The start of the Fall 2021 term has been very chaotic, with York forcing an ill-planned return to campus. While many things remain unclear, below you can find the answers to some common questions the union has received.
I am a course director, and my TAs don’t want to come to campus. What should I do?
Openly advising your TAs to change the mode of delivery of their tutorials could open you to discipline. However, you can make sure that they have access to some resources. You can direct your TAs to medical/disability accommodations and family status accommodations if it applies to them. They should also be aware of their right to refuse unsafe work.
I’ve received a threatening message from my department Chair or Dean’s Office regarding the mode of delivery of my course. What should I do?
CUPE 3903 strongly contests the employer’s right to enact surveillance on our members. Before responding, if you can, email Vanessa Lehan, CUPE 3903 Chairperson, at email@example.com.
I teach in a Faculty or hiring unit that has passed a motion supporting an instructor’s right to choose the mode of delivery. Can I move my class to remote delivery?
Shortly after the first motion passed in Social Science, the employer made it clear that they would move to discipline members who change the mode of delivery of their courses. However, the York Faculty Association (YUFA) is contesting this, stating correctly that hiring units are the body that chooses the mode of delivery. On September 16th, Liberal Arts and Professional Studies (LAPS) Faculty Council passed a similar motion. At this time, it is unclear how this conflict over who has the right to choose the mode of delivery will end. If you have received a threatening email because you moved your class to remote following these motions, before responding, email Vanessa Lehan, CUPE 3903 Chairperson, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
My students are asking if we can switch to remote delivery. What should I do?
Tell your students that you support them, but that you personally have to hold classes and tutorials in person in order to avoid being disciplined. Encourage them to email their complaints to the department Chair, cc’ing Lisa Philips, Provost at email@example.com
To find the contact information of the Chair of your particular department do the following:
- Go to the York Atlas – Phone and E-mail Directory.
- Search the name of your department e.g. “Anthropology”
- Click on Department of “X” and the Chair’s contact information should be there.
You can also do an anonymous poll of your students to find out how they feel about in-person classes. While the majority of your students preferring remote delivery is not enough to protect yourself from discipline if you change the mode of delivery, you may want to show these results to the department Chair.
What are the steps to the discipline process?
If the employer takes issue with your job performance, they have to follow the steps set out in Article 8 of all four collective agreements. You cannot be disciplined without following this process, and you are entitled to union representation at every step.
There are three steps in the process:
- Notice of meeting: within 21 days of receiving a complaint, the employer sends a letter to the member, copying the union, to schedule a meeting to discuss the complaint. You must attend this meeting, however you have the right to request a different meeting time than the one in the notice letter.
- Letter of warning: if the issue is not resolved or the member fails to attend the meeting in the step above, the employer may send a letter of warning within 14 days. This letter warns that discipline may be considered if the member doesn’t correct the behaviour within a reasonable time frame.
- Discipline meeting: if the issue is not resolved in the steps above, the employer can call a discipline meeting. The outcomes of discipline can include suspension or termination, depending on the severity of the offense.
At all steps, the union will put forward a vigorous defence of members facing discipline, and may grieve if the discipline is not reasonable or does not follow the appropriate steps.
Is it possible for the employer to skip the steps of progressive discipline and go straight to punishing me?
In exceptional circumstances, the employer has the right to suspend a member with pay and skip to considering discipline. The union takes the position that an exceptional circumstance is the result of truly egregious behaviour and should not be applied to members attempting to maintain health and safety in their classrooms. However, York University as an employer has been known to hold unreasonable positions and forcing the union to fight it regardless. The union will fight any attempt to skip the steps of progressive discipline if necessary.
Will I be disciplined if I [any particular action]?
Whether the employer moves to discipline you, and how aggressively they pursue that discipline, will depend on who is making the decisions in each particular case. The union has not yet seen any discipline cases related to conflicts over the return to campus, and so we cannot guess how the employer will respond to particular actions. As these are untested circumstances, we will do our best to update members as we learn more.
One or more of my students isn’t wearing a mask. Can I do or say anything about it?
Students may have medical exemptions to the mask mandate, and York’s official policy is that community members are not required to provide proof of exemptions. While the executive committee recognizes that privacy of medical information is essential, there is no good reason why students cannot be provided with accommodation letters to show instructors, similar to the existing practice for all other forms of accommodation.
In the absence of such a system, however, refusing to teach someone with a medical exemption would be a violation of their human rights, which is why demanding students wear masks could open members to discipline if the student does have a valid exemption.
While you can give general reminders to your class to please remain masked at all times, York’s official policy does not permit you to confront individual students regarding their lack of masks.
In the meantime,, if a situation escalates to the point where you believe your workplace is unsafe, you have a right to refuse unsafe work.
I don’t think my classroom is safe/allows for proper ventilation or distancing. What should I do?
If you believe your classroom or other workplace is unsafe, you have a right to refuse unsafe work. If you are able to, take photographic evidence of the setting. Remove yourself from the unsafe conditions immediately and contact your hiring unit (department chair) and the union as soon as possible. There will be a health and safety inspection, and the matter may escalate to the Ministry of Labour. You cannot be disciplined for putting forward a refusal of unsafe work when you have the genuine belief that you are unsafe, regardless of the outcome of the inspection.
Can I ask students or other community members whether they are vaccinated and/or have passed the daily screening?
All York community members and guests must upload proof of vaccination or request medical or creed-based exemptions through the YU screen app. They also must complete the daily screening prior to arrival on campus.
While you can give general reminders to your class to complete the daily screening, York’s official policy does not permit you to confront individual students regarding their vaccination status or the status of their daily screening.
It is the executive committee’s position that the unenforceability of the daily screening is unacceptable as it exposes our members to potential risk. And, that the employer should disclose the rate of vaccination and infection rates of those on campus. However, York has continued to show little transparency and has been uncooperative in reaching a solution that helps to keep us all safe.
If a situation escalates to the point where you believe your workplace is unsafe, you have a right to refuse unsafe work.
Am I eligible for work from home accommodations?
Accommodation requests can be made a) on medical/disability grounds and/or b) on family status grounds.
If an illness, injury, or disability is impacting your ability to fulfill your work tasks, you can request workplace accommodations. These accommodations can take various forms, depending on the nature of your access needs, and may include work-from-home accommodations. The process of requesting a medical/disability accommodation can be found here.
If your work obligations impact on your ability to meet your family obligations to your children, parents, or extended family, you may be eligible for a family-status accommodation. Family status accommodations are handled by the Dean’s Office. Accommodations requests that are related to COVID-19 may be referred to Organizing Solutions Incorporated (OSI). Find out more about the process here.
If you are considering a workplace accommodation request, we strongly recommend that you contact Nadia Kanani, CUPE 3903 Equity Officer, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I don’t want to or cannot be vaccinated. What are my options?
The CUPE 3903 executive committee strongly supports vaccination for all members who are able to be vaccinated. However, we recognize that there are circumstances where members cannot be vaccinated or may be eligible for exemptions to the vaccine mandate.
The employer has a duty to accommodate members who cannot get vaccinated due to medical or creed-based reasons. In order to apply for a medical or creed-based exemption to the vaccine mandate, go to YUscreen, click on “Start Screening” then “Vaccine Record”. Select “exemption” and follow the instructions in order to upload your completed forms. Medical exemptions require documentation from your doctor, while religious exemptions require documentation from a religious leader. For more information in regards to specific religions’ positions on immunization go here or here.
When using YUscreen, always select that you are an employee, even if you are also a student. This way, there will be no way for the employer to argue that the union does not have standing to represent you should anything go wrong.
Members attending campus with a vaccine exemption will be subject to mandatory COVID-19 testing. You should receive instructions from York in regards to how to access testing, which they are obligated to provide.
If your vaccination status is being used to deny you work, please get in touch with the union as soon as possible.
What is a Creed-Based Exemption?
Creed is a protected ground under the Ontario Human Rights Code. This means that you cannot face discrimination due to adherence to any particular faith. However, the bar of what falls under creed, and is therefore protected, is quite high. Your creed must have a demonstrated history of opposing vaccinations (i.e. not just since the start of the pandemic), and the member requesting accommodation must have a long-standing relationship with this creed.
The Ontario Human Rights Commission has clarified that personal preferences and singular beliefs are not Code protected grounds for exemption. This means that a belief that vaccination or the COVID-19 vaccine in particular are not safe does not amount to a creed.
While creed must be accommodated if the member can demonstrate that they qualify, that accommodation can but does not necessarily take the form of a vaccine exemption. All human rights accommodations must be evaluated individually based on the particular circumstances. Other forms of accommodation may be offered to a member with a valid creed-based reason to request an exemption.
Read OHRC’s policy statement on COVID-19 vaccine mandates and proof of vaccine certificates here.
I have applied for a family status accommodation and someone from a third party has called me to ask invasive questions. Do I have to answer?
While the process of requesting accommodations requires that you participate fully, you also have a right to union representation at every step. We strongly advise that, if a representative from Organizing Solutions Incorporated (or other representative or agent of York University) calls to ask about your accommodation request, you ask to schedule a time to talk when your union representative can be present. Read more about this here.