Information on Public Health Emergency Leave and Telework


The following communication was issued from Rick Larson, Assistant Vice President, HR, Training and Performance to JMU employees on March 16.

JMU Staff and Faculty,

The university issued a correspondence that was sent to faculty and staff on Sunday, March 15 and included references to The Department of Human Resource Management (DHRM) Policy 4.52-Public Health Emergency Leave and Telework. What follows is additional information on those, and other important topics. 


To provide additional guidance for employees and supervisors, a temporary telework policy has been created for use during the COVID-19 pandemic.It is important to note the University is not closed and must continue to provide essential services.

Temporary Telework Policy (Supersedes JMU Policy 1332-Telecommuting)

Human Resources will be temporarily modifying the current Telecommuting policy to provide greater flexibility for supervisors to initiate temporary telework arrangements witih employees, where possible.

While university operations continue, we are all expected to efficiently and effectively perform our jobs. This could mean some employees will need to work on campus due to the nature of their job responsibilities, and follow health and safety guidance from the university, the Virginia Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Other employees may be able to telecommute, and supervisors are encouraged to talk with interested employees who are not normally eligible to telecommute (either because of employee type or job duties) to determine if and how the employee could productively work from home on a temporary basis. There may not be telework solutions for all employees or jobs.  

Normally, a formal agreement would need to be signed. In these unprecedented times, we are temporarily suspending this requirement and replacing it with an email exchange initiated by the supervisor to employee. The employee would then reply indicating agreement and understanding. Supervisors should keep a record of all their employees who are temporarily telecommuting. Additionally, supervisors should forward a copy of the email exchange to their HR Consultant.

Supervisors should be flexible but specific in the email with expectations related to: 

  • Buildings remain open while the university is open

  • Clear job duties and work products

  • Understanding this is temporary

  • Expected working hours. Note: The amount of time the employee is expected to work per pay period will not change due to participation in a telecommuting arrangement.

  • Check JMU email messages with regularity and respond to messages on a timely basis.

  • Regular communication with supervisor

  • Non-exempt employees must report all hours worked each week, and only work overtime when authorized by the supervisor in writing 

  • Follow all existing and applicable policies still in effect

  • The employee will follow university-approved data security procedures at the alternate work location to protect department or university records from unauthorized disclosure or damage, and will comply with the privacy requirements set forth in state law and the Department of Human Resource Management Policies and Procedures Manual.

  • Employees are responsible for the security of all documents, data and records in their possession and must immediately report suspicions of a breach to their supervisor.

  • The employee must obtain supervisory approval before taking leave in accordance with established office procedures. 

  • The employee is covered by the appropriate provision of the Commonwealth Division of Risk Management Plan if injured while performing official duties during established work hours at the alternate work location. The supervisor will follow established procedures for reporting all accident and injury reports immediately following notification.

  • The employee is still bound by other terms and conditions governing his or her employment and must continue to abide by applicable standards of conduct. 

  • This agreement may be modified and/or ended at any time. 

Supervisors may consider allowing telecommuting if the following circumstances exist:

  1. It is not necessary for employee to interact in-person with students, parents, customers, other employees

  2. It is not necessary for employee to work directly with equipment (cars, trucks, buildings, etc.) 

  3. Employee has an internet connection at home. 

  4. Employee has a computer or laptop that can be used from home. It is preferred that employees use JMU computers. Desktops and laptops may be brought home for telecommuting.

  5. Employee can check voicemail messages that are left on JMU voicemail on a regular basis and can respond to messages on a timely basis.

  6. There is reasonable assuredness that if the work performed by the employee includes highly confidential data, such work is completed in a secure and private manner.

  7. Allowing this employee to telework does not force closure of buildings and/or essential services while the university is open. 


  • VPN access is in limited supply. If you require VPN access to systems critical to your job function, please contact your supervisor before submitting a request. Instructional Faculty who must create content and teach online courses have first priority for VPN access. Therefore, Information Technology has prioritized granting access required by Instructional Faculty. All other requests will be considered as soon as possible.

  • There is currently a shortage of bandwidth to provide VPN access. If you currently have VPN access and do not urgently need it at this time, we respectfully request that you refrain from using it as avoiding use will free up much needed access for those who must rely on it.

  • We appreciate your use of Webex for meetings to enhance social distancing. Given that our Webex use has increased dramatically, you can expect better service by avoiding the use of video and attendee images during your Webex calls. If you want more information about on-campus Webex access, click here. 


The Department of Human Resource Management (DHRM), on behalf of the Governor, has notified us that DHRM Policy 4.52-Public Health Emergency Leave has been enacted due to the coronavirus pandemic. This policy permits eligible employees to attend to their own medical needs and those of their immediate family members by providing up to 80 hours of paid leave per year in addition to any other available leave balances. Use of this policy is intended for illness directly related to the declared COVID-19 disease threat.

DHRM Policy 4.52-Public Health Emergency Leave highlights. 

  • Employees are expected to report to work as usual unless ill or in the event they are otherwise directed by the Governor, their Agency Head, or the State Health Commissioner. (At JMU, this means teleworking when possible)

  • All JMU employees are eligible for Public Health Emergency Leave (PHEL) , including full-time (classified, A&P faculty, and instructional faculty), and part-time (adjunct, wage, and graduate assistants)

  • For part-time employees, paid leave will be based on the number of hours normally scheduled to work. Wage and adjunct employee hours paid under this policy count toward the 1500 hours maximum per year. 

  • Employees must follow usual leave request procedures, including communication with their supervisor. 

  • Documentation may be required from a health care provider or a public health agency to confirm a diagnosis of COVID-19. 

  • Once PHEL is exhausted, available leave balances should be used.

  • Telework agreements may be executed for employees who can telework to further promote social distancing. Those with approved telework agreements should be encouraged to work offsite to reduce the risk of exposure. 

  • Recovering employees whose COVID-19 illness and/or isolation extends beyond 80 hours must use existing leave and/or applicable disability policies to cover the reminder of their absences.

  • Unfortunately, wage employees whose illness and/or isolation extends beyond the maximum number of paid leave hours will not receive additional pay.

The full DHRM policy is published here.


  • On March 12, 2020, Governor Northam declared a state of Emergency, banned state employee out-of-state travel and requested a phased transition to teleworking for state employees.

  • Virginia has over 100,000 state employees stationed throughout the Commonwealth. Governor Northam has halted all official travel outside of Virginia by state employees, with increased flexibility for inter-state commuters and essential personnel. Specific guidance will be released to agency heads and state employees, and Virginia will revisit these guidelines after 30 days (by April 12, 2020).


  • If student employees are available, they may be permitted to work. Social distancing practices should be in force as with other employees. 

  • The letter that was sent to faculty and staff on Sunday, March 15 referenced a variety of employment classifications. Graduate students should have been included on the list. All items noted in the letter pertain to graduate students. 

  • Per CDC guidance, and during the COVID-19 outbreak, supervisors should not ask employees to produce doctors’ notes to verify existing conditions or other illnesses. 

  • Under the circumstances, it is acceptable for supervisors to deploy their staff in ways that ensure the most effective and efficient operation of the university. Staff can be requested to perform duties that are different from their existing position descriptions.


  • In your offices, please practice social distancing. Social distancing is a broad category. It means not shaking hands, standing several feet from other people and avoiding crowds. And, most important, staying home if you feel sick. 

  • Businesses are doing it when they ask employees to work from home or stagger work hours. Government is doing it when they close schools. We are seeing it in the sports world, with no-spectator games or the postponement of sporting events. Museums, theaters and concert halls where large groups of people gather are closing their doors. 

  • It means trying to find the least-crowded train car or possibly driving instead of taking mass transit. 

Thanks again for your patience and perseverance through this difficult time. You can expect to see additional emails designed to inform you as this situation continues to develop. We greatly appreciate the tremendous team effort required to navigate together through this turbulent time. 

Rick Larson
Assistant Vice President, HR, Training and Performance

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Published: Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Last Updated: Tuesday, November 10, 2020

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