Principles and Guidelines for Alternative Work Arrangements Due to COVID-19

University of Nebraska-Lincoln

These principles and guidelines are in effect as of June 5, 2020. They will be reviewed on an ongoing and periodic basis. Last revised on April 5, 2021.

Guiding Principles

Local units should design work schedules in accordance with the following principles and guidelines:

Ensuring Equity and Utilizing Health and Safety Information: The University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) seeks to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic in a strong position to pursue our mission of teaching, research and service and places a high value on all of our employees, who are essential to our mission and integral to our community. Accordingly, policies and practices for remote and flexible work options are designed to protect the health and welfare of all members of our community. To ensure that these guidelines reflect the most current and accurate health and safety information, they are based in part on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) regarding populations that are at risk if they contract COVID-19. See “People Who Need to Take Extra Precautions” on the CDC website.

Communication and Interconnectedness: Honest communications and respect for others will guide our efforts to maintain the health and well-being of faculty, staff, and student workers. Our culture of “Every Person and Every Interaction Matters” will be supported by regular communications about campus measures related to COVID-19 safety and the implementation of a variety of public health measures. Such communication and implementation are critical to ensure that staff, faculty, and student workers will feel safe while working on campus.

Flexibility while Pursuing Mission: UNL should provide units with the flexibility required to support the health and safety needs of their faculty, staff, and student workers while still meeting their educational, research, and service missions. Such flexibility may include a phased or gradual return to campus in which not all populations are expected to return at the same time and/or creative work assignments that enable faculty, staff, and student workers to work remotely in support of the university’s mission.


  1. Employees eligible to be considered for an alternative work arrangement through Faculty/Staff Disability Services due to the COVID-19 pandemic include those individuals who meet one or more of the following criteria:
    1. Individuals who have one or more of the following health conditions that may place them at higher risk for serious illness if they should contract COVID-19:
      1. Chronic lung disease or moderate to severe asthma
      2. Serious heart conditions
      3. Immunocompromised conditions caused by an underlying disease or treatment, such as those arising out of cancer treatments, smoking, bone marrow or organ transplantation, immune deficiencies, poorly controlled HIV or AIDS, and prolonged use of corticosteroids and other immune weakening medications
      4. Severe obesity (defined as having a body mass index [BMI] of 40 or higher)
      5. Diabetes
      6. Chronic kidney disease requiring dialysis
      7. Liver disease
      8. Pregnancy
    2. Individuals who reside with, or are the primary caregiver for, someone with one or more of the health conditions specified in paragraph 1.a. above

Process for Requesting and Implementing Alternative Work Arrangements

  1. The Chancellor or cognizant Vice Chancellor will inform campus leaders of the process and the date by which they may request an alternative work arrangement for the Fall 2021 academic semester in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Guidance also will be provided to supervisors on how to effectively communicate with their employees regarding their essential job duties on campus and their options for alternative work arrangements.
  2. Employees who want to be considered through Faculty/Staff Disability Services for an alternative work arrangement due to the COVID-19 pandemic based on any of the criteria set forth in the eligibility section of this document must submit their request using the Accommodation Planning Request form on the Faculty/Staff Disability Services website. Faculty members with instructional duties for the Fall 2021 academic semester are strongly encouraged to submit their request by no later than June 15, 2021 to allow adequate time for the interactive process to be completed before the start of the semester.

    Upon receiving the request, Faculty/Staff Disability Services will interact with the requesting employee and the employee’s supervisors, taking into consideration such factors as the employee’s essential job duties and the operational needs of the unit, to determine what alternative work arrangement, if any, will best accommodate the employee’s situation. The requesting employee will be expected to provide documentation from a qualified healthcare provider that an alternative work arrangement is medically necessary. Any health or medical information obtained by Faculty/Staff Disability Services as part of this process will be kept confidential to the fullest extent possible and will be disclosed only to the extent permitted under the law and necessary for the facilitation of the interactive process. If Faculty/Staff Disability Services determines that the employee is in need of an alternative work arrangement for one of the reasons set forth in the eligibility section of this document and further determines that the employee’s position is conducive to an alternative work arrangement, Faculty/Staff Disability Services will prepare a written temporary assistance plan that will detail the specifics of, and the work expectations associated with, the alternative work arrangements for the Fall 2021 semester. If either the employee or the unit disagrees with the plan prepared by Faculty/Staff Disability Services, they may request that Faculty/Staff Disability Services reconsider or modify the plan.

  3. Employees who do not fall within any of the criteria specified within the eligibility section of this document, but who nevertheless would like to be considered for an alternative work arrangement for the Fall 2021 academic semester due to the COVID-19 pandemic may submit a request to their supervisor. These may include populations identified by the CDC as people who need extra precautions, including those who are breastfeeding, are experiencing homelessness, are in a racial or ethnic minority group, are in a newly resettled refugee population, or have childcare or senior care obligations that have arisen due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Upon receiving such requests, supervisors are expected to interact with the employee, the unit’s administration and Human Resources to assess whether the employee’s position is conducive to an alternative work arrangement and, if so, what arrangement will best accommodate the employee’s situation. Any alternative work arrangement that is reached must be detailed in the COVID-19 Alternative Work Arrangement Request Form (requires TrueYou authentication) that is reviewed and signed by both the employee and the supervisor and then forwarded to Human Resources. If the employee disagrees with the arrangement being proposed, the employee may request that Human Resources further review the arrangement.
  4. If the position does not allow for the employee to work from an alternative work site, other work arrangements should be considered, such as a flexible work schedule, job sharing and alternative work duties, and reduced schedules.
  5. If UNL or the University of Nebraska system should institute policies or guidelines addressing the reduction of personnel on campus, decisions relating to alternative work arrangements will adhere to and support those policies or guidelines. Such decisions also shall adhere to any policies or guidelines that may be developed by the University of Nebraska system relating to alternative work arrangements.
  6. The University reserves the right to modify or cancel any alternative work arrangements at any time based on operational needs, failure of the employee to meet work expectations or responsibilities while on an alternative work arrangement, changes in the health and safety factors associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, budgetary constraints, or other business-related factors. The affected employee shall be given advance, written notice of any such modifications or cancellations.