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Policy 1309
University Closings, Class Cancellations and Exam Postponements Due to Inclement Weather or Emergencies

Date of Current Revision: September 2016
Primary Responsible Officer: Director of Human Resources, Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs, Senior Vice President for Administration & Finance

1. PURPOSE

The purpose of this policy is to establish a process by which the university may close or cease parts of its operation in response to inclement weather or emergencies.

2. AUTHORITY

The Board of Visitors has been authorized by the Commonwealth of Virginia to govern James Madison University. See Code of Virginia section 23-164.6; 23-9.2:3. The Board has delegated the authority to manage the university to the president.

3. DEFINITIONS

Administrative & Professional Faculty (A&P Faculty)
Administrative faculty and professional faculty are normally referred to collectively, as both require advanced learning acquired by prolonged formal instruction and/or specialized training and work experience; however, the university recognizes administrative faculty and professional faculty as distinct position types.

Administrative Faculty positions are generally administrators who perform work related to the management of the educational and general activities of the university, for at least fifty percent (50%) of their work. Typically, administrative faculty serve in executive leadership roles such as vice president, provost, dean, assistant or associate vice president or dean, assistant or associate vice provost. Other administrative faculty roles can include (1) those responsible for the administrative direction of separately designated divisions or departments of institutional activity; (2) positions whose primary responsibility is to attract external funds; or (3) positions that are characterized by active, continuing involvement in formulating, interpreting and implementing institutional policy, and exercise substantial independence, authority and discretion in areas such as program planning, design and allocation of resources. The organizational reporting relationship for administrative faculty is normally not lower than three levels below Executive Council positions. For Academic Affairs, this would include: Vice Provost/Dean (level 1), Academic Unit Head/Director (level 2) and Associate Director (level 3).

Professional Faculty require advanced learning and experience acquired by prolonged formal instruction and/or specialized work experience. Typical professional faculty positions are librarians, counselors, coaches, physicians, lawyers, engineers or architects. Other professional positions may support education, research, university life and other such activities. Professional faculty positions must require the incumbent to regularly exercise professional discretion and judgment and to produce work that is intellectual and varied and not standardized.

Authorized Closing
The closing of university operations, as determined by the president or a designee, for specific periods of time as needed. An authorized closing may be for a full or partial shift, such as in the case of delayed openings or early closings.

Designated Employee
Employees identified by the employing department whose work is essential to university operations and who are required to work during periods of authorized closings.

Emergency Conditions
Conditions as determined by the president or a designee, that severely hamper employee travel to and from work, reporting to or remaining at work (including but not limited to inclement weather, utility failure, sustained flu pandemic, fire or other forced evacuations).

Exempt Employee
An employee who is exempt from the overtime provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and is therefore not required to receive overtime pay for hours worked in excess of 40 in a workweek.

Instructional Faculty
A faculty member whose primary responsibility includes teaching, research and service. Instructional faculty also have specific guidelines for employment set forth in the University Faculty Handbook.

Non-Designated Employee
An employees who is not required to work during an authorized closing. For purposes of identification in media announcements, such employees will be identified as 'non-designated employees.’

Non-Exempt Employee
An employee who is not exempt from the overtime provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and therefore must be paid at a rate of time and a half for every hour worked over 40 in a workweek.

Professional Librarian
Instructional faculty who are affiliated with Libraries & Educational Technologies. Their responsibilities include instruction, research/scholarship and service as defined in the Libraries’ Promotion and Tenure Guidelines.

4. APPLICABILITY

This policy applies to all employees of the university.

5. POLICY

This policy is designed to establish the guidelines and procedures for university closings, class cancellations and the compensation of designated employees.

6. PROCEDURES

James Madison University is primarily a self-contained campus with a large number of residential students requiring a variety of support services, regardless of inclement weather conditions or emergency situations. For the safety and well-being of its students and employees, the university may close or limit its services based on inclement weather or other emergencies.

6.1 Closing Decisions

Decisions to close university operations (those operations that do not operate in emergency or inclement weather conditions) will be made by the president or a designee. Individual vice presidents, deans, directors, department heads, academic unit heads and supervisors are not authorized to make closing decisions in their areas. The president or a designee may make such a decision at any time during the calendar year to protect the best interest and welfare of the university community. Should inclement weather or emergency conditions dictate that the university operate with only inclement weather or emergency operations services, one of the following procedures will be followed:

  • Inclement weather or emergency conditions that occur between 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m.
    • When a drastic change in weather conditions or an emergency situation occurs between 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., the Office of Public Safety, in cooperation with state and local police, the director of Facilities Management, and other staff personnel, gathers information on conditions and informs the Senior Vice President for Administration & Finance. The Senior Vice President for Administration & Finance provides the president with a recommendation and the president determines whether non-inclement weather staff operations will close.
    • If the decision to close is made, the Senior Vice President for Administration & Finance notifies the Senior Director and University Spokesperson. The Senior Director and University Spokesperson and his/her staff place appropriate announcements to:
      • JMU Weather Line 540/433-5300
      • JMU radio station 1610AM
      • JMU's website
      • Area radio and television stations
      • JMU Office of Public Safety, who in turn is responsible for Emergency Notification System announcements
    • If the university is open at the time the announcement is made, vice presidents will make arrangements for contacting departments within their divisions. Announcements made during the time period affect early closings for first shift employees and possible shift closings for employees who work other than first shift. Announcements will include the following:
      • Start and stop times of shift closings;
      • Reference to all shifts affected by the closing;
      • Reference to Saturday and Sunday closings, as appropriate.
  • Inclement weather and emergency conditions that occur between 5:00 p.m. and 11:00 p.m.

    • The same procedure as outlined above is followed. The Senior Director and University Spokesperson and staff place notifications as noted above by 9:00 p.m. Announcements are made in time to inform night shift employees whose start time is 10:30 p.m.

Inclement weather or emergency conditions between 11:00 p.m. and 8:00 a.m.

    • The Office of Public Safety gathers information concerning the conditions and contacts the Senior Vice President for Administration & Finance by 5:00 a.m. The Senior Vice President for Administration & Finance provides the president with a recommendation and the president determines whether non-inclement weather staff operations will close. Announcement of the decision should be made as soon as possible to inform employees whose shift begins at 6:30 a.m. Procedures should be developed within each department to notify employees whose shifts begin prior to 6:30 a.m.

6.2 Classes and Exams

Decisions to close university operations will be made by the president or a designee. If the decision to close is made, announcements will be made on: 

  • JMU Weather Line 540/433-5300
  • JMU radio station 1610AM
  • JMU’s website
  • Area radio and television stations
  • JMU’s Emergency Notification System

When it is necessary to cancel classes due to weather or other emergency, faculty members have several options for making up missed instructional time:

  • Hold class at the regularly scheduled time on the official university make-up day.
  • Hold class at a time acceptable to all class members other than the regularly scheduled time or the official make-up day. Time and location will be arranged by the academic unit.
  • Accommodate the missed instructional time within remaining class meeting time.
  • Hold class through electronic means.

If the university is closed because of inclement weather conditions or emergency situations, faculty members are prohibited from requiring students to attend events, classes, laboratories or any other functions on campus. Students who are participating in off-campus activities such as internships, practica, student teaching or health services placements, or other assigned course work at locations remote from campus, will still be required to keep and attend their assigned placements, unless the placement site is closed or the student is unable to safely reach the placement site. It is the responsibility of the student to contact the placement site to receive instructions on attendance at the site, and to notify the instructor of record in the course of any closings of the placement site or inability to reach the placement site because of closings or inclement weather conditions.

6.2.1 Final Examinations Missed or Rescheduled Due to Inclement Weather or Emergency Closing

In response to inclement weather and other emergencies, the university may be forced to cancel or reschedule final examinations. Decisions to close university operations will be made by the president, or a designee. If the decision to close the university and reschedule final examinations is made, announcements will be made as noted above.

When the university closes due to weather or other type of emergency, faculty will administer regularly scheduled examinations at a time designated by the university unless otherwise announced in the course syllabus. The official make up time will be designated as part of the closing announcement or shortly thereafter. Unless otherwise notified, examination locations will be the same as the location for the regularly scheduled exam.

If it is determined that exams cannot be given because of inclement weather or other emergency, faculty will assign final grades to students based on the exams, tests and projects completed prior to the regularly scheduled exam date.

6.3 Faculty and Staff

It is the policy of the university to provide full-time employees pay continuity for absences necessitated by the authorized closing or delay of operations due to inclement weather conditions or other emergencies such as utility failure, fire and other forced evacuations. Many employees are considered non-designated and are not required to work when the university is closed due to inclement weather or other emergency situations; however, to continue to provide services to students, some positions are considered designated and, as a condition of employment, must report to work when the university is officially closed due to inclement weather or other emergency conditions. When it can be predetermined that for certain types of emergencies the employees' services will be necessary, supervisors are responsible for informing employees in writing that they will be required to work during authorized shift closings and thus, designated. In the event of an authorized closing, a supervisor may change the status of any employee to designated status based on the needs of the university.

In the event of an authorized university closing, the telecommuting employee is not expected to perform work. Employees telecommuting and who choose to work during an authorized closing will not receive compensatory leave. Also see Policy 1332-Telecommuting.

6.3.1 Classified Designated Staff

The following conditions apply to this category of employee. Classified designated staff who:

  • Work their normally scheduled shifts during an authorized closing or delay, whether an entire shift closing or a partial shift closing, will be credited with compensatory leave for those hours worked.
  • Are required to work in excess of the hours in their normally-scheduled shift will be compensated in accordance with the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) for the excess time worked (i.e., overtime payments), provided they are in a non-exempt classification.
  • Do not report to work as scheduled must charge time missed to annual leave, compensatory leave or leave without pay as appropriate.
  • Leave before the end of the shift during an authorized closing must charge time missed to leave or leave without pay, as appropriate.

6.3.2 Wage and other Part-time Designated Staff

The following conditions apply to this category of employee. Wage and other Part-time Designated Staff who:

  • Work during an authorized closing or delay under the provisions of this policy, will receive an additional half-hour pay for each hour they work.
  • Are required to work in excess of the hours in their normally-scheduled shift will be compensated in accordance with the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) for the excess time worked (i.e., overtime payments), provided they are in a non-exempt classification.

6.3.3 Classified Non-Designated Staff

The following conditions apply to this category of employee. Classified Non-Designated Staff who are:

  • Scheduled to work are expected to report to work on time; however, when conditions create transportation difficulties that result in an employee’s late arrival, supervisors may authorize up to two hours of such lost time as an authorized absence not charged as leave. Supervisors should decide each case on its own merits.
  • Allowed to leave work prior to an announcement of an early closing must charge the difference between that time and the official closing time to leave balances or leave without pay.
  • On pre-approved leave with pay or who contact their supervisor requesting leave (and it is approved by the supervisor) on the day of a partial shift closing shall have only the hours of operation charged to their leave balances.
  • On approved leave with pay for an authorized closing day will not be charged leave for the day.

To be eligible for pay, classified non-designated staff must work or be on paid leave the work day before and the work day after the authorized closing.

  • Non-exempt classified non-designated staff will be paid for the number of hours they were scheduled to work during the authorized closing.
  • Exempt classified non-designated staff will be paid for a full day for each full day the university is closed during an authorized closing.
  • Classified non-designated staff who work an alternate schedule will be paid for the hours they were scheduled to work during the authorized closing. If an employee's normal work schedule is more than the period of the authorized closing, the additional hours not worked must be charged to leave or leave without pay as appropriate or be worked at a later time in the same workweek.

6.3.4 Wage and other Part-time Non-Designated Staff

The following conditions apply to Wage and other Part-time Non-Designated Staff:

  • Employees are expected to report to work on time; however, when conditions create transportation difficulties, supervisors may use their discretion in determining the employee’s schedule. Supervisors should decide each case on its own merits.
  • If an authorized delay/early closing falls on a wage or other part-time non-designated employee’s regularly scheduled hours, the employee will not report to work until the university opens or will leave upon an early closure and will not be paid for the hours not worked.
  • If an authorized closing falls on a wage or other part-time non-designated employee's regularly scheduled hours, the employee will not report to work and will not be paid for the hours not worked.

6.3.5 Administrative & Professional Faculty, Instructional Faculty, and Professional Librarians will be paid for a full day during an authorized closing or delay.

7. RESPONSIBILITIES

It is the responsibility of vice presidents, the executive assistant to the president, deans, department heads, academic unit heads, directors and supervisors to ensure that the provisions of this policy are reviewed with employees and administered to all employees in a consistent manner.

Supervisors are responsible for informing designated employees in writing that they will be required to work during authorized shift closings. It is recommended that designated employees be notified at the time of employment, annually just prior to the winter season, and when it can be predetermined that for certain types of emergencies these employees' services will be necessary.

It is the responsibility of the supervisor to provide accurate time and leave information to Human Resources.

8. SANCTIONS

Sanctions will be commensurate with the severity and/or frequency of the offense and may include termination.

9. EXCLUSIONS

Not applicable.

10. INTERPRETATION

The authority to interpret this policy rests with the President, and is generally delegated to the Director of Human Resources.

Previous version: June 2012
Approved by the President: September 2016