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Faculty & Staff Return to Campus FAQ

COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate for Staff and Faculty

Why is Pomona requiring that all faculty and staff receive a vaccine for COVID-19?

The most effective way to prevent COVID-19 infections and mitigate its spread is to have as many members of our community vaccinated as possible. The COVID-19 vaccination has proven to be safe and effective, even against variants. The vast majority – over 99% – of COVID-19 hospitalizations, and deaths in LA County and across the country are occurring in un-vaccinated populations and the likelihood of breakthrough infections for vaccinated people is less than 1% (and mostly without symptoms or very mild symptoms).

When does the mandate take effect?

By August 9, we are asking all faculty and staff to provide proof of being fully vaccinated or apply for a medical, disability, or religious exemption or a deferral.

We will notify applicants by August 23 whether their exemptions/deferral have been approved.

We are offering the option to defer vaccination until the FDA provides full approval of one of the vaccines. Within 30 calendar days of FDA full approval, however, faculty and staff with an approved deferral must show proof of having received the second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines or a single dose of the Janssen/Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

So, by August 23, all faculty and staff at Pomona will have provided proof of being vaccinated or will have received approval for an exemption or a deferral.

Why is the College rushing to implement this mandate?

The College wants to ensure that as close to 100% of faculty and staff are vaccinated; vaccinations are the most effective way to prevent COVID-19. Given the rising number of cases in LA County (disproportionally impacting unvaccinated individuals) and the onset of the academic year, the College feels a sense of urgency to increase faculty and staff vaccination rates.

If I have already uploaded my vaccine card, do I need to do anything else?

No. If you have already provided proof of being fully vaccinated, you do not need to take any further action.

Can I apply for a medical, disability, or religious exemption after August 23?

In order to facilitate the administration of this policy, we ask that medical, disability or religious exemptions be applied for by August 23; however, if you are granted approval to defer receiving the vaccine, you may still apply for a medical, disability, or religious exemption once the approved deferral period ends.

Can I upload my vaccine information after August 9?

Yes. Faculty and staff should upload proof of their vaccination whenever they receive the second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines or the single dose of the Janssen/Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

What are the criteria for a deferral?

The College will honor requests for deferral subject to an acknowledgment that the recipient will continue to rigorously follow the College’s public health protocols (masking and testing) for our unvaccinated population and show proof having at least one dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine or the single dose of the Janssen/Johnson & Johnson vaccine within 30 calendar days from the day the FDA provides full approval of one of the three vaccines currently under Emergency Use Authorization in the U.S.

If I receive a medical, disability, or religious exemption, can I work from home?

If you have a valid medical, disability, or religious exemption, the College will work with you to determine a reasonable accommodation. Your job responsibilities determine the nature of an appropriate reasonable accommodation. If you are required to work on campus, you will need to do so, but you must, as a condition of your employment:

  • Wear a mask at all times when on campus in all indoor spaces; and
  • Receive a COVID-19 test on a regular schedule.

If I receive a deferral, can I work from home?

If your request for deferral is approved, you will still be required to work on campus. As a condition of your employment, you will need to:

  • Wear a mask at all times when on campus in all indoor spaces;
  • Receive a COVID-19 test on a regular schedule.

How is the College defining medical, disability or religious exemptions?

A medical exemption is an exception to the COVID-19 vaccination based on a contraindication to or precaution against receiving the current vaccines recognized by the (CDC) or by the vaccine’s manufacturer due to a condition that may increase the risk for a serious adverse reaction to the vaccine, cause diagnostic confusion if the vaccine is administered, or compromise the vaccine’s effectiveness. 

A disability exemption is based on a physical or mental disorder or condition that limits a major life activity, including pregnancy, childbirth or related medical condition that prevents an individual from receiving COVID-19 vaccination.

A religious exemption to immunization may be granted as an accommodation based on an individual's sincerely held religious belief, practice, or observance.  Social, political, or economic philosophies, and personal preferences do not constitute sincerely-held religious held beliefs, and the College will not grant any requests for an exemption accommodation of this nature.

What is the process for reviewing and adjudicating requests for medical, disability and religious exemptions?

Faculty and staff applying for a medical, disability, or religious exemption must submit the applicable form to brenda.rushforth@pomona.edu, by no later than Monday, August 9.  The form must document in detail the purpose of the exemption and be signed by a primary care physician (for medical and disability exemption requests). HR will review each application and will follow up with the applicant or appropriate medical provider, if necessary.  HR will notify each applicant on the result of their review by August 23.

What if my request for an exemption is not approved?

If the College does not approve your exemption, you must receive a COVID-19 vaccine as a condition of your employment. You can defer receiving a vaccine until the FDA provides full approval of one of the three vaccines currently under Emergency Use Authorization in the U.S. Once the FDA provides that approval, you must continue to rigorously follow public health protocols and show proof of having at least one dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine or the single dose of the Janssen/Johnson & Johnson vaccine within 30 calendar days.

What if I fail to receive a COVID-19 test on a regular schedule?

Adherence to public health protocols – including regular testing for unvaccinated individuals – is a critical part of ensuring the health and safety of our community. A faculty or staff member who fails to comply with the COVID-19 testing requirements or fails to inform the College nurse of changes in their schedule will be subject to discipline up to and including termination from the College.

What if I fail to comply? Will I lose my job?

Whether you are a faculty or staff member, in order to safely perform the essential duties associated with your position you must be fully vaccinated or have a College-approved exemption, and comply with the requirements of your accommodation (generally, testing and masking protocols). Accordingly, any employee who fails to comply with the College’s mandatory vaccine and related (including public health) protocols will be subject to discipline up to and including termination of employment from the College. To determine the appropriate outcome, the College will follow applicable fact-finding and disciplinary procedures for faculty and staff described in the respective policy handbooks. 

Will booster shots be part of the mandate?

If public health authorities recommend that vaccinated people receive a booster shot, the College will review that guidance in the context of this policy and will provide further information to our community concerning compliance.

How will the College monitor compliance with this policy?

The College is keeping track of faculty and staff who have uploaded proof of being fully vaccinated. HR will provide the vice presidents and their direct reports a list of members of their team that have received approved exemptions or a deferral for purposes of monitoring compliance with wearing masks at all times when indoors and getting tested for COVID-19 on a regular basis.

How will the College implement this policy for newly hired employees?

If a new employee joins the College after the August deadlines, HR will establish the appropriate times for the new employee to comply with this policy. Once the FDA approves one of the three vaccines in use in the U.S., the vaccine, or an approved exemption, will become a condition of being hired at Pomona.

Where can I find the COVID-19 vaccine mandate policy?

The policy is posted on the Pomona portal. You must be logged on with your Pomona credentials to view it.

Working from Campus

When will staff be returning to campus?

Offices and departments should plan on returning staff no later than Aug. 2 or be ready to implement any rotational schedules no later than Aug. 2.

We have proven that we can effectively work remotely. Why bring staff back to campus while we are still dealing with pandemic restrictions?

Our plans to return staff to the campus are informed by two essential obligations:

  • The return of students to a residential learning environment; and
  • Compliance with applicable public health guidance.

Public health guidance is changing rapidly, and federal, state and local jurisdictions are lifting COVID-19 restrictions. The issue is not whether we all return to campus, but when and how to do so responsibly. As COVID-19 case numbers in Los Angeles County continue to fall, and vaccines become widely accessible, we will be able to responsibly return to residential, in-person instruction with some students living on campus this summer to participate in research programs, with a return to residential, in-person instruction in the fall.

Once students are back in residence and faculty are teaching in-person, we must revitalize the campus and provide the excellent in-person support and services to our community as we did before the pandemic.

Will all staff be required to work on campus?

For the summer and fall, staff whose job responsibilities, in whole or in part, necessitate a presence on campus to support the day-to-day activities of our entire community (students, faculty, alumni, friends and families) will be required to return to campus. Such an on-campus presence is a critical part of supporting a residential liberal arts college program.

Staff in offices or departments where a physical presence is not required may continue to work remotely during the transition back to full campus operations, but this will be determined by supervisors and the appropriate vice president.

Who determines who should be on campus?

The appropriate vice president or member of executive staff, in consultation with Human Resources, will make the final determination of offices and departments who must maintain a physical presence on campus to support students and faculty.

For those departments and offices required to maintain a physical presence on campus to support students and faculty, will all staff in these offices be required to work on campus?

Departments and offices that support the on-campus population of students and faculty will be open for business during normal business hours to provide the necessary service and support to our community.

The College is confirming that the normal business hours are from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. In addition, some staff will need to fulfill their responsibilities during non-traditional hours.

During the summer and fall, supervisors in these offices will have the discretion to plan rotational schedules so that not all staff will need to be on campus at one time so long as:

  • The office can remain open during normal business hours and capable of providing full service to students, faculty and staff;
  • Staff in these offices can effectively perform their work remotely (even with students in residence and faculty teaching in-person on campus); and
  • Staff will be on call to return to campus on short notice to fill a need, cover for absences, or to attend to in-person business needs.

If I work in an office or department that does not provide day-to-day support to students and faculty, can I work remotely if I choose?

During the summer and fall, staff in departments and offices that do not provide day to day support to our entire community (students, faculty, alumni, friends and families) can continue to work remotely at the discretion of the supervisor and vice president.

While remote work can continue, supervisors can:

  • Require staff to work on-campus to meet the needs of the office and the College;
  • Ask staff to come to the office for a specific number of days per week on a regular schedule for a defined period to complete a project;
  • Require managers to be on campus to supervise others in the office; and
  • Revoke remote work privileges to ensure productivity.

The policy gives supervisors a lot of leeway to determine whether staff must come to campus. How does the College intend to ensure consistency in how this policy is applied?

In determining whether to ask those staff members to return to campus whose presence on campus is not necessary to support day-to-day activities of students and faculty, all supervisors will be directed to address the following factors in coordination with contemporaneous health guidance:

  • Whether the employee’s position, and the specific office, can be more effective working on campus;
  • The extent to which the employee can continue to be effective working remotely either in whole or in part;
  • Whether the office space arrangement is conducive to in-person work (e.g., are physical screens or separation available or will wearing face coverings for staff working in open spaces be fair, comfortable, and conducive to being productive);
  • The extent to which external factors (such as local school closures) impact the ability of staff to come to campus; and
  • Ensuring that staff working on campus and who are not vaccinated are compliant with the College’s COVID-19 testing protocols.

While supervisors will apply the same criteria to these determinations, every office and department is different. We want supervisors to have the flexibility to tailor the return-to-campus to the needs of the office and to accommodate effective adherence to public health protocols and, therefore, faculty and staff should anticipate that there will be differences among offices.

Will meetings between students, faculty and staff be in-person or over zoom?

It is likely that during the academic year meetings between members of our community will be both in-person and over zoom. We will follow the guidance provided by public health authorities regarding in-person gatherings.

What if I am required to return to campus but I am not able to for other reasons?

If you are not able to come to campus, please speak with your supervisor together with your HR Business Partner about possible alternatives, including seeking an accommodation under the College’s disability policy or exploring other leave options. Accommodations are not automatic, and each situation must be confidentially and individually considered.

Will supervisors be required to work on campus to supervise their staff?

Since many departments and offices will return staff to campus, supervisors should make every effort to be on-campus when staff are present to:

  1. Provide direct, accessible supervision and leadership of their staff;
  2. Ensure adequate coverage so that the office is not left to a single individual; and
  3. Avoid any appearance of unfair or inconsistent approaches towards the return to campus of their department or office.

Can student workers work on campus without on-site supervision?

No. If an office or department hires students to work on campus, they must be supervised by a faculty or staff member who is also on-site.

What if I can work remotely but would prefer to work on campus?

Any staff member can choose to work on campus with the approval of their supervisor. Staff coming to campus must also follow all campus-wide public safety protocols, including the testing protocols in place at the time.

Will I have to wear a mask on campus?

Yes. The College will follow all applicable public health protocols until public health authorities tell us otherwise. Current guidance from Los Angeles County Department of Public Health requires that employees wear “face masks at all times except when working alone in private offices with closed doors or when eating or drinking.”

What if a staff member does not feel safe returning to campus? What is the College doing to keep the community safe?

Pomona will be a safe environment for our entire community. Federal, state and local public health authorities are rapidly lifting COVID-19 restrictions. The number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in Los Angeles County has dropped dramatically, more and more people are being vaccinated, and we will maintain our Hamilton Health Box Clinic for testing.

The College has also made a large number of physical improvements to campus facilities including upgrading HVAC systems and filters, installing touch-free automatic doors in many campus buildings, deployed hand sanitizing stations across campus, instituted a daily health check that any member of our community coming to campus must fill out attesting that they are not symptomatic, and established an on-site clinic to conduct COVID-19 PCR testing both on a routine, screening basis, and for those who are symptomatic, along with a robust contact tracing procedures.

If a staff member does not feel safe, they should consult with their supervisor together with their HR business partner to discuss this in more detail.

Will the flexibilities in allowing some remote work for the coming academic year become permanent?

We expect that we will all be back on campus for the spring 2022 semester. We anticipate Pomona will include more flexible work policies as long as we continue to provide the services needed for a residential education experience for our students.

Some staff are currently working in different locations across the US. Should we assume that all staff need to be back in Southern California this summer (July 1 or August 1)?

Staff who are working remotely out of state should prepare to move back to California as soon as practical. Since we are phasing in the return to campus over the summer, it is reasonable to expect to be back no later than August 1.

What does the College mean when it says that supervisors must be on campus to supervise their staff?

If supervisors expect their staff to be on-campus, they should ensure that they or other supervisors are also on-site. This is not only an issue of appropriate management and accountability but one of safety and fairness; we do not want to create an environment where more junior staff are alone in offices.

If staff are asked to go into the office to pick something up or take care of work that may only take an hour or two, as has happened while working remotely, does the supervisor need to be there?

No. If staff are coming to campus for a short time on-site supervision is not necessary. We are asking supervisors to be on-campus when their teams are working regular hours in the office.

Can staff know who around them has or has not been vaccinated?

No. Personal health information is subject to HIPAA privacy protections. Staff cannot ask their colleagues whether they have been vaccinated. Staff can volunteer their own information but should refrain from asking others.

Will the college be providing all necessary PPE equipment for people who are working on campus or are people expected to supply their own?

Yes, the College will provide necessary PPE.

If the manager decides that a rotational schedule is what works best for the team based on guiding principles, can the supervisor be part of that rotation, or would they be required to be there every day of the week?

Supervisors can be part of a rotational schedule if practical. As long as there is supervision in the office, supervisors have the discretion to manage rotational schedules that makes the most sense for the office and the service it provides to the College.

Facilities

What is the College doing to prepare the campus for a responsible return?

The College is continuing with our planning for a responsible and safe to return to in-person, on-campus instruction, in compliance and coordination with federal, state, and local orders and guidance.

To facilitate good public health practice, the College is investing in changes and upgrade to its facilities. These changes include:

  • Cleaning all duct work/coils within central systems
  • Upgrading all air filters to MERV 11/13 and replacing more frequently as determined by building usage and manufacturers recommendations
  • Revising system controls to produce a 100 percent outside air where possible to facilitate multiple air exchanges through the day
  • Increasing humidity range within buildings to 40-60%
  • Installing plexi-glass or plastic sheeting barriers at all high traffic, front facing service areas
  • Installing one automatic door opener in 23 high use buildings
  • Installing 230 “hands free” door openers at entry doors to residence halls, classroom buildings and restrooms
  • Reconfiguring select manual light switches to occupancy sensors
  • Installing centrally located hand sanitizer stations within the common areas of residential, academic and support buildings
  • Installing soap dispensers in all residence hall bathroom facilities.

Are there special cleaning products or procedures being employed across campus?

The College is following cleaning guidelines and protocols recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Additional attention is being given to high touch areas such as door handles, handrails and push bars on doors across campus.

The College is working to ensure that necessary supplies are on hand in the event that guidelines are expanded in the coming weeks. The College has also deployed a number of hand sanitizing stations throughout campus.