Cartoon bobcat wearing a face mask

Guidance on wearing face masks

Get instructions for safely putting on, removing and reusing face masks in the workplace.

Montana State University is responding to the novel coronavirus with the university system’s central office in Helena and an on-campus institutional response group that coordinates with experts, health officials and units from across campus.

This employee guidance is provided given the circumstances relating to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and is not applicable to any past events and does not create an expectation that these guidelines will continue beyond the COVID-19 situation.

Please note, this information should not be considered medical or legal advice. In all instances, you should consult with a relevant expert for guidance specific to your circumstances.

This guidance will be updated as this situation continues to evolve. Your supervisor will keep you informed as we move forward. Our priority is the health and safety of our employees and continuity of the essential services we provide.

Current as of May 29, 2020

Contents

Illness - General Guidance to Employees

  • Stay home if you or a family member is feeling sick or even just “off.” Contact your supervisor if such a situation arises.
  • Consult your doctor and CDC guidelines about whether you have symptoms of the virus.
  • Do not travel while sick.
  • Any person who recently traveled will need to comply with the Governor’s order to quarantine.
  • Employees who become sick while traveling or on temporary assignment should notify their supervisor and promptly call a health care provider for advice if needed.
  • If you have an underlying medical condition or vulnerability, please discuss the risks with your health care provider. Employees in this situation should also contact their HR Business Partner with questions.
  • If an employee is sick and comes to work, the university reserves the right to send the employee home, depending on the circumstances. The employee may also need to utilize accrued sick leave and possibly other types of leave if unable to work.
  • Employees at high risk should contact their HR Business Partner with questions.

Working Remotely – Telework/Working from home

To further improve the type of distancing and optimal space encouraged by health agencies at this time, we encourage departments to use greater flexibility in work-from-home or telework arrangements, where feasible, for non-essential services in this time of reduced campus-based activity and traffic.

Employees should discuss remote work possibilities with their supervisors. A Telework Agreement that establishes expectations for employee-supervisor contact and accountability during the temporary off-campus work arrangement is available from Human Resources. Please contact your department’s HR Business Partner for this resource.

University Information Technology has provided several resources to make sure that your experiences during this disruption are successful, effective and secure. Please go to the Information Technology Anywhere page.

Download a copy of the Telework Agreement as a .doc file.

Employee Return to Campus Guidance

For employees returning to work on-site, there are several things departments and managers should consider continuing to limit the spread of the virus in the workplace, including:

Scheduling

  • Alternating Days: In order to limit the number of individuals and interactions among those present on campus, departments should schedule partial staffing on alternating days. Such schedules will facilitate physical distancing, especially in areas with large, common workspaces.
  • Staggered Reporting/Departing: The beginning and end of the workday typically brings many people together at common entry/exit points of buildings. Staggering reporting and departure times by at least 30 minutes will reduce traffic in common areas to meet physical distancing requirements.

Working in Office Environments

If you work in an open environment, be sure to stay at least 6 feet from co-workers. If possible, have at least one workspace separating you from another co-worker. Departments should assess open work environments and meeting rooms to institute measures to physically separate and increase distance between employees, other coworkers, and visitors. The university highly encourages the continuation of virtual meetings, even for employees working on campus.

Face Masks/Cloth Face Coverings

Face masks or face coverings are highly encouraged by all employees working on campus when in the presence of others and in public settings where other physical distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., common workspaces, meeting rooms, classrooms, etc.).

Appropriate use of face masks or coverings is critical in minimizing risks to others near you. Masks will be provided by MSU, if needed. Please notify your supervisor if you need a mask. Read about appropriate use and wearing of masks.

Notes about wearing face masks/face coverings:

  • If more than one person is in a room, masks/face coverings should be worn.
  • A mask or face covering is not required if you are working alone in a confined office space (does not include partitioned work areas in a large, open environment).
  • Masks/face coverings should be worn by any staff in a reception/receiving area.
  • Masks/face coverings should be used when inside any MSU facility where others are present, including walking in narrow hallways where others travel and in break rooms, conference rooms and other meeting locations.

Employees should avoid using anyone else’s personal protective equipment, phones, computer equipment, desks, cubicles, workstations, offices, or other personal work tools and equipment. There are some situations where work tools must be shared. In those situations, employees should take precautions to sanitize them between use, as well as wash their hands before and after use. In areas where hoteling workspace is in use, cleaning supplies will be made available by the individual unit. Employees are expected to wipe down a hoteling workspace prior to and after using it.

Using Restrooms

Use of restrooms should be limited based on the size of the restroom to ensure at least 6 feet between individuals. Wash your hands thoroughly afterward to reduce the potential transmission of the virus.

Using Elevators

Use of elevators should be limited where possible to avoid being in close proximity to others in a confined space. Those using elevators should wear a disposable face mask or face covering regardless of whether they are traveling alone or with others. You should also avoid touching the elevator buttons with your exposed hand/fingers, if possible. After touching any surface, be sure to wash your hands or use alcohol-based hand sanitizers.

Meetings

Convening in groups increases the risk of viral transmission. Where feasible, meetings should be held in whole or part using the range of available collaboration tools (e.g. WebEx, Microsoft Teams, telephone, etc.). In person meetings are limited by the restrictions set in local, state and federal orders, and employees shall 6 feet of distance shall maintain 6 feet of separation. All attendees should wear a mask or face covering while sharing space in a common room. During your time on-site, you are encouraged to communicate with your colleagues and supervisors as needed electronically rather than face-to-face.

Meals

Before and after eating, you should wash your hands thoroughly to reduce the potential transmission of the virus. When eating on campus, you should wear your mask or face covering until you are ready to eat and then replace it afterward. Eating establishments must meet requirements to allow at least 6 feet between each customer, including lines and seating arrangements. Individuals should not sit facing one another. Staff are encouraged to take food back to their office area or eat outside, if that is reasonable. If you are eating in your work environment (break room, office, etc.), maintain 6 feet between yourself and others. Only remove your mask or face covering to eat, and then put it back on. Wipe all surfaces, including tables, refrigerator handles, coffee machines, etc. after using in common areas.

Building Use

Occupants are expected to follow signs in buildings regarding traffic flow, building entrances, exits, elevator usage and similar common use areas.

Visitors who are not directly related to the individual’s or unit’s work are not allowed.

Mental and Emotional Wellbeing

All employees can utilize the Employee Assistance Program (https://choices.mus.edu/eap-work-life.html).

Continue Good Health Habits While at Work

  • Remain home if you are sick.
  • Wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Keep a supply of hand sanitizer.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze.
  • Regularly clean all high touch areas in your home and workplace.
  • Do not touch your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.

For Supervisors

Supervisors may ask employees who report feeling ill at work, or who call in sick, if they have any covid-19 symptoms so that the supervisor can determine whether the employee must stay away from work (see symptoms of covid 19: https://www.montana.edu/health/coronavirus/coronavirus-background.html). The supervisor’s discussion about the employee’s health symptoms should be limited to asking about the presence of only covid-19 symptoms.

Supervisors should regularly remind employees reporting to work on campus that they are not permitted to come to work if they are sick or have symptoms such as fever, chills, cough, shortness of breath or sore throat. If an employee does report to work and is exhibiting symptoms, supervisors may require employees to leave the workplace. Supervisors can help guide employees by explaining when they can appropriately use sick leave. Supervisors should work with Human Resources to prepare for any employees returning from leave or needing an accommodation.

Please note that supervisors may not mandate that an employee stay away from work because the employee disclosed, or the supervisor is aware of, a medical condition unrelated to covid-19. Supervisors shall not inquire about underlying medical conditions. Inquiries about reasonable accommodations should be directed to ADA coordinator at adacoordinator@montana.edu.

The University acknowledges that it is a community of individuals with different abilities and circumstances. If an individual who has been instructed to return to work on site has concerns about doing so due to a medical condition or other factors that place them at a higher risk, or if individuals wish to seek ADA reasonable accommodations related to returning to the workplace, they should contact their HR business partner or the university’s ADA Coordinator to initiate a review by HR, which will work with them to determine any appropriate accommodation(s).

Employee Leave Options

Overview

Generally, COVID-19 leave will assist in situations where employees are ill or are experiencing symptoms, are advised or required to quarantine because of potential exposure, and employees diagnosed with COVID-19.  Additionally, employees whose job duties and responsibilities do not allow a work-from-home arrangement may be eligible to use COVID-19 leave for the time periods and reasons specified below.

State COVID-19 Leave

The Montana University System provides a new form of leave, COVID-19, to leave eligible employees effective March 16, 2020.  If eligible, employees may take up to 14 calendar days of paid leave or 30 calendar days if diagnosed with the virus.  Questions or concerns should be discussed with your supervisor in consultation with your HR Business Partner.  A COVID-19 leave request form must be completed and approved by Human Resources.  Forms are available from your HR Business Partner. Montana University System employees are also encouraged to review the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) toward the bottom of this page.

Federal COVID-19 Leave

The federal government has passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act effective April 1, 2020 that provides public sector employees with additional leave for certain workers impacted by the outbreak.  Again, there are eligibility requirements to use this leave and employees who believe they are eligible should consult with their HR Business Partner.  If eligible, employees may be able to take 10 days of paid leave as emergency paid sick leave.  Where the employee is unable to work or telework due to the need to care for a minor child if the child’s school or childcare is unavailable due to a public health emergency, the employee  should consult with the HR Business Partner  on   eligibility  for additional leave under the expanded FMLA

The university is required to provide COVID-19 leave to eligible employees, regardless of funding. There is no additional or separate funding provided at this point for employees taking leave. Those employees will be paid wages from the normal source of funding for their position.

Eligibility guidelines for COVID-19 leave

  • An employee who is quarantined because of potential exposure to COVID-19 and is unable to work remotely is eligible for 14 calendar days of State COVID-19 Leave and potentially 10 additional days of Federal Leave. Under these circumstances, the employee does not need provider documentation to take the leave, but the employee may be required to provide a letter from the employee’s health care provider or local health department indicating that the employee has completed the required monitoring, isolation, or quarantine period. The employee may also be required to provide medical documentation releasing the employee to full duty prior to returning to work.
  • An employee who is unable to work remotely is eligible for up to 14 calendar days of State COVID-19 Leave, and potential 10 additional days of Federal Leave, if the employee or a member of the employee’s household is experiencing a compromised immune system. The employee may provide a letter from a healthcare provider indicating the requirement to be away from the workplace to reduce possible exposure to COVID-19 because of the employee’s or household member’s compromised immune system.
  • An employee who misses work to care for an immediate family member who is quarantined as a result of COVID-19 may be eligible for up to 14 calendar days of State COVID-19 Leave, and potentially 10 additional days of Federal Leave; remote work may be an option for the employee if it is available. The employee does not need provider documentation to take the leave, but the employee may be required to provide a letter from the employee’s healthcare provider or local health department indicating that the employee’s immediate family member has completed the required monitoring, isolation, or quarantine period prior to returning to work.
  • An employee who is diagnosed with the COVID-19 virus is eligible for up to a maximum of 30 calendar days of State COVID-19 Leave. This maximum 30-calendar-day period includes any calendar days absent while under quarantine for COVID-19. The employee may be eligible for an additional 10 days of Federal Leave. Remote work may be an option for the employee if it is available. The employee may be required to provide written documentation from the employee’s health care provider or a public health official of the requirement to be absent from work. The employee may also be required to provide a letter from the employee’s healthcare provider or local health department indicating that the employee has completed the required monitoring, isolation, or quarantine period as well as provide medical documentation releasing the employee to full duty prior to returning to work. Alternatively, the employee can use accrued sick leave, annual leave, or compensatory time or be in an unpaid leave status.
  • An employee who is required to stay home due to closure of a school, childcare, or eldercare facility in connection with the monitoring or management of the coronavirus or as a result of a declared public health emergency by the Governor and is not eligible to work remotely or is unable to telework because the employee’s child needs full-time care, is eligible for up to 80 hours of State COVID-19 Leave. This paid leave can be taken intermittently and is available effective March 16, 2020; this leave will not deduct from accrued leave balances. After having used 80 hours of State COVID-19 Leave, up to 10 days of Federal COVID-19 Leave may then be available. Alternatively, the employee may use accrued annual (vacation), compensatory (comp) time, or sick leave. See Q&A No. 14 below for additional information.
  • If a supervisor has determined an employee is not able to perform their duties remotely or work on campus, the employee is eligible for up to 80 hours of State COVID-19 Leave. The employee may be eligible for an additional 10 days of Federal Leave.
  • An employee is working remotely but their remote work assignment hours may not equal a full-time work week. The employee is eligible for up to 80 hours (prorated for FTE) of State COVID-19 Leave. This leave many be taken intermittently. The employee may be eligible for an additional 10 days of Federal Leave.

State COVID-19 Leave is only available for the employee’s actual worked hours as scheduled by the employee’s immediate supervisor. State COVID-19 Leave is not provided during weekend or workdays when the employee is not scheduled to work, and no work has been performed.

During the COVID-19 situation, the 90-day sick leave and 6-month annual leave waiting periods for new-hire employees are waived.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is coronavirus (COVID-19)?

A novel coronavirus is a new coronavirus that has not been previously identified. The virus causing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is not the same as the coronaviruses that commonly circulate among humans and cause mild illness, like the common cold.

2. I am worried about being exposed to COVID-19 at work. How can I reduce my risk?

Employees are always encouraged to use general precautions (at work, in public, or at home). Precautions include:

  • Wash your hands with warm soapy water for at least 20 seconds each time.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are ill.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.
  • Refrain from reusing tissues after coughing, sneezing, or blowing your nose.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces that are frequently touched (cell phones, desk phones, keyboards, remote controls, countertops, refrigerator, door handles, etc.).
  • Stay home from work if you are sick.
  • Minimize your direct contact with others who may be unwell or who are vulnerable to
    illness.
  • Get your flu vaccine if you have not already done so.

3. What if I or a member of my household have a compromised immune system, how can I limit my exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace?

If you or a member of your household are experiencing a compromised immune system and are concerned about possible exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace, contact your immediate supervisor. You may be required to provide a letter from your health care provider. If possible and appropriate for your work, arrangements may be made for you to be able to work remotely (telework). Your supervisor and you can work together to make necessary arrangements so that you may work remotely.

If you are unable to work remotely because your work does not align with telework, you will be eligible for State COVID-19 Leave for up to 14 calendar days and potentially 10 additional days of Federal Leave. After COVID-19 Leave balances are used, you can use accrued sick leave. You may also use accrued annual leave or compensatory time if you need to remain absent from work due to your personal health condition.

4. What should I do if I think I am sick, but I don’t know if I have been exposed to COVID-19?

If you have symptoms of fever and cough or shortness of breath and have not had any known exposure to or tested positive for COVID-19, you should contact your health care provider for further guidance.

5. What should I do if I have been exposed to COVID-19 but do not have symptoms associated with the virus?

If you have reason to believe you have been exposed to the virus, you should contact your health care provider or your local health department. Notify your supervisor that you have taken this step. Employees may be required to remain under quarantine due to exposure to COVID-19 even if they are not symptomatic. If you are told by a health care provider or public health official that you should be under quarantine due to potential exposure, you should not report to work and will be eligible for State COVID-19 Leave for up to 14 calendar days and potentially 10 additional days of Federal Leave. Under these circumstances, you may be required to provide a letter from your health care provider or local health department indicating that you have completed the required monitoring, isolation, or quarantine period. You may also be required to provide medical documentation releasing you to full duty prior to returning to work.

If possible and appropriate for your work, you may also arrange to work remotely (telework). You may work with your supervisor to make necessary arrangements so that you may work remotely.

6. What should I do if I have been exposed to COVID-19 and believe I am developing symptoms associated with the virus?

If you think you are developing symptoms associated with COVID-19 and have reason to believe you have been exposed to the virus, you should contact your health care provider or local health department. Notify your supervisor that you have taken this step. If you are told by a health care provider or public health official that you should be under isolation due to COVID-19 illness, you should not report to work and will be eligible for State COVID-19 Leave for up to 30 calendar days. You may be eligible for an additional 10 days of Federal Leave. You may be required to provide a letter from your health care provider or local health department indicating that you have completed the required monitoring, isolation, or quarantine period. You may also be required to provide medical documentation releasing you to full duty prior to returning to work.

7. Will my insurance cover the cost of COVID-19 testing?

The Montana University System Health insurance plan will cover COVID-19 testing and will waive co-pays, deductibles, and co-insurance for plan members when services are received from participating providers.

8. I am concerned about exposure from a coworker who seems sick. Can I insist that they be sent home?

If you have a concern about an employee who appears to be sick, speak to your supervisor. Montana University System campus management, in consultation with the campus human resources office, will make appropriate decisions regarding whether the employee will report to work.

9. Will I be notified if someone I work with is confirmed to have COVID-19?

Employees known to be exposed to an individual diagnosed with COVID-19 will be notified that a case has been confirmed, but the Americans with Disabilities Act protects the identity and medical information of people with communicable diseases.

10. Should I cancel planned business travel?

The Montana University System has restricted all non-essential, out-of-state domestic travel. Any campus-affiliated out-of-state travel must be approved by a supervisor. The MUS also urges campuses to minimize in-state travel whenever possible.

11. What will happen if I have personal travel plans?

You should discuss your personal travel plans with your supervisor. If you can postpone your personal travel plans to avoid exposure to COVID-19, that may be in your best interest as well as your coworkers’ best interests. If you do travel, plan to contact your supervisor prior to returning to your workplace. Any person who recently traveled will need to comply with the Governor's order to quarantine. Based on the situation in your workplace, you may be required to work remotely for up to 14 calendar days. If you are unable to work remotely and it is your supervisor’s decision to have you remain away from the work environment for 14 calendar days, you will be eligible for State COVID-19 Leave.

12. What additional precautions can a Montana University System campus take for employees dealing with the public?

Montana University System campuses may consider the following precautions:

  • Restrict how close the public may come to employees.
  • Educate employees to wash hands often and use alcohol-based hand sanitizer frequently.
  • Institute hygiene rules for meetings, e.g., no handshakes.
  • Maintain separate pens and other equipment for the public.

13. What options are available for Montana University System employees who may need to be absent from work as a result of illness from or exposure to COVID-19?

Telecommuting

The option to work from home (telecommute) for employees who need to be absent from work due to COVID-19 may depend on several factors including, but not limited to: job function, essential status, operational requirements of the campus, and ability to access required technology. You should seek approval from your supervisor if this is an option for you. See additional information under the “Teleworking” section, above.

Leave Options

Please see detailed information under the “Employee Leave Options” section, above.

14. Am I entitled to use Family and Medical Leave (FMLA) for COVID-19?

You may be entitled to use FMLA for absence related to COVID-19 if you have a qualifying event as defined by the Family and Medical Leave Act. You may also be eligible for up to 10 weeks of partially paid Federal Expanded FMLA Leave for childcare purposes. Your campus human resources staff can assist you with questions related to FMLA eligibility: HR Business Partners or Leave Coordinator.

15. What should I do if I have a delayed return from personal travel?

If you have a delayed return from personal travel as a result of any state’s or country’s monitoring or management of COVID-19 or transportation disruptions associated with such monitoring or management, you should contact your supervisor. Montana University System employees may be eligible to use available accrued leave to cover the absence. Any person who recently traveled will need to comply with the Governor’s order to quarantine. Based on the situation in your workplace, you may be required to work remotely for up to 14 calendar days. If you are unable to work remotely and it is your supervisor’s decision to have you remain away from the work environment for 14 calendar days, you will be eligible for COVID-19 Leave. 

16. What if I need to miss work due to an immediate family member requiring quarantine as a result of COVID-19?

You may be eligible for up to 14 calendar days of State COVID-19 Leave, and potentially 10 additional days of Federal Leave, to care for a member of your immediate family who is quarantined or is ill as a result of COVID-19. You may be required to provide a letter from your healthcare provider or local health department indicating that your immediate family member has completed the required monitoring, isolation, or quarantine period.

Montana University System employees who need to be absent for more time than these leaves cover may use available leave as outlined in the annual, compensatory time, and sick-leave policies.

17. What if I need to miss work due to a school, dependent care, or eldercare facility closure due to a COVID-19 outbreak?

If you need to stay home to care for a child because of a school closure you may be eligible to work remotely (telework). You may work with your supervisor to make necessary arrangements so that you may work remotely.

If you are required to stay home due to closure of a school, childcare, or eldercare facility in connection with the monitoring or management of the coronavirus or as a result of a declared public health emergency by the Governor and you are not eligible to work remotely or are unable to telework because your child needs full-time care, you are eligible for up to 80 hours of State COVID-19 Leave. This leave can be taken intermittently and is available effective March 16, 2020; this leave will not deduct from accrued leave balances. After having used 80 hours of State COVID-19 Leave, you may be eligible for an additional 10 days of Federal Leave or Expanded FMLA Leave for childcare purposes (please see Q&A #14 above). Thereafter, you may use accrued annual (vacation), compensatory (comp) time, or sick leave.

18. Where will notifications or other announcements for Montana University System employees be posted?

Notifications or other campus-specific announcements will be posted on the Montana State University website, http://www.montana.edu.

For other questions not covered in the Frequently Asked Questions, please contact your HR Business Partner.

Managing during stressful times

General Guidance

We acknowledge that this is a challenging time for all of us. Please know that our first priority is the safety, health and well-being of our students, staff and faculty. You have extremely dedicated people working on keeping the workplace safe, addressing emergent needs and communicating frequently.

MSU offers an Employee Assistance Program for their employees and families. The Employee Assistance Program (EAP) can help with almost any issue. EAP benefits are available to all employees and their families at NO COST to you. Help is just a phone call away. The EAP offers confidential advice, support and practical solutions to real-life issues, from 24-hour crisis help to financial and legal services to work-life balance support. You can access these confidential services by calling the toll-free number and speaking with a consultant: 866-750-1327. Access Online Support at www.ibhsolutions.com. Select “Members” from the top right corner. Click on the RBH logo. Enter your Access Code: “MUS.” Click the “My Benefits” button.

  • Prepare yourself for a period of time of uncertainty and for many changes in the coming weeks.
  • Be kind to yourself and others around you. Be flexible and adaptable.
  • Stay calm and get plenty of rest. Take care of yourself physically, emotionally and mentally.
  • Refer to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for valid information about the virus and health recommendations.
  • Contact your medical provider with questions or concerns about your health.
  • Communicate regularly with your supervisor.

For other questions not covered in the Frequently Asked Questions, please contact your HR Business Partner.