Suspension of Operations and Location Closings Policy
|Chief Operations Officer|
|Senior Director of Operations, or Assistant Vice President of Human Resources|
|01/2021/ Effective 11|
|First draft 11/2021|
|Emergency, weather, closure, delay, operations, class closure|
The safety of students, employees, visitors, and guests is the primary concern in making any decision about college operations. The possibility of snow, ice, or other adverse weather may affect academic activities, events, and work schedules. Additionally, emergency situations may occur if building systems break down or an unexpected event causes for an unsafe environment. Whenever possible, the college will continue scheduled operations, including student activities and events, and employee work, to the extent that students, faculty, and staff can travel safely to and from the affected location and remain in the location safely.
To create a decision-making process and communication regarding college operations during times of emergency that prioritizes the safety of students and employees while maintaining mission critical activities and compliance.
Closure of College Location to Students: The college facility is closed to all students and community members. All in person academic and community activities are suspended, including but not limited to in person study groups and information sessions. In person student resources such as computer rooms are closed. Online or virtual student resources remain unaffected. The facilities are locked. Employees are expected to perform their work and continue normal business operations, unless directed by the governor otherwise. Employees who believe conditions are unsafe to travel to work and are required to do so, may charge appropriate accruals as approved.
Closure of College Location by the Governor: All operational and academic activities of the college are suspended, including online or virtual activities and services and, including administrative activities that are not student focused. The Governor has directed employees to stay away from college facilities without charging time. Suspended operations may occur after the start of a work day, or before a work day has commenced, requiring a directed early departure.
Essential employees: At the start of the academic year, each campus shall identify which employees are anticipated to be essential during an emergency or extraordinary circumstance and such identification as essential should be clearly communicated to affected employees and their supervisor. In general, essential employees shall be those employees whose duties include continuing care and/or safety of, students, or property; maintaining mission critical systems; or emergency response, relief and recovery.
It is New York State policy not to close state facilities, as a result of extraordinary weather conditions. Only the governor may declare a state of emergency during times of adverse weather. During a state of emergency, only the governor can close state offices, resulting in employees to remain away from work, or depart early, without charging to leave accruals. It should be noted that this is two separate actions by the governor; to declare a state of emergency, and to close state offices. A declaration of a state of emergency does not necessarily mean closure of state offices.
Notwithstanding the above stated policy, it is understandable that in certain extraordinary situations it may not be possible for employees to get to work. This could be due to impassable roads or other extraordinary circumstances. Local authorities may advise against travel. Pursuant to NYS Executive Law, Article 2-B, a Chief Executive of a County, City or Village may declare a state of emergency, however, such declaration has no authority over the closure of state offices or facilities. The governor may declare a state of emergency, for the same area, however, the governor may elect to not close state offices for that area. Although local municipal offices may be closed under authority of the chief executive; state offices, including Empire State College, remain open unless the state office closure is declared by the governor. Certainly, employees as citizens are expected to abide by civil authority. Employees may charge their absence and contact OHR to request the college file a petition to the Governor’s Office of Employee Relations on the employee’s behalf to have the absence reinstated.
An employee who has reported for work and, because of extraordinary circumstances beyond the employee’s control, for example, extreme weather conditions or physical plant breakdown, is directed by the College President, or designee, to leave work, shall not be required to charge such directed absence during such day against leave accruals. Any such release of employees shall not create any right to equivalent time off by employees who are not directed to leave work. Employees who serve in Management/Confidential positions are expected to charge their absence if work does not commence.
The college president, or designee, has the authority to close college locations to students thereby suspending all in person student and community activities without affecting employee work hours or environment. During these times students will remain away from in person college activities and refrain from use of in person college resources without negative impact to their final grade. Employees may remain away from the scheduled student and community activities; however, they are expected to be present at their normal work place and work their normal work schedule, unless an approved agreement has been made between the employee and supervisor.
The closing of the college to student activities by the president or designee is a separate action of closure of the college offices by the governor. It is possible that this might occur prior to the commencement of the business day or during the business day. If weather conditions arise during the course of the workday, staff may request permission to leave early and charge appropriate accruals. Supervisors and managers will make every effort to approve such requests within operational need. If a college location is closed by the governor, communication with employees will explicitly state the closure is by the governor and employees are to stay away. All other closure notices from the president do not affect employee work hours.
While emergency personnel or a landlord may direct an "emergency evacuation" of a facility due to building safety conditions; or landlords may close a building due to environmental conditions, such individuals do not have the authority to release employees from working or send employees home without charge to leave accruals. In situations such as this, the college president or designee will direct employees to go home without charge to leave accruals or provide an alternative plan to continue operations consistent with collective bargaining agreements.
It should be noted that even when closures by the governor occur, employees performing essential services are expected to report to work in emergencies as part of their job responsibilities that involve continuing care or safety of people, property or animals, maintenance of mission critical systems; or emergency relief, response and recovery.
It should be noted that closure of a college location by president or by the governor has no effect on another location. The status of operations and closures is specific to each location.
When an employee is assigned to more than one home location, they are to follow instructions for the location they had planned to report to on that day.
Communication regarding closures or changes of scheduled events due to an emergency will be accomplished in a timely fashion so as to maximize safety of all involved, reduce operational disruption of the college, and allow for individuals to plan accordingly.
Applicable Legislation and Regulations
More detailed information concerning procedures in emergency situations and the New York State Civil Service Commission’s policies on suspension of the Attendance Rules is contained in the State Attendance and Leave Manual, Section 25.1, pages 4-9.
Empire State College policy on Incident Reporting Policy and Procedure
Operational Services Unit contract: §10.14
Administrative Services Unit contract: §10.12
Related References, Policies, Procedures, Forms and Appendices
In the absence of the governor’s directions, recommendations to close a location to students are presented to the Senior Director of Operations when the emergency is weather related. When possible, the situation should be discussed the day before the potential closing so a plan is in place early. However, given the unpredictability of weather, first thing in the morning is acceptable. The Senior Director of Operations will make their recommendation to the Cabinet as soon as possible to ensure timely decision and communication. If the Senior Director of Operations is not available, the Director of Safety and Security will assume the responsibilities. The President has final decision regarding any suspension of operations or closures. When the emergency is not weather related, the procedures followed are documented in the SUNY Empire Emergency Operations Plan.
Notifications regarding all suspension and office closures will be sent out via mobile alert (email and text). The SUNY Empire website is also updated to reflect the status of all locations. All college employees and students are highly encouraged to sign up for the SUNY Empire alert system so they receive the most up to date and accurate information regarding emergency situations in or around the college. Employees should not rely on media outlets such as the news or radio. Official notification with the directive for employees will only come from email or text directly from the college via mobile alert or via the college webpage. As stated above, employees are required to report to work unless otherwise instructed by college president or designee.
Weather-related closures do not generally affect online courses. Due to the disparate nature of online studies, both the student and the instructor should make efforts to communicate during a time of emergency. Students should contact individual course instructors, as soon as the possibility allows, to understand if the emergency has affected online courses. Faculty in regions impacted by severe weather or other emergencies should contact students if weather or other emergencies has affected the progression of the course as soon as possible.
In the event of an emergency, the Office of Safety and Security or other college administrator will send out notification for local employees and students to evacuate the building. Notification will be made when it is safe to enter the building. As per SUNY policy 5608 and 8900, the Office of Safety and Security will notify the appropriate offices at SUNY.
The Office of the President determines which of the essential functions must continue during a disruption or office closure and the employees needed to continue the function.