Employees at Kennesaw State University may have to prove that they have childcare if they are working remotely. The university's human resources department recently circulated an email to all supervisors noting the closure of many local schools and the availability of alternative work arrangements for parents.
"As you work with your staff regarding these requests, please keep in mind that telework is not a substitute for childcare and it is reasonable for the university to ask for evidence of appropriate childcare during working hours," the memo says. "The employee should be fully engaged in work during work hours. Telework and flextime is an employee privilege, not an employee right."
The policy sparked confusion and anger, as it was not immediately clear to many memo recipients who must follow it or how it would be enforced. Will women be disproportionately targeted for questions about whether they have childcare and childcare, for example, some wondered.
Heather Pincock, associate professor of conflict management at Kennesaw State and spokesperson for the university's United Campus Workers of Georgia chapter, said it's bad if the policy applies to faculty members and worse if it only applies to staff members, as that "just reinforces the way that staff are treated as second-class citizens." The policy doesn't address the fact that childcare options are limited due to COVID-19 and, where available, they've often increased in price due to social distancing costs. They also always involve some risk contracting the virus," she said.
The university said in statement that it "recognizes the incredible challenge faced by many of our employees resulting from the effect the pandemic has had on K-12 school scheduling." It has "instructed supervisors to work directly with employees to develop and implement innovative solutions to provide maximum flexibility."
Florida State University tried to reinforce a similar policy against working from home with pandemic-displaced kids there earlier this summer. It didn't go over well. Dennis Schnittker, a spokesperson for Florida State, said Wednesday that the policy never applied to faculty members, and that staff employees are "still allowed to care for dependent children while working remotely. Staff employees continue to work with their departments and supervisors to determine schedules that allow them to balance their family and personal responsibilities with their work obligations."