Work adjustments an option for immunocompromised and other vulnerable employees

July 15, 2020

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — As Penn State prepares for employees to return to on-campus teaching and working, the University is developing plans to support the health and safety of faculty and staff members during the transition back to in-person work functions.

These plans include enhanced disinfecting protocols, required mask-wearing, and alterations to classroom and office environments to allow for proper social distancing. Even with these measures, Penn State recognizes that employees who are part of a vulnerable population, such as those who are immunocompromised, or those who live with individuals who are part of a vulnerable group, may have concerns about returning to the workplace.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has presented everyone with unique challenges, and the University’s workforce is no different,” said Lorraine Goffe, vice president for Human Resources. “The health, safety and well-being of both our employees and our students is our highest priority, and we aim to strike a balance between being flexible with work adjustments, while also continuing to fulfill our educational mission and provide a robust educational experience for our students.”

The University does not expect faculty who are immunocompromised, live with someone who may be, or have other special circumstances to teach in a physical classroom. Faculty who have concerns about teaching in person should work with their unit executive (dean, chancellor or a designee) to request work adjustments and discuss available options. Units are being advised that faculty requests to work remotely due to such concerns should be allowed if feasible.

Faculty members are urged to consider a variety of available instructional modalities that may give them the flexibility to fulfill their teaching duties. In addition, faculty who are part of a vulnerable population or who have other challenges with providing in-person instruction at any point during the semester should work with their supervisors to determine how adjustments can be made. Units are encouraged to remain flexible and think creatively about work adjustments while continuing to meet their educational goals. 

Additional information and guidance is available and regularly updated at Instructors should also directly review “Instructional Issues for Return to Resident Instruction,” and Return to Work resources for faculty.

Staff members, including technical service employees, who have concerns about returning to on-site work, including those who are immunocompromised, live with someone who may be, or have other special circumstances, should make specific requests to their manager to continue to work remotely, if feasible for unit operations, or to alter the nature of their work or their work schedule. Unless otherwise informed by their supervisor, employees who are currently working from home should continue to do so until further notice.

Employees who believe that they have a disability that necessitates a reasonable accommodation or leave should contact the Affirmative Action Office or Absence Management, as appropriate. 

For more information, visit the Return to Work website, which includes specific information for faculty, staff and technical service employees, as well as  

Last Updated July 15, 2020