(Last updated 5/26/2020. If you have questions or think your contract rights have been violated, please email email@example.com.)
- Do I still have the same benefits and protections working online as in person?
- What if my class is canceled?
- What do I do if I get sick (or a family member gets sick)?
- When can I use “medical leave”?
- Anything else I should know about my health benefits?
- When am I GradCare eligible?
- What if I need ADA accommodations for my job duties?
- Should I purchase new equipment (e.g., laptop, webcam, high-speed internet) in order to perform my job duties at home?
- What if I’m working over hours because of the pandemic?
- Am I eligible for unemployment as a recently employed GSI?
- Will classes be online in Fall 2020? If so, what protections will be implemented?
- Should I be doing work before the semester begins to prepare for an online or “hybrid” instructional model?
For questions specific to international students, please see our detailed COVID-19 IGSI FAQ page.
1. Do I still have the same benefits and protections working online as in person?
Yes. All the provisions of our contract apply equally to online and in-person work.
2. What if my class is canceled?
If you have been offered a GSI/GSSA position (verbally or in writing), you are still guaranteed your pay, benefits, and tuition waiver even if your position is canceled. If your position is canceled and you want assistance making sure you continue to receive your salary and benefits, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
3. What do I do if I get sick (or a family member gets sick)?
All GSI/GSSA contracts guarantee 6 weeks of medical leave per year. The University has implemented up to two weeks of additional paid time off for COVID-19 related issues for any employee hired before June 7th (even if you are not currently a GSI/GSSA); you can draw from this bank before touching any other medical leave. Employees hired after June 7th are no longer eligible for the two weeks of COVID medical leave. This includes GSIs, GSSAs and GSRAs hired for summer or fall appointments, even if you have been a GSI, GSSA or GSRA in a previous semester. If you are using either leave, notify your supervisor ASAP so that a substitute can be arranged. If you have exhausted your available leave but need additional time off, contact email@example.com for assistance dealing with your employing unit.
4. When can I use “medical leave”?
The University’s COVID-19 paid time off can be used “in the case of quarantine, isolation, and family care needs related to COVID-19 exposure, illness or other related scenarios, such as a temporary lack of work”. That is, you may use it to care for family members or dependents, or in case your family’s needs have altered because of the impacts of COVID-19. In addition, our contractually guaranteed 6 weeks of medical leave can be used when a GSI/GSSA is “unable to meet employment obligations because of personal illness, injury, medical appointment, medical procedure, or other disabling medical condition, or because of the illness, injury, medical appointment, medical procedure, or other disabling medical condition of a family member or Other Qualified Adult.” (An “Other Qualified Adult” is someone with whom you’ve shared a primary residence with for 6 months, and who is thus eligible to be covered under your GradCare plan.) In particular, medical leave can be used to care for family members or for recurring medical appointments, not just for acute illness of the employee!
5. Anything else I should know about my health benefits?
Copays for any UM health care plan (including GradCare) have been waived for virtual/telemedicine medical and mental-health appointments at least through June 30, 2020.
6. When am I GradCare eligible?
You are covered by GradCare in a given term if you are employed as a GSI or GSSA (at any employment fraction). You are also eligible for GradCare over Summer 2020 if you were a GSI/GSSA during Winter 2020 and either a. were employed as a GSI/GSSA in Fall 2019 or b. will be employed as a GSI/GSSA in Fall 2020. Departments may extend the availability of GradCare through the summer even though they are not contractually mandated to do so; if you are not covered under the above provisions, it might be worth discussing that possibility with your department administration.
7. What if I need ADA accommodations for my job duties?
Although your job may look different right now, you are always entitled to “reasonable accommodations” under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). Such accommodations may include the provision of particular equipment or workstations, the alteration of particular job duties, and much more. Your employing unit should have provided you with the contact information of their administrative designee, who you should contact in order to request an accommodation. You do not need to disclose your condition or impairment to this designee, your immediate supervisor, or employing unit in order to obtain accommodations, although you may be required to disclose to the university’s central accommodations office. If you have not been given the contact information for the administrative designee to contact for accommodations, or need any assistance in navigating this process, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
8. Should I purchase new equipment (e.g., laptop, webcam, high-speed internet) in order to perform my job duties at home?
Your employing department is responsible for ensuring that you have the necessary resources to fulfill your job duties. Do not purchase new equipment to be reimbursed later. If you are having issues with your department regarding resources, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
9. What if I’m working over hours because of the pandemic?
If you’re concerned you may be working more hours than your employment fraction, please track your hours and contact the Grievance Committee (email@example.com)! If you’re working more hours on average than your employment fraction, your workload may be reduced or you may be entitled to additional compensation for the additional work (see below, however, for concerns specific to international graduate students). The Grievance Committee can help solve hours issues through informal channels or through a formal grievance procedure; the earlier we know about even small hours overages of a few hours per week, the more helpful we can be. Moreover, bringing hours issues to our attention helps us address them systematically. For more information on what your employment fraction means and resources for hours tracking, see our website. International students cannot be required to work over 20 hours in a given week under any circumstances, due to visa restrictions. If you’re an international GSI/GSSA and you’re being asked to work more than 20 hours per week, you have a contractual right to refuse; please email firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, or your department steward if you have questions or want support in doing so. If you want to anonymously report a course with hours problems, we have a survey where you can do so.
10. Am I eligible for unemployment as a recently employed GSI?
Unfortunately, according to our best understanding, student employees are not eligible for unemployment under Michigan state law. However, eligibility may vary according to your specific circumstances, and we are not qualified to determine how this is implemented in practice. If you have been offered a GSI or GSSA position which is now canceled, see the answer to question #2 above, as you are still entitled to your wages and benefits under our contract.
11. Will classes be online in Fall 2020? If so, what protections will be implemented?
We’re unaware of whether classes will be online, or when this decision will be made. Whatever the outcome, we’re committed to fighting for a safe, healthy workplace for all employees. Our contract guarantees that “No Employee will be required to act, nor will any Employee act, in a manner which constitutes a health or safety hazard in their employment relationship.” If you feel like your job duties constitute a threat to health or safety, please contact us and we can advocate for you. GEO in general, and our COVID-19 caucus in particular, is continuing to push for a COVID-19 response that protects the safety of our community (see point D of our open letter); if you’d like to get involved, you can join the COVID Caucus by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
12. Should I be doing work before the semester begins to prepare for an online or “hybrid” instructional model?
If you have a job offer, your employing unit may require you to do such preparatory work before the semester begins; however, such work should be accounted for on your fraction calculation form, and if you are doing more work than is accounted for on your fraction calculation form, you should be compensated for the additional work, or refuse to do it (see the answer above on working over your hours for more information).