5.0.4 Essential Services During Emergencies or Other Conditions

Policy Section: Conditions of Employment

Policy Number and Title: 5.0.4 Essential Services During Emergencies or Other Conditions
Applicable to: All University Employees*
Effective Date: June 1, 2014
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Responsible Executive: Lianne Sullivan-Crowley, Vice President for Human Resources

Responsible Office: Office of Human Resources

Contacts: Senior Human Resources Manager

Last Update: February 1, 2011

Policy Description

Princeton University is a residential community and an employer that operates continuously 24 hours a day. Activities and services related to teaching and research, which include library and computer services, facilities support, housing and dining services, and health and safety must continue as necessary on a seven-day schedule. However, there are some scheduled or unscheduled situations or emergencies that may necessitate cancelling classes and/or closing offices, i.e., suspension of normal operations. In an effort to ensure safety for University students, employees and visitors, these situations are closely monitored and carefully planned so that appropriate and timely decisions and announcements related to work schedules can be made.


Essential Services Employee
Essential services employees perform jobs that are necessary and required to maintain basic University operations during scheduled closures or unscheduled suspension of normal operations due to emergencies, events, or other situations. Essential services employees may be asked and/or required to perform jobs or duties that fall outside of their normal job classification during an emergency event.
Suspension of Normal Operations
Suspension of normal operations is defined as the decision of the University to suspend University operations in whole or in part in the event of extraordinary situations, and may include University closure and/or class cancellation.
Continuity of Operations Plans (COOP)
The Continuity of Operations Plan (COOP) is an effort that focuses on planning for the continued operations, services and activities across campus during a wide range of potential long-term emergencies or disruptions to ordinary operations. For planning purposes, long term may range from two days to several weeks.
COOPS are part of the University-wide emergency management planning effort and are generally implemented after the University has ensured the safety of those who live, work and visit the campus, and the preserved University property.
The COOP planning process is designed to answer two key questions:
  1. What essential functions does this department/office provide to the University community and what resources would be required to continue to provide that function in an extended disruption? Essential services might include such items as food and shelter, time collection, payroll, utilities, security, etc.
  2. What resources would be required for the department/office to continue its own operation during an extended disruption?

Application of This Policy

This policy describes how the University will be staffed during scheduled work closings or suspension of normal operations resulting from events, emergencies or other situations.
Certain essential services are required to be maintained in any suspension of normal operations. There are several factors that influence the University’s decisions on which essential services and employees are needed. These factors include but are not limited to the reason for the closure, whether the closure is scheduled or unscheduled, short-term or long-term, and the time of year that the closure takes place. In other words, employees may be designated as essential services staff in one circumstance but not in all circumstances.
Where there are union agreements in place, the terms of the contract are to be followed.

Essential Services Employees

Staff members designated by their department as essential services employees are required to report to and/or remain at work as directed by the University and/or department during a University closing and/or when operations are suspended.
Whenever possible, essential services employees should be designated in advance of an occurrence and will be compensated as described within this policy. In the event an unpredictable situation occurs, the University reserves the right to require employees to be designated on an ad hoc basis as essential services staff. In these rare cases, the University will make every effort to give as much notice as possible to the affected employees.
Job Requirement
Because the University depends on employees who perform essential services, the ability of employees to report to and/or remain at work during these times is considered a job requirement. They may be excused only with the specific authorization of their department. Under certain circumstances, employees may be permitted and/or required to work from home or remotely.
Travel Ban During a Declared State of Emergency
The State of New Jersey and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania identify specific job functions that may be eligible for a travel restriction exemption during a declared state of emergency and travel ban. The University will provide eligible essential services employees with appropriate travel ban documentation and/or credentials for their use when they are required to report to work in these situations. Shelter and food will be provided for essential services employees throughout the travel ban period.
Essential services employees must use their best judgment to determine their own safety when traveling to and from work. Absences by essential services employees who are required to report to work may be reviewed on a case by case basis in consultation with the employee’s supervisor and the Office of Human Resources.

Categories of Closures

Cancellation of classes and closure of offices can result from either scheduled events or suspension of normal operations, as described below. Each situation may affect the campus and the surrounding community differently. The nature, severity and impact of each circumstance determine the essential services required to maintain vital campus operations. The University has established two categories of emergency and nonemergency closures to plan more easily for and enable efficient communication, staffing levels required (including specific skill sets needed) and pay administration during various situations.
The University’s Emergency Preparedness Team (EPT) is responsible for monitoring acceptable levels of risk for the institution and for determining the appropriate category and emergency response.
Scheduled situations or events are typically planned, nonemergency, short-term and require certain staff members to perform essential services when all or most offices are closed. Examples include but are not limited to events or needs that:
  • occur on a University holiday, such as December holidays, Memorial Day, Labor Day, and/or
  • incur parking shortages or other vehicular congestion during major University events, such as on Commencement.
Managers who are responsible for planning special events should anticipate staffing needs as far in advance as possible to designate some or all staff members as essential services staff for the specific event or time period.
Classes are generally not impacted by these situations and affected offices typically remain open.
Suspension of Normal Operations
Suspensions of normal operations are unscheduled situations or emergencies when the University would have to suspend normal University operations and/or modify work schedules. While events requiring the suspension of normal operations are typically not scheduled, appropriate responses may be anticipated and planned ahead of time. Essential services required will be determined by each situation.
These situations may impact the activities of the entire campus or portions of the campus, affect the ability of employees to travel, disrupt scheduled classes or events, close offices and have short-term or long-term impact.
Essential services are required to ensure the health and welfare of the University’s campus population, keep the campus secure and safely operating, and/or protect and preserve University property.
Although unlikely or rare, employees must plan for serious or extreme emergencies that threaten the health or safety of the campus and/or the local region. There may be additional functions that require essential services staffing to maintain financial, technology and/or other infrastructure transactions.
Most or all offices may be closed and classes may not be cancelled, depending on the severity of the threat or impact.
Examples include but are not limited to:
  • bomb threats/terrorism
  • extended network interruptions
  • extended power interruptions
  • fire
  • flooded roads or buildings
  • hazardous material or other environmental hazard
  • inclement weather
  • interruption of vital supplies
  • public health threat
  • violence or civil unrest

* Closures and/or suspension of University operations may also impact dean of faculty employees. They should consult with the Office of the Dean of the Faculty for the appropriate procedures to follow.

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