Face Covering Protocol

Friday, August 7, 2020 :: University Marketing and Communication

As part of the university’s ongoing COVID-19 mitigation efforts to maintain a healthy environment for all members of our campus community, anyone entering a campus building must wear a face covering that covers the mouth and nose. The covering must be worn: in all hallways, public spaces, research labs, teaching/computer labs, libraries, classrooms, automobiles with a passenger, stairwells, elevators and common areas, as well as office spaces. In office spaces, when social distancing of 6 feet is possible and maintained, face coverings may be removed. Face coverings also are required in outdoor settings when safe social distancing and gathering practices are not possible.

As we acclimate to this protocol, it is important to remain respectful when reminding an employee, student, or visitor of the university’s face covering requirement. The face covering protocol is a positive, health-related requirement intended to encourage enforcement via education, awareness and a spirit of cooperation. This guide is intended to help us to achieve compliance from everyone visiting our campus:

Supervisor Guidance for Employees (Faculty, Staff, and Student Employees):

Follow the chain of command – Supervisor is responsible for enforcing compliance by their employees.

Talking Points for Supervisors:

  1. Supervisor receives initial report/observes that an employee is not wearing their face covering or is wearing their face covering in a manner that does not cover their mouth and nose:
    1. Be respectful. Listen and have empathy for the employee. Avoid yelling, arguing, demeaning or insulting behavior. Have a 1:1 conversation (virtually or in person while following health & safety guidelines).
    2. Do not make assumptions. Consider that there may be a valid reason for not wearing a face covering (medical condition, forgetfulness, lack of awareness). Ask and listen to the reason why the employee is not wearing a face covering.

      If an employee forgot his/her face covering or it is soiled – offer one or allow them to get one. Best practice: “Wear one, carry one” to account for these types of situations. Offices can request spare face coverings via iShop.

      If an employee has a medical condition/concerns – contact the Office of Human Resources, HR Business Partners at hrpartners@utrgv.edu or (956) 665-2451 for further guidance. Employee should not be without face covering whenever they are working near another person and social distancing cannot be maintained. Instruct the employee to contact the Office of Human Resources for a possible workplace accommodation.

    3. Be direct. Make a clear statement that this is an important safety requirement and it is an expectation that everyone adheres to this directive. Explain the expectations and possible consequences of not wearing a face covering. Stress that in addition to protecting others, face coverings also afford protection to the wearer.
    4. Be flexible. Explore ways to make wearing a face covering more tolerable. Consider other options, such as: Can the employee take shorter, more frequent breaks? Is there an extra space an employee can use without a face covering? Is there an opportunity to split work that requires wearing a face covering with other employees, so each employee gets a portion of the day not to wear one?
  2. Language examples:

    “I know this is a new directive, and this is a significant change to how we do our work. A face covering can be uncomfortable, especially when the weather is hot, but it is for your safety as well as the safety of others.”

    “Is there a reason you are not wearing a face covering right now?”

    “Is there anything I can do to help make it easier for you to perform your work and comply with the directive?”

    “We all need to do our part to maintain a safe workplace and these changes to our individual practices will help us accomplish our goal.”

  3. Supervisor receives repeated reports that an employee is not wearing a face covering:
    1. Allow the employee to tell his/her side of the story.
    2. Gain commitment and attempt to reach a resolution. Ask the employee to come up with action steps that will resolve the problem.
    3. If a resolution is not achieved and the employee continues to refuse to wear a face covering (correctly), instruct the employee to leave campus and contact the Office of Human Resources, HR Business Partners at hrpartners@utrgv.edu or (956) 665- 2451 for further guidance.
  4. Language examples:

    “It’s been brought to my attention that you continue to not wear a face covering inside university buildings and I’d like to give you an opportunity to share your perspective on the information that was reported.”

    “Now that you fully understand the reason for and the implications of failing to comply with the standard of wearing a face covering as directed, your immediate compliance is important and appreciated. Any further report of non-compliance will lead to corrective action.”

    “Even though this is a new directive, it is important for you to understand that violations of safety procedures are not acceptable, and I need your cooperation. Not following directives may lead up to disciplinary action, up to and including termination.”

Guidance for Faculty with Students in the Classroom:

Follow the chain of command for Student issues. The supervisor is the instructor. If the instructor has issues with a student not wearing a face covering or fails to wear the face covering in compliance with university guidelines, the faculty member will request that the student wears the face covering correctly or to get a face covering and will allow the student to return to class upon demonstrating compliance.  Faculty can request spare face coverings via iShop.

If the student refuses to wear or correctly wear the face covering, the instructor will ask the student to leave the class. If the student refuses to leave the class, the instructor may call UTRGV Campus Police Department at (956) 882-7777 to address the issue with the student, or, adjourn the class and submit a referral to the Dean of Students for follow-up with the student.

In the event a student discloses that they are unable to wear a facial covering due to a medical condition, the instructor should inform the student that for his/her safety, as well as others present in the classroom, they should excuse themselves.  There should be no penalty for not attending class on that occasion.  If subsequent absences are required, the instructor should refer the student to submit their request for accommodations to Student Accessibility Services using the mySAS portal located at www.utrgv.edu/mySAS, or, to contact Student Accessibility Services for further guidance.

 Note: The student is responsible for providing sufficient documentation to Student Accessibility Services that the wearing of facial covering is contradicted by the medical condition/disability. Accommodations may be requested at any time but are not retroactive, meaning they are valid once approved by Student Accessibility Services.

Student Accessibility Services:

Email: ability@utrgv.edu

Location:   1.107 in the Music and Learning Center building (BMSLC) Phone: (956) 882-7374
                  108 University Center (EUCTR)  Phone: (956) 665-7005 

The Faculty Ombuds is available to help faculty navigate workplace issues and can provide assistance regarding conversations around the face covering directive with students and colleagues. Meetings by phone and virtual format are available. Call the Faculty Ombuds for more information at (956) 540-8261 or email facultyombuds@utrgv.edu.

Visitors:

It is up to campus community members to inform those who may not know of our face covering policy. Be respectful and do not make assumptions. Non-university affiliated individuals are less likely to be aware of university requirements. Remember to be courteous and respectful when advising them of the need to wear a face covering. Most individuals will comply when respectfully approached. Prominently displayed signage will assist with this coaching.

If they do not have a face covering, offer them one. Offices can request spare face coverings via iShop.

However, if a visitor refuses to put on a face covering, kindly advise them that they need to leave the building. If the individual does not leave the building as directed, do not escalate the situation or further engage the individual. If the individual does not leave or is disruptive and/or presents a concern, please call the UTRGV Campus Police Department at (956) 882-7777 for assistance.

Contractors and Volunteers:

Contractors/Volunteers must adhere to UTRGV’s face covering directive when visiting any UTRGV on/off-campus facilities. The Sponsoring Department is responsible for ensuring that the contractor/volunteer is made aware of and complies with the face covering mandate. If the contractor/volunteer is known to you, contact the sponsoring department so they can assume management of the compliance expectation.

However, if a contractor/volunteer refuses to put on a face covering, kindly advise them that they need to leave the building. If the individual does not leave the building as directed, do not escalate the situation or further engage the individual. If the individual does not leave or is disruptive and/or presents a concern, please call the UTRGV Campus Police Department at (956) 882-7777 for assistance.

Students and Other Individuals Gathering on Campus without Face Covering:

It is up to campus community members to inform those who may not know of our face covering policy. Be respectful and do not make assumptions. Students and non-university affiliated individuals may be less likely to be aware of university requirements. It is incumbent upon all of us to make them aware. Please remember to be courteous and respectful when advising them of the need to wear a face covering. Most individuals will comply when respectfully approached. Prominently displayed signage will assist with this coaching.

Organizations that sponsor events are responsible for ensuring compliance with the face covering mandate. It is up to campus community members to gently remind those who are not following our face covering policy. If individuals refuse to wear a face covering, call UTRGV Campus PD at (956) 882-7777 and they will address appropriately.

Anonymous Reporting Option:

For campus community members who do not feel comfortable having a conversation with their peers, supervisor, instructor, or other campus community members that they should be wearing their face coverings, we encourage you to address these compliance concerns through the UTRGV Compliance Hotline.

The Compliance Hotline is available for situations where conventional channels are uncomfortable or otherwise inappropriate, or for times when you wish to raise a concern anonymously. The Hotline is operated by an outside company not affiliated with UTRGV and is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Your call will be taken by a trained professional who will ask you questions about your concern. Calls can be taken in English or in Spanish. Calls can be made anonymously and will not be traced.

Toll Free Compliance Hotline: (877) 882-3999.

Please remember, the face covering directive is a positive, health-related requirement intended to encourage enforcement via education, awareness and a spirit of cooperation. Our primary concern continues to be the health, safety and security of our UTRGV community.