Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What is a furlough?
A: Temporary reduction in work hours or mandatory period without work/pay.
Q: Do I need to exhaust my benefit time bank before I can sign up for Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits?
A: Benefit time need not be exhausted prior to signing up for unemployment. Further, a payout of earned benefit time (vacation, personal business and extra holiday, and PTO) does not interfere with UI benefits.
Q; What information do I need to have when I contact the Unemployment Insurance Office?
- NYS Registration #: 04-53119
Federal Employer Identification #
St. Lawrence University
23 Romoda Drive
Canton, NY 13617
You will also need to know your date of hire.
Q. What happens to my benefit time bank if I am still collecting UI benefits as of July 1, 2020?
A: Respective bargaining agreements outline how benefit time works at the end of the fiscal year. For those with a bank of Sick time, it rolls over into the new fiscal year. Those who have remaining banks of Personal Business and Extra Holiday hours as of June 30th can be paid out in July if unused. Vacation time and PTO banks that are not used by June 30 normally lapse and we recommend using vacation and PTO before June 30th.
Q: I am considered an essential worker, can I use benefit time?
A: Benefit time may be requested (or needed if sick) and approved by your supervisor.
Q. I am considered an essential employee. Can I refuse to work?
A: If work is available and assigned to you, it is expected you will work. Benefit time (if applicable) may be approved intermittently. Otherwise, a refusal to work is normally considered a resignation. There may be specific circumstances where one cannot work (illness, required leave, care for a school-aged child when schools are closed…) – in such cases, the manager and Human Resources will work with you to determine the appropriate next steps.
Q: If I am a seasonal worker and normally off in the summer, will I be eligible to collect UI benefits this summer if I am already receiving them now?
A: Regular, Seasonal employees are not eligible for UI benefits during a planned seasonal break like summer. Assuming St Lawrence has determined that the fall semester will be planned as normally expected, those employees who are on furlough and receiving UI benefits now (when work is normally expected) will not be eligible for UI benefits as there would be reasonable assurance that there is work in the fall.
For Dining Services, 9 month Seasonal employees: as of 5/11/20, if you are a seasonal employee in Dining Services and collecting unemployment benefits, the following workweeks are eligible for unemployment in relation to the normal seasonal working time: week of 5/12/20 and week of 5/25/20 (the week of 5/18/20 is normally scheduled off and not eligible for NYS unemployment) as benefits may be collected as they align with your normal work time and eligibility ends as of 5/31/20.
For other seasonal employees who are on temporary furlouh and collecting unemployment benefits, please align your collection of unemployment with your regular working time. For most, benefits will end in connection with the end of the spring semester as per normal schedule.
Please direct questions about unemployment and regular work time to the Human Resources office at 315-229-5596 or email@example.com.
Q: Will I lose my health insurance coverage while on furlough and receiving UI benefits?
A: For those enrolled in University’s health insurance plan, coverage will continue while on unemployment or with temporary loss of work hours. The employee’s share of the health insurance premiums will be planned for repayment once the employee returns to work and resumes earning a paycheck.
Q. Why can't I write a check to pay what I owe in insurance premiums while on furlough rather than owe money when I return to work?
A. Employee’s health insurance premium contributions have to be reflected on the W-2 and in order to do that, the contribution needs to run through payroll.
Q. Will St. Lawrence continue to contribute to my retirement account through TIAA while on furlough?
A. Employer contributions are based on earnings. If there are no earnings, no employer contributions can be made to TIAA. Both employee and employer retirement contributions will resume once the employee returns to work and earning resume.
Q. What happens to my flexible spending account (FSA) for medical while on furlough?
A. Employees may still utilize their FSA while on furlough. While on furlough, and not receiving a paycheck, employees will miss making their employee contributions into their FSA. When the employee returns to work, HR will figure out how the employee will need to add to their bi-weekly FSA
contribution for the remainder of the year to meet the employee’s initial election amount.
Note: The CARES ACT permanently reinstated over-the-counter (OTC) products as eligible expenses for Health Savings Accounts (HAS) and Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA). This reverses law put in place by the Affordable Care Act (nearly 10 years ago), which stated that those expenses were only eligible for reimbursement with a prescription. This change takes place retroactive to January 1, 2020.
If members use a debit card with their account, the inventory control coding has not been updated, therefore, these purchases will not be permitted. Members will have to pay upfront and submit a detailed receipt and claim form for reimbursement.
Menstrual care products such as tampons, pads, and menstrual sponges are now considered eligible expenses as part of the new legislation.
Q. Can I change my dependent care FSA as I am either on furlough or working from home and don’t need childcare at this time?
A. Yes, this is considered a qualifying event and you may adjust or cancel your dependent care election. Please email Terri Burdick or me if you would like to make an adjustment to your election. Likewise, when you return to work, you may adjust your election accordingly.
Q. How do I contact the Employee Assistance Program, eni, for my dependents and me?
A. To receive assistance through the EAP program call (800) 327-2255 to speak to a counselor or personal assistant or log on at www.nexgeneap.com or the Balance Go app and enter your ID.
Member ID: 17346241
Group ID: 8491
Q: Will the timesheet schedule change?
A: Timesheets remain on the bi-weekly schedule where reporting of time worked, benefit time, and unpaid time need to be reported. The next deadline for timesheet and kronos reporting is Monday, 4/13/20 and will continue every other Monday moving forward. Please contact your supervisor if you need assistance completing your timesheet. If you are not on direct deposit, checks will be mailed to the address on file.
Q. I’m not receiving a paycheck from St. Lawrence and I am union member. Do I still owe union dues?
A. Human Resources is unsure. It is up to your union to notify the University of missed dues and repayment, if any.
Q. May I take a loan from my Supplemental Retirement Annuity (SRA) through TIAA for Coronavirus-related circumstances that adversely affect me financially?
A. Yes, participants will be asked to self-certify that they meet the requirements for a coronavirus related loan. The loan approval process remains the same as it does for non-coronavirus-related loans (e.g. no more than two loans permitted at one time). The maximum loan amount is $100,000. Please contact TIAA for further information.
Q. I am not used to working from home, do you have any tips to share?
A. Yes, there are many employees who have never worked from home and adjusting to new work norms. Managers, too, may be new to managing employees working from home. Under these circumstances, there are a few tips:
- University policies remain as guidelines to be followed.
- Keep University issued property isolated to you and protected from others.
- The expectation to report daily work and benefit time hours remains for all non-exempt employees. This includes any unexpected overtime which should be approved by a supervisor.
- Remote workers are entitled to the same legal protections that in-office workers have, this includes planning and accounting for meal periods and time during day when work is not performed.
- Use of available benefit time may be applied for gaps in work time.
- Use of unpaid time (code ALOA on timesheets) may be used for gaps in work time.
- Increased flexibility is in place to reinforce productivity – it is understandable the normal workday may not always be achievable especially with children or other responsibilities due to the Covid pandemic compete with work expectations. Employees working from home are expected to accomplish their goals, however, the how and when it is accomplished may be more flexible.
- Stay in touch! Communication with managers and co-workers is key while working from home. Be clear about expectations of availability, responsiveness and the modes of communication to be used. We recommend a personal check in with remote workers at least two times/week.
Please acknowledge it can be difficult to make everything work as normal. Below are additional ideas that may be helpful but not required:
- Designate a private workspace.
- Using a headset for calls can be helpful with features including a noise-canceling microphone and mute button to block household noises while on calls.
- Those with a routine are more successful to avoid doing work all day:
- Get up the same time every day
- Schedule lunch/meal periods
- Separate work and family time as much as possible – the work time may not exactly be your regular work start/stop times but blocks of time dedicated to work is helpful as is minimizing multi-tasking for increased success
- Honor regular meetings by phone or zoom (if applicable).
Q. When Can I Return to Work on campus?
The Governor has developed four phases to reopening the state. As of Friday, May 15, the North Country has been approved to enter Phase One - Return of Construction and Manufacturing with limited retail services, and we continue to monitor and prepare for Phase Two - Return of Professional Services and Administrative Support. For more information on Reopening New York State, please visit https://forward.ny.gov/industries-reopening-phase.
We will start with a limited number of employees who will be contacted by their managers when they are able to return to campus for work, perhaps as early as the week of May 18 for a small number of employees whose professional responsibilities meet the Phase 1 criteria and whose departments have an approved safety plan. We expect that everyone who works on campus must practice social distancing and wear a cloth face covering, provided by the University if you wish, when working within six feet of other people, but not when working in a private office space. More detailed guidance will be provided based on the employee’s duties and workplace. Please note that most employees will not return to St. Lawrence campus offices or work sites for a few more weeks, at least. No one should return to campus without their manager’s approval.
For the time being, the previously established restrictions remain in place on faculty access to offices, labs, studios, and other academic spaces, and restrictions on access to campus facilities including athletics and libraries are also unchanged. The campus community will be notified when greater access to these spaces is approved by the state, we hope in the near future.
- Those working remotely and who are not contacted to return to campus should continue to work remotely.
- Those who cannot work remotely and have not received approval to be on campus should continue to refrain from coming in.
- Employees who are ill should stay home, per public health guidance.
- In Phase 1 and in subsequent Phases, employees who have pre-existing health conditions should contact Colleen Manley or Debra Mousaw in Human Resources to discuss options.
Return-to-Work Planning Efforts
The University created several planning teams to address the safest ways for Laurentian employees and students to return to campus. An oversight group, the Campus Safe Occupancy Planning Team, is charged with coordinating “gateway” planning that allows us the best chance of having students mostly in residence this fall and that would provide them an experience that, while different, is a positive St. Lawrence experience, as well as assuring a safe employee environment to prepare for the fall and when students return.
The Campus Safe Occupancy Planning Team has several subcommittees doing detailed research. One of those planning groups, the Return-to-Work Planning Team, has been working to create a comprehensive plan to prepare for employees to come back to campus in a phased approach and in accordance with New York State guidelines. As always, the health, well-being, and safety of our campus community has consistently and will continue to be our top institutional priority.
Additional Planning Teams:
- Academic program and faculty; university calendar and events; off-campus programs
- Non-academic programs—athletics, student life, campus capital assets
- Administration—policies, contracts, staffing levels, and budget
- Admissions, advancement, and long-term financial (revenue) strategy