2021 Return-to-Campus FAQ

NOTE: These FAQs will be updated and expanded as questions arise and more information becomes available.

Employers have an obligation under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) to take every reasonable precaution to protect a worker. The mere existence of COVID-19 does not give workers the right to refuse work but workers do have the right under the OHSA to refuse work if they believe there is an increased risk of COVID-19 in the workplace.

Some examples might be:
• the employer fails to direct a co-worker who tested positive for COVID-19 to immediately leave the workplace
• the employer fails to take reasonable steps to disinfect an area where a person known or suspected to have contracted COVID-19 was previously working
• An employee is directed to provide service to a customer with visible symptoms of COVID-19 (exceptions may include Health Services and University Safety where employees should have medical-grade protective equipment).
• The employer has failed to take basic precautions such as providing sanitizer or sinks for handwashing, or requiring masks and physical distancing in accordance with health guidelines

*Based on guidance from CUPE National

An employer also has a legal duty to accommodate employees with an illness or disability that makes them especially vulnerable to COVID-19. This means that the employer must at least adjust so that employees may continue working in a way that is safe. For example, working from home is a common accommodation for immunocompromised or immunosuppressed workers. If working from home is not possible, attempts should be made to explore other possible accommodations. Members who feel they have not been safely and satisfactorily accommodated upon request are encouraged to contact the Union.

*Based on guidance from CUPE National

Yes. CUPE 2424 negotiated a Letter of Understanding around flexible work, include remote work, during the last round of collective bargaining last year. CUPE 2424 staff now have the right to place a request for remote work arrangements. The provision is currently in effect but is not limited to the pandemic, and will continue to apply into the future. Requests are subject to departmental approval based on operational needs, but cannot be unreasonably denied. Members who are unable to return to campus due to medical or family reasons should speak to their manager about possible accommodations.
The University has indicated an openness to continuing flexible arrangements and reasonable accommodations where needed. Members are encouraged to speak with their Manager.
This is a difficult question and the answer is unclear at this time, even with respect to the legalities. We do know that nobody can be terminated for refusing to get vaccinated and that people may rightfully decline a vaccine on medical or religious grounds. While the Carleton University Scenario Planning group has indicated the possibility of “Developing vaccination policy and guidelines” in their Planning for Fall 2021 report, the substance of any such policy is still unknown.