Important Information for Staff
Everyone is trying to cope with COVID-19 and the crisis has created a great deal of anxiety for some of our faculty and staff. Uncertainty can be very unnerving and stressful and could have an impact on an individual’s overall emotional well-being particularly as we struggle with our professional careers, family, and economic challenges during this crisis.
The Capital Employee Assistance Program (EAP) has confidential counselors and support services that are designed to assist our faculty and staff. Capital EAP is a 24/7 telephonic, confidential support service for our faculty, staff, and their immediate family members at no cost.
- Capital EAP counselors and services can be accessed at https://capitaleap.org.
- Or call (518) 465-3813 or (800) 777-6531. The access Code for Rensselaer is 105293.
- An additional resource is the NYS Mental Health Hotline. Call (844) 863-9314 to be connected with a Mental Health Professional.
Virtual Health Visits
To help members stay safe in the midst of COVID-19, CDPHP is offering Rensselaer employees no-cost access to Doctor On Demand and ER Anywhere so you can visit with a doctor from the comfort of your home. A board-certified physician will evaluate your situation, prescribe medicine if necessary, and give you advice.
- Doctor On Demand: To access Doctor on Demand, visit doctorondemand.com/cdphp/join or download the app from the App Store or Google Play on your smartphone.
- ER Anywhere: Members can access ER Anywhere by downloading the mobile app on a smartphone, tablet, or desktop; or by calling (866) ER-Anywhere.
Health and Prevention Tips
Life and Work at Home
During this COVID-19 pandemic, please know that the staff in the Division of Human Resources (HR) and vendors that support our benefit programs are prepared to address your health, welfare, and retirement needs. HR staff are available to answer any questions or concerns from you or members of your family, and we appreciate your understanding and patience as we continue to work through this crisis. In addition, continue to check the Rensselaer homepage for timely updates.
Skip the trip to the pharmacy and get your prescriptions delivered right to your door with prescription mail order service. In light of the coronavirus, CDPHP has expanded certain mail order services and quantity limits. Call CVS/Caremark at (888) 292-6330 for more information on the services available to you.
Child and Elder Care Services—A New England Nanny
A New England Nanny remains open and continues to offer high-quality, in-home, back-up dependent care to Rensselaer employees on days when regular care is not available. All caregivers are following strict guidelines of the CDC.
Rensselaer subsidizes the cost of this service as a family-friendly benefit, and employees are only responsible for a copay cost of $3 per hour. If you require services, please contact A New England Nanny at (518) 453-1000.
In addition to providing childcare services, A New England Nanny is now offering help to Capital Region residents who need assistance with picking up groceries, prescriptions, restaurant takeout, and more. Their Community Caregiver service is perfect for families, first responders, seniors, those with pre-existing medical conditions, or anyone else not able to leave their homes or visit public spaces during the coronavirus pandemic.
In addition, Division of Human Resources remains operational, and continues to support our campus community. Your HR staff are available to answer any questions or concerns, and our contact information is as follows:
- Benefits: (518) 276-6164 or email@example.com
- Employment Operations: (518) 276-8426 or firstname.lastname@example.org
- Environmental Health Safety & Risk Management: (518) 276-6114 or email@example.com
- Employee Relations: (518) 276-6163 or firstname.lastname@example.org
- Title IX: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, or https://sexualviolence.rpi.edu/
- Professional Development: (518) 276-2318 or firstname.lastname@example.org
- Salary Administration: (518) 276-2774 or email@example.com
- Office of the Vice President: (518) 276-2888 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Date: April 21, 2020
From: Curtis N. Powell, Vice President, Human Resources
Many organizations in the United States, and throughout the world, continue to struggle with financial challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and Rensselaer is no exception. As a result, the Institute has made the difficult decision to furlough a portion of our workforce whose duties and responsibilities cannot be performed remotely, or where the normal workload has diminished significantly due to the impact of COVID-19. The furloughed employees were notified earlier today.
The furlough is effective May 1, 2020, and we anticipate it will last until July 31, 2020; however, we will continue to regularly assess the external guidance and our internal circumstances. Rensselaer will reinstate furloughed staff based on federal and state guidelines, as well as the business needs of the Institute.
Our furloughed employees will continue to receive the health and welfare benefits for which they are currently enrolled. Additionally, furloughed employees are eligible to apply for up to 39 weeks of NYS Unemployment Insurance benefits, and benefits assistance under the Federal CARES Act through July 31, 2020. The CARES Act provides furloughed employees who are eligible for unemployment insurance with an additional benefit of $600 weekly. The CARES Act is designed to assist employers and employees with situations like ours, in which employees cannot perform most or all of their job-related duties due to the COVID-19 pandemic crisis. The Division of Human Resources has provided the NYS Department of Unemployment verification of employment for furloughed employees. However, furloughed employees must initiate their individual claims.
Furloughed employees should contact Mr. Louis Padula, Director of Benefits, Retirement, and HR Information Systems, at (518) 276-6164 or by email should they have any questions regarding the continuation of Rensselaer health benefits during the furlough, or navigating the New York State Unemployment Insurance application process.
The Capital Employee Assistance Program (EAP) continues to be a valuable resource for all employees and their families. As our community continues to cope with anxiety precipitated by the global COVID-19 crisis, and faculty and staff face personal and professional challenges, Capital EAP continues to operate 24/7 and provides access to confidential counselors and support services. Confidential counselors and services can be accessed at https://capitaleap.org or by calling either (518) 465-3813 or (800) 777-6531. The access code for Rensselaer is 105293.
We appreciate your understanding of this difficult decision, and regret that the COVID-19 pandemic crisis has required us to take this action. This decision is not a reflection of the skills, knowledge, ability, or overall job performance of furloughed employees.
Please continue to stay safe during these challenging times, as we look forward to better times.
Date: April 10, 2020
During this COVID-19 pandemic, please know that the staff in the Division of Human Resources and vendors that support our benefit programs are prepared to address your health, welfare, and retirement needs. The Division of Human Resources staff are available to answer any questions or concerns from you or members of your family, and we appreciate your understanding and patience as we continue to work through this crisis.
Please view our enhanced health, welfare, and retirement program details.
Date: March 15, 2020
From: Curtis N. Powell, Vice President for Human Resources
This past week, due to the growing public health crisis, the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak a pandemic; the President of the United States declared a national emergency; and the Governor of the State of New York declared a state of emergency.
Rensselaer does not have a known COVID-19 case on campus, and there are no known cases in Rensselaer County. However, in our continued efforts to decrease the number of people on campus and to minimize contact among those who are here, we are expanding our social distancing protocols through telework.
Effective Wednesday, March 18, through Tuesday, March 31, only faculty and staff whose work is deemed “essential” to current operations will be expected to report to work on campus. Faculty and staff who have not been designated as “essential” are not required to report to campus. These individuals will work remotely, with the expectation of fulfilling all assigned duties and responsibilities, on their assigned work schedule. Portfolio leaders will inform faculty and staff members if they must report to campus, and will provide further information regarding work assignments.
All faculty and staff will continue to receive their salary and benefits, with the expectation that they will continue to be productive in performing their assigned duties and responsibilities. Non-exempt staff are ineligible for overtime pay during this period.
Faculty and staff working on campus should practice social distancing by not gathering in groups and maintaining six feet of distance from others whenever possible.
We will continue to assess the situation each day, and keep everyone updated. The Rensselaer COVID-19 website remains our central source for news and guidance. Please regularly consult this website for updates.
Date: March 12, 2020
From: Campus Leadership
From: Shirley Ann Jackson, Ph.D., President, Professor of Physics, Applied Physics, and Astronomy, Professor of Engineering Sciences; Prabhat Hajela, Provost; Leslie Lawrence, M.D., Executive Director for Health and Wellness; Curtis Powell, Vice President for Human Resources; Claude Rounds, Vice President for Administration; Peter Konwerski, Vice President for Student Life; Craig Cook, Secretary of the Institute and General Counsel; Graig Eastin, Vice President for Institute Advancement; Barbara Hough, Vice President for Finance and Chief Financial Officer; Robert Hull, Senior Associate Vice President for Research; Richie Hunter, Vice President for Strategic Communications and External Relations; John Kolb, Vice President for Information Services and Technology and Chief Information Officer; Jonathan Wexler, Vice President for Enrollment Management; Jonathan Dordick, Special Assistant to the President for Strategic Research, Howard P. Isermann Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering; Vadim Thomas, Associate Vice President for Public Safety and Emergency Management
In an ongoing effort to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus within our community, on Friday, March 13, 2020, Rensselaer will implement a campus stand-down from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. to allow faculty, staff, and students to deeply sanitize personal workspaces and common areas. During this time, we will focus as a community on one of the best strategies we currently have to help keep everyone safe and healthy: continually sanitizing our workspaces and maintaining the best personal safety hygiene.
The coronavirus situation remains fluid, and public health advisories and health precautions can change with little notice. We must keep our community safe by listening to public health experts, remaining calm, and doing all we can to protect the most vulnerable in our midst. Using common sense, following the best hygiene and cleanliness practices, and adhering to our values are our best strategies for keeping everyone safe and healthy.
Date: March 12, 2020
From: Robert Hull, Acting Vice President for Research
In light of the global COVID-19 outbreak (info.rpi.edu/coronavirus) we wanted to follow up with further guidance to ensure research continuity, especially as it relates to graduate students and the research staff.
1. Immediate Situation
As described in the universitywide message from President Jackson of March 11, 2020, the university is moving to remote instruction for all classes from March 23, 2020, through the end of the spring 2020 semester.
As we transition to remote instruction, other Institute operations will continue, including research programs. In this context, President Jackson's March 10, 2020, message states that where possible, graduate students pursuing research will work remotely. This means that Ph.D. and other graduate students should perform their research away from campus when it is possible. This may apply, for example, to many students pursuing computational work, analyzing data, or documenting the results of their research. For students pursuing experimental work or studio research, research activities on campus can continue, but only when social distancing can be enforced. In these activities as well, research time out of the laboratory (data analysis, report or paper writing etc.) should be performed away from campus.
Research laboratories and facilities will continue to operate, but again in situations where research staff can pursue their tasks away from campus, they should be required to do so.
To maximize the effects of social distancing, please implement the following guidance in your laboratories and groups:
- Staggering work time in laboratories and offices so that a separation of 2 meters or more between occupants can generally be maintained.
- If protective clothing or apparatus is used in your lab or facility, please implement a plan to ensure that they cannot transmit a virus from one user to another, for example providing disposable masks and gloves, and personalized safety glasses and clothing.
- Ensuring adequate disinfecting supplies and protocols for cleaning working surfaces, including keyboards and instrument controls.
- For "living systems" such as animals and cell lines or tissues, working with your facility manager or developing protocols in your own laboratory to ensure sustenance and preservation.
- All graduate students should receive a training session on hygienic protocols.
2. Contingency Plans for a Potential Campus Shut-Down
If case(s) of coronavirus are detected in the Rensselaer community; there is a community-spread case proximate to the Rensselaer campus; or cluster cases in Troy (regardless of origin), the Institute will shut down the campus, except for essential campus operations. This includes the shutdown of all laboratories and facilities, except those requiring continued baseline operations and oversight. In this case, on-campus research work will cease.
To prepare for this possibility, the following steps are required:
a) Please designate essential personnel, where necessary, to ensure safe and stable conditions of all laboratories.
b) Each faculty researcher and research laboratory must develop a Business Continuity Plan in the event of such a shut-down. If you have not done so already, please review your plan with your staff and research students as soon as possible. This plan must include all necessary information to implement safe shut-down or stabilization of your laboratories.
c) Ensure that you, and all researchers in your group or center, have the necessary records for grant operations (e.g. submitting annual, final, or progress reports) and/or proposal submissions.
d) Ensure that you and your group/staff have the necessary materials to continue your research to your best ability from home (data analysis, writing of papers, etc.)
While we all hope that there is as little impact as possible on the campus community, and on the continuity of our operations as a result of the coronavirus, we must be prepared to act quickly to protect people and critical facilities. We know that there will be questions that an email of this length cannot directly address. If you have additional questions or need further information, please do not hesitate to contact us. Thank you for your assistance in this important matter.
Robert Hull, Acting Vice President for Research
Prabhat Hajela, Provost