"We realize that the timing of the message ... caused confusion and anxiety for many employees," read an email from the school, in part

By Jen Juneau
July 02, 2020 03:15 PM
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In an email obtained Thursday by the Tallahassee Democrat, FSU officials reflected on "the timing" of the new rule and expressed "regret" over the backlash they have received since.

"We realize that the timing of the message — as COVID-19 cases continue to rise locally and around the state — caused confusion and anxiety for many employees. That is the opposite of what we want to communicate to our dedicated faculty and staff," read the email. "We want to be clear – our policy does allow employees to work from home while caring for children."

The message went on to encourage managers and human resources department to work together to "develop solutions for schedules" going forward, the outlet reports.

"We regret that our initial communication caused any unnecessary worry and concern or oversimplified a very nuanced issue," the email said.

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The Democrat reports that FSU held a town hall meeting on Wednesday, when Associate Vice President for Human Resources Renisha Gibbs said that "personal leave may be appropriate" for employees who do not have childcare available and have less flexible job responsibilities.

"We trust our employees to abide by policies," Gibbs added of how the school plans to enforce work/parenting rules. "There are no remote-work police checking up on employees."

On Friday, the school sent an email to staff that read, in part, "Effective Aug. 7, 2020, the University will return to normal policy and will no longer allow employees to care for children while working remotely," according to multiple outlets including Tallahassee-based WCTV2.

Dr. Jenny Root — an assistant professor of special education at FSU and mother to a 4-year-old son and 7-month-old daughter — tweeted about the incident, saying she "can't even process" it and telling The Lily that her "initial thought" was, " 'Well, what am I supposed to do with [my kids]?' "

"None of us are enjoying this. It makes me feel like I'm failing at everything I do," Root told The Lily, saying FSU powers that be are "acting like they gave us this privilege to watch our children while we worked — when that's literally what I had to do."

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In a statement to The Lily, Gibbs said, "As FSU looks toward resuming normal campus operations — as conditions allow — we felt a responsibility to provide our employees notice of our intention to return to our standard telecommuting agreement that requires dependent or child-care arrangements while working remotely."

"If employees do not have day care options or choose not to send their children to school in the fall, they should work with their supervisors to identify a flexible work schedule that allows them to fulfill their work duties and their family responsibilities," Gibbs added.

As of Thursday afternoon, the Florida Department of Health is reporting 169,106 total cases of coronavirus, with 15,150 hospitalizations and 3,718 deaths as a result. Single-day COVID-19 cases in Florida have surged as of late, hitting a record-breaking 10,000-plus cases on Thursday.

According to leonschools.net, public primary, secondary and high schools in Leon County are scheduled to resume on Aug. 10, while WCTV2 reports FSU has delayed employees' return to campus from an original plan of July 6. FSU reports that classes for their fall semester are scheduled to begin on Aug. 24.

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