Managing a remote workforce is a new experience for most education entities. The following are some of the questions districts have asked as workers transition from being onsite to working from home.
What guidance should we provide to teachers using distance learning?
Districts should review restrictions and expectations regarding electronic communications with students, and parents, to ensure they support remote learning. These guidelines are typically outlined in the employee handbook. Staff should be reminded of these guidelines, including those listed below:
- Preserve emails and texts to parents as required by the Public Information Act
- Use only a professional (not a personal) social network page
- Keep communication to matters within the scope of your professional responsibilities
- Follow restrictions on text messaging with students as outlined in the employee handbook
Other expectations that need to be communicated for remote learning include wearing appropriate attire when video conferencing, being mindful of visible backgrounds, avoiding interruptions, maintaining confidentiality of student information, and restricting access to district computers and networks by members of their household.
This is also a good time to remind everyone to review the Employee Agreement for Acceptable Use of District Technology Resources.
Does UIL guidance allow remote instruction?
While schools are closed, remote learning or coaching of University Interscholastic League (UIL) activities is allowed through electronic methods, including video or teleconferencing. Districts may follow the usual schedule of a maximum of 60 minutes per instructional day, Monday through Friday, and add eight hours of practice and rehearsal for in-season activities during the time schools are closed for COVID-19.
Out-of-season activities are limited to a maximum of 60 minutes per day Monday through Friday.
Guidance on remote learning/coaching during the statewide suspension of school activities is available on the UIL COVID-19 Information & Updates webpage.
Are nonexempt employees working remotely required to keep time records?
Yes. Employers are required to maintain accurate records of hours worked for all nonexempt employees, including those working from home or other flexible work arrangements. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires employers to pay a nonexempt employee at least minimum wage for all hours worked, and pay at least one and one-half times their regular rate of pay for all hours worked over 40 in a workweek. The Department of Labor (DOL) has provided guidance for COVID-19 and the FLSA on their website.
Employers should communicate remote work requirements and expectations, and a mechanism for recording hours worked. There is no requirement to use a specific format for recording work hours but documentation must be available if the DOL requests copies. Some employers use an electronic timekeeping system that may be accessed remotely. Others may need to rely on a system of emailing a timesheet or spreadsheet to account for time worked. Online document sharing between employees and the payroll office also may be used.
Employers are liable for work-related injuries and illnesses occurring while working remotely. Time records will provide evidence on whether the injury or illness occurred during work hours for worker’s compensation claims. TASB Risk Management provides guidance on employee’s working remotely in Inside RM.
In some instances, the hours an employee works may differ from the hours being paid. As an example, some employers may require their clerical staff to work four hours, but pay them for an eight-hour day. In this case, the employee should only report hours worked on their time record.
Can employees use personal devices for district business?
Ideally, employees will only be using district devices, but it may not be practical under the current circumstances. Districts may find that not all employees have district-issued laptops for in-home use. If this is the case, you may consider asking but not requiring them to use personal equipment to facilitate remote work. When personal devices are used, the district should take steps to ensure cybersecurity. Inside RM provides additional considerations in this article on cybersecurity concerns with remote workers.
Remind employees that documents and communications created on a personal device are official district records and subject to access by the district and records retention under the Public Information Act.
Alternatives to use of personal devices to consider include:
- Creating a schedule for people to pick up desktop computers from a campus or office so contact can be limited to one technology person while maintaining social distancing
- Issuing laptops, tablets, or other smaller portable devices not being used by students to employees
How should we handle outside employment during school closures?
Outside employment during school closures should be handled the same as if the district were open. Refer to Policy DBD (LOCAL) for specific guidance and restrictions. In most cases, an employee is required to notify the district of the outside employment. If the district calls the employee to work and they are not able to respond due to a second job, the district could consider requiring the use of paid leave, docking pay, or disciplinary action. Any action taken should depend on the individual circumstances.
Can we complete HR forms electronically?
Nearly all HR forms can be completed electronically. When a signature is needed, an electronic process can be used to complete the process.
Transactions between parties which have agreed to conduct business electronically hold the same legal weight as transactions involving physical documentation. Like a paper system, measures should be in place to ensure electronic records are trustworthy.
The following criteria define trustworthy electronic records:
- Reliable—full and accurate representation of the transaction
- Authentic—proven to be what they are supposed to be and created, or sent, by the person represented
- Have integrity—records that are complete and have not been altered
- Usable—can be retrieved, presented, and used within the context they were meant to be used
The Uniform Electronic Transactions Act (UETA) defines electronic signature as an electronic sound, symbol, or process attached to or logically associated with a record and executed or adopted by a person with the intent to sign the record.
Electronic signatures can be in the form of a Personal Identification Number (PIN), much like those used at an automatic teller machine, or a secure password that limits access to documents. Checking a box that acknowledges receipt of a document or agreement, such as an employee handbook, or following instructions to key in the signer’s name in a signature field is another form of electronic signature.
HR Services continues to provide daily updates in the HRX. Additional resources related to personnel issues can be found on the TASB COVID-19 resource page. Articles related to risk management, including workers’ compensation and unemployment compensation, are available at Inside RM.
Karen Dooley is a senior HR consultant at TASB HR Services. Send Karen an email at email@example.com.
April Mabry is an assistant director at TASB HR Services. Send April an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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