” and the supervisor asks the employee to work, it is reasonable for the employee to ask the supervisor why he/she needs to come in. The supervisor does have the authority to require the employee to work.
“Do employees have the ability to deny the request for working over winter closure?”
No. The employee is required to follow the legitimate directions of the supervisor.
“If an employee is required to work, but was previously not designated “essential,” how will s/he be compensated?”
If a supervisor asks an employee to work over winter closure, that employee will have the benefits associated with an “essential employee.” In other words, the employee who is asked to work over winter closure will be able to take an equivalent time off, in accordance with the policy. It is only when an employee chooses to work that the employee is not given subsequent time off. Hours worked during winter closure are paid at straight time, and overtime policies and compensatory time also apply.
The University closes for three days between Christmas and New Year’s. Employees are not expected to work during those days; however, some essential services must continue. Employees (“essential employee” as deemed in advance in writing by the Appointing Authority)designated to work for all or parts of winter closure receive an equivalent amount of time off prior to September 30th of the following year. Employees on terminal leave during winter closure will have his/her leave extended. Employees who are not designated to work, but decide to work anyway do not receive time off at a later date. New employees will not have a start date within winter closure unless specifically required to work during that time.
"My building is under construction and is scheduled to have power, heat, and water outages for part of one day to complete work while students are out on break. During this time, my supervisor has advised me not to report to work. Do I need to report at my normal office, elsewhere on campus, or should I do as my supervisor has advised and not report until power/heat/water are restored?"
ANSWER: Human Resources does not have a specific policy regarding reporting for work when construction affects the normal operation of a building. In general, if some normal job functions can be completed and the building does not become too hot or cold (which would then be an EHS matter), employees should follow their normal routine to the extent possible. If employees are unable to perform key job functions due to the power/heat/water outages, then they should discuss a reasonable accommodation with their supervisors that takes into account the type of work being performed and whether and how students will be affected.
"Can a UW employee approved for FMLA leave be required to report for work during or make up time taken off during the FMLA leave period (i.e., is FMLA leave considered to be “flex time”)? Can an employee on FMLA be penalized for work not performed during FMLA leave?"
ANSWER: If a person is eligible for FMLA leave and it is approved by HR based on medical certification provided by a health care provider, he or she can be off work for up to 12 weeks in a 12 month period, and cannot be required to make-up or flex the time missed. The person will not be penalized for work not completed while on FMLA. Every situation is unique, so specific questions should be directed to HR.
"How do I track campus trainings that I complete?"
ANSWER: You can track many of the trainings offered by the University through Employee Self-Service on WYOWEB. To obtain a listing of trainings for which you’ve signed up, including whether they were attended and mastered:
Sign in to Employee Self Service
Click on Main Menu at the top
Click on the Self Service folder
Click on the Courses and Conferences folder and select Home Page
Click on the My Courses link (top center). Course name, date, and completion status will be shown for each of your courses.
UW Staff Senate is still investigating how trainings not included in the UW system are or could be tracked and credited to employees. You can access information on most UW trainings through your Courses and Conferences home page and also upcoming HR trainings.
"If I am called in for jury duty, is this leave time covered by UW? If so, what type of leave is it and how should it be reported?"
ANSWER: According to Presidential Directive 4-2004-2, Leave With Pay, jury or legal duty is considered to be one type of Non-Emergency Leave with Pay: “Staff employees are entitled to a leave of absence with pay when required to perform jury duty, when subpoenaed as a witness or when summoned to give expert testimony.”
Other forms of Non-Emergency Leave with Pay include:
Leave taken to vote and
Work-related leave such as meetings, institutes, professional examination, and other activities directly related to an employees’ work.
The most common UW time report includes a drop-down menu with codes for leave types taken; Legal Duty (coded LEGAL) is among the selections possible.
"I have been told that any comp time I earn as a non-exempt employee must be used in the week following the one in which it is earned and cannot be taken between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. Can my employer impose these restrictions?"
ANSWER: Code of Federal Regulations (C.F.R.) Title 29 U.S.C. 207(o)(2) specifies that a public agency (such as UW) may award compensatory time, as opposed to overtime pay, only if it first secures an “agreement or understanding” with an employee, which can take various forms, including a condition of employment or a notice to the employee to grant comp time in lieu of overtime. The employee’s agreement cannot be coerced.
According to C.F.R. Title 29 §553.21(5), an employee who asks to use accrued compensatory time “shall be permitted by the employee’s employer to use such time within a reasonable period after making the request.”
C.F.R. Title 29 §552.25 states: “When an employer receives a request for compensatory time off, it shall be honored unless to do so would be ‘unduly disruptive’ to the agency’s operations.
But what constitutes a “reasonable period” or an absence that is “unduly disruptive”? Several court cases have argued that the requisite voluntary agreement of employees to receive comp time in lieu of overtime pay indicates that employees’ compensatory time is generally theirs to use as they like, just as their overtime pay would have been theirs to spend as they liked had they refused compensatory time altogether.
Circuit court decisions on this are complex and somewhat mixed, and the Tenth Circuit, under which Wyoming falls, has not heard a case on this matter. The DOL has taken the following position: “The Department believes that the better reading of section 7(o)(5) is that it requires employers to grant compensatory time on the specific date requested unless doing so would unduly disrupt the agency.”
Also, C.F.R. Title 29 §552.25 further states: Mere inconvenience to the employer is an insufficient basis for denial of a request for compensatory time off. For an agency to turn down a request from an employee for compensatory time off requires that it should reasonably and in good faith anticipate that it would impose an unreasonable burden on the agency’s ability to provide services of acceptable quality and quantity for the public during the time requested without the use of the employee’s services.”
Some examples of this on the UW campus might include athletic events (for employees of athletic departments), routine major maintenance events (for UW Operations employees in affected departments), and advising week (for academic advisors).
Title 29 also clearly states that an employee “must not be coerced to accept more compensatory time than an employer can realistically and in good faith expect to be able to grant within a reasonable period of his or her making a request for use of such time.”
Given the restrictions outlined in the question, it seems that an employee would not be able to use his/her comp time within a reasonable period, especially if the employee works more than eight hours of overtime in a particular week. Also, it would be difficult for UW to establish that an employee using comp time between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. will always “unduly disrupt” the agency’s ability to provide services.
The DOL does allow a required-use comp time policy to be established by employers with the express and uncoerced consent of its employees; generally such policies require employees with significant comp time to use it before they exceed the maximum accrual. In any case, the policy must predate the comp time accrual; these types of restrictions are not acceptable for comp time that has already been already accrued.
In the event that scheduling restrictions will not allow for the use of comp time within a reasonable period, the employee cannot be required to work a schedule that results in the accrual of additional comp time. If this is not possible, the employee must be paid overtime wages for extra time worked.
For additional information on comp time usage, please see the Department of Labor Fact Sheet #7.
"Due to reduced staffing, our office staff may be asked to take shorter lunch hours or remain at our desks while we eat in order to cover the office over the lunch hour. In the past, when staff members agreed to cover the office over the lunch hour, they worked a shorter work day so that they were not exceeding eight hours. Is this still the rule, or can we be required to stay in the office for some or all of our lunch hour?"
ANSWER: The Department of Labor (DOL) addresses the question of lunch breaks in Fact Sheet #22: Hours Worked Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). If non-exempt employees are required to remain in the work area and be available to perform work during their break, then this is considered paid work time. In order for a meal period to count as unpaid time, the staff member must be completely relieved from duty for the purpose of eating regular meals. The employee is not relieved if he/ she is required to perform any duties, whether active or inactive, while eating. An expectation that the employee be available to cover the office while eating, whether any work is performed or not, would require that the meal period be counted as work time. If the non-exempt employee’s work hours are not adjusted accordingly to account for the additional work, the employee would be entitled to earn compensatory time or overtime.
The DOL even uses such a case as exemplar of typical problems encountered when determining hours worked:
Problems arise when employers fail to recognize and count certain hours worked as compensable hours. For example, an employee who remains at his/her desk while eating lunch and regularly answers the telephone and refers callers is working. This time must be counted and paid as compensable hours worked because the employee has not been completely relieved from duty.
"When will UW staff be able to view the Huron report on the savings and efficiencies that are proposed for campus?"
ANSWER: The staff senators who are currently serving on the Financial Crisis Advisory Committee have brought this question forward. At this time Staff Senate has been assured that the Huron report will be shared with the campus community soon. However, there are some reporting inaccuracies and subsequent recommendations that the administrative team is currently working to correct prior to its release. We will continue to request access to the report and will share it with you as soon as we can.
"A recent article in the Boomerang stated that UW staff salaries are lower than the salaries for the equivalent positions at the state. Some of the commenters didn’t seem to believe that. Is there any data showing how we compare to the state in terms of salary?"
ANSWER: The most recent study on this question was completed in 2014. Positions were matched up if they shared at least 67% of their job duties. Then the average salary for the position at UW was compared to the average salary at the state for the corresponding position.
The study found that for the majority of positions, UW salaries were significantly lower than their equivalent position at the state. Staff Senate has been working to bring this disparity to the attention of administrators, trustees, and legislators. As ongoing efforts are made to realign UW employee benefits with those offered to state employees, we will continue to bring the issue of the salary gap into the conversation.
To view the results of the 2014 study, click here.
"Are UW staff members who do not work on a computer during the work day allowed to access campus computers to check email, read UW news, and complete online training during the work day?"
ANSWER: There is no UW policy that prohibits employees from accessing computers on campus. UW employees who do not have access to a computer during their workday can access lab computers and other public computers on campus that have been made available for that purpose in order to access their UW email and employment documents, read UW news and calendar items, and complete online trainings. If staff members are asked to complete mandatory trainings or other required work activities outside of their regular work hours, they should contact Human Resources.
"“If an employee has been instructed by their health care provider to use oxygen, is this something that UW is required to make reasonable accommodation for, or is it acceptable for the supervisor to request that the employee not use the oxygen during work hours in order to avoid making others feel uncomfortable?"
ANSWER: (from Marilyn Norman, Compliance Office, Labor Standards, State of Wyoming Department of Workforce Services): “Allowing the use of oxygen in the workplace would be viewed as a reasonable accommodation under ADA. Respiratory problems are viewed as a qualifying disability under ADA. As the employer, you can ask the employee to bring in documentation from their medical provider. The statement ‘the use of oxygen makes others feel uncomfortable’ could be discriminatory."
"My supervisor requires me to turn in employee comments to my performance evaluation in hard copy. Is there a way for employees to add comments to their performance evaluations electronically, since the forms are online?"
ANSWER: (from the Employee Relations section of Human Resources) All performance evaluations are conducted electronically; there is not a hard-copy option for the performance evaluation process at UW.
Employees who do not have access to a computer in their workplace have the right to use any public computer on campus, such as in the Union or Coe Library, to access HRMS and participate in the online performance evaluation process.
"If a staff member’s personal contact info is shared out on an after-hours contact list, is the individual considered to be on-call for the week that they’re listed? Can they be reprimanded if they were not available when called?"
ANSWER: (provided by Mark Bercheni, HR) "This has been explained recently and on-call is defined in Presidential Directive 4-2013-1. Here are a few observations to answer these questions:
Employees who volunteer for overtime are not on-call.
Employees on the emergency list are not on-call.
Employees who get called and do not respond will not be reprimanded unless there is an established pattern."
"When we have staff meetings after our shift is over, does our boss have to give us advance notice or is it ok for her to tell us about it that day?"
ANSWER: (provided by Nell Russell, Director of Human Resources) “The University policy, as codified in the Employee Handbook, does not provide a supervisor the right to require an employee to perform work related duties during his/ her personal time.
Some issues do not have to be governed by a specific rule. However, it’s reasonable for our employees to be given advance notice when attendance at an after work meeting is required.”
ANSWER: (From Facilities Engineering) Pre-construction, the Union lot had 255 “A” parking spaces, four“U” parking spaces, and seven ADA parking spaces. The new lot with bus stop has 205 “A” parking spaces, three “U” parking spaces, and seven ADA parking spaces for a net loss of 50 spaces