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Pandemic FAQs: Emergency Declaration, Scheduling and HR Administration


The World Health Organization declared the swine flu pandemic officially over Tuesday, months after many national authorities started canceling vaccine orders and shutting down hot lines as the disease ebbed from the headlines.

--Fox News.com, Aug. 10 2010





The following answers are based on the “STATE OF MINNESOTA AGENCY PANDEMIC INFLUENZA SERVICE CONTINUATION” document, last revised September 1, 2006. View the complete document

Where possible, answers specific to Anoka-Ramsey Community College Cambridge and Coon Rapids Campuses have been substituted.

See also:

Emergency Declaration, Scheduling and HR Administration FAQs

  1. In case of Weather Emergency, the state shuts down and employees still get paid. Would this be the same in a pandemic shutdown?
  2. If the Governor shuts down state buildings and/or services will everything be closed like a snow day or will agencies need to keep essential services going such as were identified during the potential shutdown in 2001?
  3. If an employee works out of class (in a higher classification) will they be compensated accordingly?
  4. Can employees be assigned to perform work normally performed by employees under different union contracts?
  5. May I adjust my work schedule to accommodate avian-flu situation (e.g., my spouse works day; I want to work nights)?
  6. Must I, as the supervisor, approve an employee’s request to telecommute if there is an avian flu outbreak?
  7. During a pandemic, in what circumstances could the employer cancel vacation leave requests that have already been approved?
  8. Will an agency be required to pay overtime and shift differential?
  9. If it is necessary for the employee to change a work schedule or create a new shift to meet the agency’s needs, is the agency required to give 14 days or 28 days notice to the employee? If the employee requests the change, must they give the employer required notice? Can an agency create split shifts?
  10. Will supervisors be able to change employee’s hours of work e.g., from 8 to 10 or 12 hour work days, as needed in order to react to staffing and operational requirements?
  11. Will employees be allowed to telecommute?
  12. Can employees be redeployed to other locations, other departments (similar to when we had a strike) that require direct patient care, and what do we do if the employee refuses to go for whatever reason.
  13. Since we will be looking not only at Commissioner’s Plan and Managerial Plan employees but also bargaining units, what provisions do we have under the existing contracts or what MOU’s do we need to negotiate to implement this?
  14. What are the subcontracting issues that arise if we need to bring temporary employees or contractors in to provide services employees cannot, due to absenteeism.
  15. An employee raises chickens and brings eggs into work for co-workers. Should we be concerned? Can we tell that employee that they are no longer allowed to bring eggs to work?

Emergency Declaration, Scheduling and HR Administration

General Policy: Collective bargaining agreements will be followed as much as possible during a pandemic. Redeployment and changes to work schedules without advance notice are expected to occur in order to cover critical services.

  1. In case of Weather Emergency, the state shuts down and employees still get paid. Would this be the same in a pandemic shutdown?
    During weather emergencies the state does not shut down completely. Weather essential employees are required to report to work. During a pandemic, employees will be compensated only for time worked or for an approved eligible leave. State agencies are expected to continue to provide services on a priority basis. Employees will be expected to report to work as directed.

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  2. If the Governor shuts down state buildings and/or services will everything be closed like a snow day or will agencies need to keep essential services going such as were identified during the potential shutdown in 2001?
    A pandemic situation is not the same as a snow day or government shutdown. State agencies are making plans to identify what critical services will need to continue. It will be necessary for agencies/state buildings to remain open e.g., state hospitals, prisons, veteran homes or other designated buildings in order to either continue critical services. Employees may be assigned to work for a different agency or program as need to support the state’s critical services.

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  3. If an employee works out of class (in a higher classification) will they be
    compensated accordingly?
    Employees will be compensated according to collective bargaining agreements/plans. Same as Stage 1. Employees will continue to be compensated according to collective bargaining agreements/plans. Processing of salary adjustments could be delayed.

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  4. Can employees be assigned to perform work normally performed by employees under different union contracts?
    Business as usual. Yes. Employees will be expected to cover those duties deemed to be critical regardless of union contracts/plans.

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  5. May I adjust my work schedule to accommodate avian-flu situation (e.g.,
    my spouse works day; I want to work nights)?
    Business as usual. Requests made by employees will be taken into consideration and where possible, allowed. However, the decision to allow any adjustments in work schedules will ultimately be determined by the employer based on continuing critical functions necessary to the state.

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  6. Must I, as the supervisor, approve an employee’s request to telecommute if there is an avian flu outbreak?
    Agencies are looking at the feasibility of telecommuting as a part of their pandemic planning efforts. No; however, each individual request will be reviewed based on the critical function needs of the agency and the technical infrastructure availability within the agency. The final decision to allow telecommuting is determined by the employer.

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  7. During a pandemic, in what circumstances could the employer cancel vacation leave requests that have already been approved?
    Business as usual. The employer has the authority to cancel any pre-approved vacation leave requests.

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  8. Will an agency be required to pay overtime and shift differential?
    Business as usual. Employees will be compensated for shift differential and overtime according to collective bargaining agreements/plans. Payments for overtime and shift differential may be delayed.

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  9. If it is necessary for the employee to change a work schedule or create a new shift to meet the agency’s needs, is the agency required to give 14 days or 28 days notice to the employee? If the employee requests the change, must they give the employer required notice? Can an agency create split shifts?
    Business as usual. Note that some collective bargaining agreements prohibit split shifts. The employer may make changes to work schedules without prior notice in order to continue the critical needs of the agency. Some of these changes may result in payment of overtime depending on collective bargaining units/plans. The employer will consider on an individual basis the personal needs of those employees whose schedules may change. Payments may be delayed or suspended in the Executive order.

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  10. Will supervisors be able to change employee’s hours of work e.g., from 8 to 10 or 12 hour work days, as needed in order to react to staffing and operational requirements?
    Business as usual. Yes, the employer may make changes to work schedules without prior notice in order to continue the critical needs of the agency. Some of these changes may result in payment of overtime depending on collective bargaining units/plans. The employer will consider on an individual basis the personal needs of those employees whose schedules may change.

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  11. Will employees be allowed to telecommute?
    See previous question.

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  12. Can employees be redeployed to other locations, other departments (similar to when we had a strike) that require direct patient care, and what do we do if the employee refuses to go for whatever reason.
    Yes, when it becomes a critical situation. The employer will closely consider the personal needs of the employee before determining if redeployment is necessary. Employees refusing to report to work as assigned will be subject to discipline in accordance to contracts/plans.

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  13. Since we will be looking not only at Commissioner’s Plan and Managerial
    Plan employees but also bargaining units, what provisions do we have under the existing contracts or what MOU’s do we need to negotiate to implement this?
    Bargaining agreements and plans will be honored to the extent possible. Provisions of the collective bargaining agreements will likely be subject to review and may be temporarily suspended as allowed by law.

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  14. What are the subcontracting issues that arise if we need to bring temporary employees or contractors in to provide services employees cannot, due to absenteeism.
    State agencies are encouraged to include the use of subcontractors only as a last resort in their pandemic planning. Those agencies that believe that they may need to use subcontractors are encouraged to use the RFP process to identify qualified subcontractors and enter into contingent contracts which will be used only in the event a pandemic makes it necessary. Each agency is accountable for determining what functions are critical and must operate during a pandemic. This does include responsibility for assessing and assuring staffing levels are appropriate to support critical functions. Each agency will utilize existing appointment methods appropriate for their needs. Each agency will make a good faith effort to determine the availability of state employees to perform work before employing contractors.

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  15. An employee raises chickens and brings eggs into work for co-workers. Should we be concerned? Can we tell that employee that they are no longer allowed to bring eggs to work?
    Send notice to all employees requesting them to not bring poultry or bird products from their farms into the workplace. If employee does not comply they may be subject to disciplinary action.