Telework Agreement Form FAQs

December 16, 2020

Dear Colleagues, 

In an effort to maximize our work flexibility, on July 27, 2020, the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) adopted a COVID-19 Status of Operation and Telework Policy. This policy outlines the different operational statuses UMB may observe during pandemic circumstances. 
 
A provision of the policy requires all employees who may perform some or all of their job duties remotely to complete a telework agreement. Over the past week, Human Resource Services (HRS) sent the Interim COVID-19 Mandatory Telework Agreement to all employees who may be teleworking during the pandemic.
 
Since the distribution of the telework agreement began, we have received several questions about the process and contents of the document. This FAQ provides additional guidance as we continue through this process. If you have any additional questions, please direct them to hrelr@umaryland.edu.
 
Thank you,


Matt Lasecki, SPHR  
Associate Vice President 
Chief Human Resources Officer
 

What is the purpose of the telework agreement?
The telework agreement is designed to ensure that employees who are able to telework for some or all of their work duties have read the COVID-19 Status of operation and Telework Policy. It also is meant to encourage flexibility by supervisors as employees select whether they will work a flexible shift or a fixed shift and to set forth scheduling and work expectations that may differ during pandemic circumstances.

The agreement says I must have a designated work space that is safe and suitable for telework. Does that mean I must work from a home office?
No. Teleworkers should have a space to work that allows them to work free from hazards. This does not require employees to work from a home office. Many employees choose to work from their dining room, kitchen, living room, or other location within their house.

The agreement says my workspace must allow for confidentiality of phone calls and computer work if required by my job duties. Does this mean my kids or other household members cannot be present in the room that I'm teleworking in?
It depends. If your job duties require you to conduct meetings or phone calls about confidential subjects (e.g., patients, students, legal matters, other employees), you need to be able to conduct those phone calls and meetings privately. Working from home does not change or negate an employee's obligation to maintain strict confidentiality of certain information. If your family care obligations prevent you from meeting these requirements, you are encouraged to talk to HRS or to your supervisor about flexible scheduling or taking advantage of leave flexibilities offered by the University System of Maryland.

I believe UMB sent me the telework agreement by mistake because I do not telework or my job duties are located some place other than UMB (e.g., certain contract work). What should I do?
Students, graduate research assistants, adjunct faculty, and employees whose job duties are not able to be performed remotely should not have received this form. If you received the form in error, you should take the following steps:
1) Open the email that you received and click on the Review Document button.
2) When you see the agreement displayed, click Continue and locate the Other Action drop-down options in the upper right corner of the form.
3) From the drop-down options, select Decline to Sign.
4) Indicate your reason (e.g., "work 100% on campus" or "do not work at UMB").

Do all faculty and staff have to complete the form?
All UMB faculty and staff employees are expected to sign a telework agreement if they are able to perform any portion of their job duties via telework. Student employees, graduate research assistants, and adjunct faculty do not need to complete this form and should not have received it.

If I received a telework agreement form, does this mean I cannot come to campus at all?
No. UMB is in Moderate Density operation under its COVID-19 Status of operation and Telework Policy. During this status, any UMB employee who is able to telework, as determined by the employee's direct supervisor, is required to do so. A mandatory teleworker's job may require periodic or part-time presence on-site. A mandatory teleworker may be allowed and/or required to return to campus or the regular off-campus worksite for the purpose of fulfilling solely the job functions requiring on-campus presence, while continuing telework for the remainder of the job functions. Any questions about your job expectations should be directed to your supervisor or HRS.

Why did this form go out now while cases are on the rise? Does it mean UMB is going to shift to "Low Density Operations" soon?
Any connection between the number of COVID-19 cases and the timing of this document is coincidental. UMB is operating in a status of Moderate Density operation. The University president will continue to base UMB's operational status on the current COVID-19 pandemic circumstances, guidance from the state of Maryland, and recommendations of appropriate public health experts.

What if I have to work overtime?
If you are a nonexempt employee, overtime work must be approved by your supervisor prior to doing the work.

The agreement states that I am  not authorized to telework at sites that are not within a reasonable commuting distance from my regular work site, except for brief periods of time, (generally considered 30 days or less).  Why can't I work from anywhere I want?
UMB is a public employer in the state of Maryland largely employing, educating, and serving Marylanders. Although there are exceptions (e.g., grant or contract work that is required to be performed in other states/countries), there is an expectation that UMB employees ordinarily perform work in Maryland.
 
With regard to relocations during the pandemic, UMB is not able to authorize telework from outside an employee's regular commute since matters of workers compensation insurance, income taxes, reporting requirements, availability of employee health and wellness benefits, and other legal liabilities vary when employees work in other states. UMB is not able to mitigate or respond to these varying issues during this temporary period of telework. (These risks are somewhat mitigated when employees work from neighboring states with which Maryland has reciprocal agreements.)
 
Another reason that telework must be performed from within a reasonable commuting distance from UMB relates to safety. The COVID-19 Status of operation and Telework Policy provides that a mandatory teleworker may be required to come on-site for certain operations on a part time or sporadic basis. Thus, authorizing employees to work from outside the commutable distance from UMB could have the effect of encouraging employees to engage in travel that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and our public health officials advise against.  

The agreement states that you must refrain from conducting personal business while teleworking. Does this mean I cannot supervise my kids while I am teleworking?  
UMB continues to assist employees with balancing telework with their personal obligations, including online learning for school-age children. If you need flexibility in your schedule to allow you to both manage your personal commitments and complete your UMB commitments, this is a good time to discuss options that will work best for your situation with your supervisor. An employee should be permitted to have a flexible work schedule unless it is operationally important that the employee work defined hours. 
 
I am a nonexempt employee who is teleworking. Can I work a flexible work schedule?
Whether exempt or nonexempt, teleworking employees should be permitted to work a flexible work schedule unless it is operationally important that the employee work defined hours. To have a flexible work schedule, a nonexempt employee must acknowledge 1) shift differentials are not available for mandatory telework and 2) overtime is not authorized and must be approved by an employee's direct supervisor.

What should I do if I signed the form but forgot to list my equipment or some other information? 

If your supervisor has not signed the form, ask them to reject it. If they have signed the form, you will need to do another form through the process that can be found at this link. Click on the Human Resources link, and the telework agreement will be listed under ELR. Click on the telework agreement, enter the requested information, and submit the updated form for approval.