COVID-19 FAQs for State Employees

On March 10, 2020, Governor Cooper declared a State of Emergency to coordinate response and protective actions for the State of North Carolina based on the public health emergency posed by COVID-19: thus, the State Communicable Disease Emergency Policy is now active, and under ongoing review as the situation changes. State agency employees are encouraged to review the following FAQs related to coronavirus and the Communicable Disease Emergency Policy.

Questions or concerns should be discussed with your supervisor in consultation with your Human Resources Office.

Additional COVID-19 information:

These FAQs will be updated as conditions continue to evolve. Please check back regularly for updated information.

Updated July 7, 2020

General COVID-19 FAQs for State Employees

What is social distancing and why is it important?

What is social distancing and why is it important?

Social distancing is designed to limit the spread of disease by reducing the opportunities for close contact between people. Strategies include using conference calls and video conferencing in place of face-to-face meetings, avoiding unnecessary travel, and reinforcing handwashing and other common-sense precautions.

As North Carolina begins its phased reopening plan, the Department of Health and Human Services is encouraging everyone across the state to practice the Three Ws: Wear, Wait, Wash.

  • Wear a cloth face covering if you will be with other people 
  • Wait 6 feet apart. Avoid close contact.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer.

These actions can protect our families and neighbors as the state takes a cautious step forward to ease restrictions while the virus is still circulating.

What are the factors that put an individual at high risk?

What are the factors that put an individual at high risk?

The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services covers this topic in its Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on the agency’s coronavirus website. Given the fast-changing nature of this pandemic, we encourage individuals to check that link for the most current public health guidance. Screening measures for illnesses may be more specific in healthcare settings and correctional facilities.

What should I do if I have been exposed to COVID-19 and believe I am developing symptoms associated with the virus?

What should I do if I have been exposed to COVID-19 and believe I am developing symptoms associated with the virus?

If you think you are developing symptoms associated with COVID-19 and have reason to believe you have been exposed to the virus, the CDC recommends calling your doctor or Public Health department. If you are sick, notify your supervisor and stay home. An employee told by a doctor or public health official that they should be under isolation due to illness should not report to work and should follow the Sick Leave Policy when recording leave.

What should I do if I have been exposed to COVID-19 but do not have symptoms associated with the virus?

What should I do if I have been exposed to COVID-19 but do not have symptoms associated with the virus?

If you have reason to believe you have been exposed to the virus, the CDC recommends calling your doctor or Public Health department. A permanent or temporary employee told by a Public Health official that they should be under quarantine due to exposure to COVID-19 but is not yet symptomatic should notify their supervisor about the quarantine directive.

When an employee is quarantined, the employee shall be granted paid leave until the specified period of time ends or the employee becomes ill with the communicable disease, whichever comes first. The employee must provide proof of quarantine.

I’m worried about being exposed to coronavirus at work. How can I reduce my risk?

I’m worried about being exposed to coronavirus at work. How can I reduce my risk?

Employees are encouraged to use common-sense precautions at all times (when working, in the public, or at home). Precautions include:

  • Wash your hands with warm soapy water for at least 20 seconds each time.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are ill.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.
  • Do not reuse a tissue after coughing, sneezing, or blowing your nose.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces that are frequently touched (cell phones, desk phones, keyboards, remote controls, countertops, refrigerator and door handles, etc.).
  • And remember that employees who are sick should not come to work.

When possible, use social distancing to minimize your direct contact with others who may be unwell or who are vulnerable to illness. 

A person living in my household has returned from a CDC Level-3 country and has been asked by their employer to self-quarantine for 14 days. The individual is asymptomatic and has not been confirmed as having COVID-19. Am I required to self-quarantine?

A person living in my household has returned from a CDC Level-3 country and has been asked by their employer to self-quarantine for 14 days. The individual is asymptomatic and has not been confirmed as having COVID-19. Am I required to self-quarantine?

Employees should seek direction from their supervisor, in consultation with their agency Human Resources Office. The State of North Carolina follows CDC’s recommendations regarding whether to isolate or self-quarantine.

My family and I feel overwhelmed by the COVID-19 outbreak. What resources are available to help us cope?

My family and I feel overwhelmed by the COVID-19 outbreak. What resources are available to help us cope?

The State of North Carolina provides the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) as part of the benefits program available to *state employees. EAP offers the support and resources you need to address personal or work-related challenges and concerns. It is free for you and members of your household and completely confidential. Contact your agency Human Resource Office for details.

EAP is managed for the State of North Carolina by McLaughlin Young Group. You may contact them online at https://www.mygroup.com/contact/ or by sending an email to myinfo@mygroup.com. EAP also may be reached by phone at 888-298-3907.

*Note: Judicial Branch employees use Deer Oaks and UNC System employees use ComPsych

What paid leave options may be available to state employees related to COVID-19 absences?

What paid leave options may be available to state employees related to COVID-19 absences?

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, state agencies have made several options for leave available to state employees, depending on the employee’s position, agency and the date of the leave. Check with your Human Resources department to determine if your absence is eligible for one of the leave options currently in place.

With public schools and some day care facilities closed due to coronavirus, can I use leave to care for my children? Would this also apply to a closed eldercare facility?

With public schools and some day care facilities closed due to coronavirus, can I use leave to care for my children? Would this also apply to a closed eldercare facility?

When an agency is open but an employee who is a parent or guardian is required to stay home with a child (as defined by the Family and Medical Leave policy) or older adult because of a closure of a day care, school or elder care facility, the employee may use special State of Emergency Leave. This applies to mandatory and non-mandatory employees. Discuss your situation with your agency Human Resources Office.

I am a temporary employee who does not earn sick leave and I believe I am exhibiting symptoms of coronavirus. I am afraid if I take time off from work that I could lose my job. What should I do?

I am a temporary employee who does not earn sick leave and I believe I am exhibiting symptoms of coronavirus. I am afraid if I take time off from work that I could lose my job. What should I do?

With public health as our top priority, temporary employees who have an illness with symptoms consistent with COVID-19 may use special State of Emergency Leave to stay home and recover. If you have reason to believe you have the virus, follow the recommendation of the CDC and call your doctor or public health department, then notify your supervisor that you have taken this step.

If an employee with a temporary appointment is quarantined after having been exposed to a sick person, the employee shall be granted paid leave until the quarantine ends or the employee becomes ill with the communicable disease, whichever comes first.

May an agency require an employee to work elsewhere than their primary duty station?

May an agency require an employee to work elsewhere than their primary duty station?

Pursuant to federal law that employers provide a workplace free from recognized hazards causing or likely to cause death or serious physical harm, the supervisor, in consultation with their Human Resources Office, may temporarily assign an employee to an alternate work site.

Can I work from home or another location during a public health emergency?

Can I work from home or another location during a public health emergency?

To the greatest extent possible, Governor Cooper encourages all state employees to telework to minimize the risk of contagious infection. Management is encouraged to be flexible to allow telework, but some duties cannot be readily managed offsite. For example, some state agency employees require a secure computer environment or other resources that are not easily portable.

I keep hearing that government agencies are closed, or closed to the public. What does that mean to me as a state employee?

I keep hearing that government agencies are closed, or closed to the public. What does that mean to me as a state employee?

While some facilities are closed to the public, state government remains open and operational. State agencies have been asked to allow their employees to telework to the greatest extent possible. If you have questions about your responsibilities, contact your agency Human Resources Office.

Is it possible that mandatory employees will be expected to remain at their workstation around the clock?

Is it possible that mandatory employees will be expected to remain at their workstation around the clock?

Yes. In the event of a public health emergency that requires mandatory employees to remain at their location 24/7, the state will provide meals and overnight accommodations. Mandatory employees who fail to report to work may be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including dismissal.

One of my employees looks sick. What should I do?

One of my employees looks sick. What should I do?

The safety and well-being of our employees is the most important issue and prompt identification and isolation of potentially infectious individuals is a critical step in protecting workers, clients and customers. Employers should inform and encourage employees to self-monitor for signs and symptoms of COVID-19 if they suspect possible exposure. Where appropriate, employers should immediately isolate people who have signs or symptoms of COVID-19 and send them home immediately. 

Managers should become familiar with symptoms and isolation procedures, which are outlined on the coronavirus website maintained by the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services and based on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If unsure, consult with Public Health officials.

Additionally, agency management should emphasize to employees the importance of staying home when sick, and employees that are required to stay home by the agency should discuss leave options with their agency’s Human Resources Office. Agencies are encouraged to be flexible in advancing leave to employees who have exhausted other leave balances.

I am concerned about exposure to a coworker who seems sick. Can I insist that they be sent home?

I am concerned about exposure to a coworker who seems sick. Can I insist that they be sent home?

If you have a concern about an employee who appears sick, speak to your supervisor. If agency management believes that an employee has symptoms associated with a communicable disease such as coronavirus, management, in consultation with their Human Resources Office, may require the employee not to report to work and to use any available compensatory leave, sick leave, vacation leave or bonus leave.

Will I be notified if someone I work with is confirmed to have coronavirus?

Will I be notified if someone I work with is confirmed to have coronavirus?

Employees known to be exposed to an individual diagnosed with coronavirus will be notified that a case of coronavirus has been confirmed, but the Americans with Disabilities Act protects the identity and medical information of people with communicable diseases.

Should I cancel a planned business trip if the location is among the places where the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued an elevated warning?

Should I cancel a planned business trip if the location is among the places where the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued an elevated warning?

Travel to offsite meetings and between agency worksites should be limited or eliminated to the greatest extent possible through at least Phase 2. Employees should also cancel attendance at pre-arranged conferences per CDC recommendations or state, local, or agency requirements.

Employees are being asked to determine if there is truly a need for in-person meetings within worksites and whether non-contact options such as phone calls or video conferencing can be used instead. 

In-person meetings of fewer than 10 people may be conducted when at least six feet distance can be maintained between participants. Employees and visitors attending in-person meetings should wear a cloth face covering that covers the nose and mouth when at least six feet distance cannot be maintained between participants.  Visitors will be provided a disposable face covering if they are not wearing one already.

Through at least Phase 2, all group events, gatherings, or meetings of more than 10 persons, and any events where social distancing of at least six feet cannot be maintained between participants, should be cancelled or reconfigured for virtual meeting.

Any nonessential visitors, volunteers, and activities involving external groups or organizations may be restricted or limited through at least Phase 2. Discuss any questions with your supervisor or Agency Human Resources Office. 

If I am returning from a location under travel restrictions, whether for work or personal travel, am I allowed to return to work immediately?

If I am returning from a location under travel restrictions, whether for work or personal travel, am I allowed to return to work immediately?

You may be required not to return to your workplace for the duration of one incubation period, as defined by public health officials.

I am employed through Temporary Solutions. Who should I contact regarding my work schedule, including whether I can telework, if I am sick, or if I feel that I am at increased risk for sickness?

I am employed through Temporary Solutions. Who should I contact regarding my work schedule, including whether I can telework, if I am sick, or if I feel that I am at increased risk for sickness?

Your assigned agency is your employer. You should direct all questions about your work schedule, including whether you can telework or modify your work schedule, to your supervisor or agency HR Representative. You are responsible for notifying your supervisor immediately if you cannot report to work due to illness.

If I contract coronavirus while working, am I eligible for workers’ compensation?

If I contract coronavirus while working, am I eligible for workers’ compensation?

If you become ill and it is determined to be work-related in accordance with the Workers’ Compensation Act, the Workers’ Compensation Policy applies. If your illness is determined not to be work-related, the Sick Leave Policy applies.

I’m a critical worker. How can I get help with child care?

I’m a critical worker. How can I get help with child care?

North Carolina has launched a hotline to help critical workers connect with child care. Workers who need care may call 1-888-600-1685 to receive information about local options for children from infants through age 12. The hotline is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

How does the federal First Families Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) apply to me as a state employee?

How does the federal First Families Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) apply to me as a state employee?

The U.S. Department of Labor created an Employee Rights flyer to explain how FFCRA requires certain employers to provide their employees with paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave for specified reasons related to COVID-19. These provisions apply from April 1 through December 31, 2020. For additional information, contact your agency Human Resources Office.

How does the federal First Families Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) apply to me as a state employee?

How does the federal First Families Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) apply to me as a state employee?

The U.S. Department of Labor created an Employee Rights flyer to explain how FFCRA requires certain employers to provide their employees with paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave for specified reasons related to COVID-19. These provisions apply from April 1 through December 31, 2020. For additional information, contact your agency Human Resources Office.

Have any changes been made to NCFlex in response to the COVID-19 pandemic?

Have any changes been made to NCFlex in response to the COVID-19 pandemic?

Yes, several changes have been made to NCFlex due to COVID-19. These changes effect both Health Care Flexible Spending Accounts (HCFSA) and Dependent Day Care Flexible Spending Accounts (DDCFSA), and NCFlex has provided an FAQ document available in PDF format.

Can my agency require me to wear a facemask?

Can my agency require me to wear a facemask?

  • Yes. Executive Order 147 requires employees in Cabinet agencies to wear a cloth face covering that covers the nose and mouth at all times when social distancing of six feet cannot be maintained. Other State agencies are highly encouraged to adopt this requirement. 
  • An agency may require employees to wear additional protective gear (for example,  gloves or gowns) and observe infection control practices (for example, regular hand washing and social distancing protocols) to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 and protect your co-workers and visitors. 
  • However, where an employee with a disability needs a related reasonable accommodation under the ADA (e.g., non-latex gloves, modified face coverings for interpreters or others who communicate with an employee who uses lip reading, or gowns designed for individuals who use wheelchairs), or a religious accommodation under Title VII (such as modified equipment due to religious garb), the supervisor should refer the employee to Agency Human Resources Office to discuss the request.
If there is some urgency to providing an accommodation, or the agency has limited time available to discuss the request during the pandemic, may an agency provide a temporary accommodation?

If there is some urgency to providing an accommodation, or the agency has limited time available to discuss the request during the pandemic, may an agency provide a temporary accommodation?

  • Yes. Given the pandemic, some agencies may choose to forgo or shorten the exchange of information between an agency and employee known as the ADA "interactive process" and grant the request. In addition, when government restrictions change, or are partially or fully lifted, the need for accommodations may also change. This may result in more requests for short-term accommodations. Agencies may wish to adapt the interactive process - and devise end dates for the accommodation - to suit changing circumstances based on public health directives.
  • Whatever the reason for shortening or adapting the interactive process, an agency may also choose to place an end date on the accommodation (for example, either a specific date, or when the employee returns to the workplace part- or full-time due to changes in government restrictions limiting the number of people who may congregate). Agencies may also opt to provide a requested accommodation on an interim or trial basis, with an end date, while awaiting receipt of medical documentation.
During the pandemic, may an agency still engage in the ADA interactive process and request information from an employee about why an accommodation is needed?

During the pandemic, may an agency still engage in the ADA interactive process and request information from an employee about why an accommodation is needed?

  • Yes, if i the impairment is not obvious or already known, an agency may ask questions or request medical documentation to determine whether the employee's disability necessitates an accommodation, either the one requested or any otherPossible questions for the employee may include: (1) how the disability creates a limitation, (2) how the requested accommodation will effectively address the limitation, (3) whether another form of accommodation could effectively address the issue, and (4) how a proposed accommodation will enable the employee to continue performing the "essential functions" of their position (that is, the fundamental job duties).
  • Agencies may provide a requested accommodation on an interim or trial basis, with an end date, while awaiting receipt of medical documentation.  For instance, if the requested accommodation is to not wear a face covering because of a medical condition, the agency may provide an effective temporary accommodation such as:
    • Isolating the employee in an alternative worksite away from other employees;
    • Approving work at a remote work location (home or another option);
    • Approving accrued or unpaid leave.