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COVID-19 Furlough Information and FAQs

As outlined in Dr. Tromp’s April 20, 2020 email, the current COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic has had a significant financial impact on Boise State University. Like all institutions across the country, Boise State has suffered staggering losses – approximately $10 million to date – as a result of the pandemic. 

The University is deploying many cost cutting measures. Dr. Tromp implemented a hiring freeze in early March, which was soon followed by a state-mandated hiring freeze. This freeze was paired with “future-facing” planning efforts that asked each unit to imagine how it might become more efficient and effective in the future by reshaping their organization. Additionally, the organization is aggressively exploring additional cost-cutting measures, such as reducing utility costs and holding expenditures related to travel, continuing education, and other expenses. The University continues to look actively for new ways to cut operating costs and generate revenues, and several working groups are assigned to specific projects on that front. If you have ideas for how the University can save money and trim budgets, please submit your ideas using the University Money Saving Ideas Form.

The University is also implementing mandatory furloughs, with an option for employees to elect to take additional, voluntary furlough days. A furlough is an unpaid leave of absence from work for a specific period of time. It is different from a layoff in that an employee remains employed and maintains benefits (see below), but is not being paid because the employee is not working. We know any unpaid time is a burden, which is why the organization is looking at many other cost-cutting measures and is trying to limit the number of mandatory furlough days.

BOISE STATE FURLOUGH PLAN

The Boise State Furlough Plan includes the following phases:

  1. Mandatory furloughs based on earnings.
  2. Voluntary furloughs.
  3. Possible additional mandatory furlough days.

The sections below explain the Boise State Furlough Plan followed by detailed guidance. Please contact Human Resources at (208) 426-1616 or hrs@boisestate.edu with any questions or for any needed assistance.

Mandatory Furloughs Based on Earnings

All staff and 12-month faculty (including administrative faculty, but not faculty who are teaching part time over the summer), subject to certain exceptions, who earn more than $40,000 per year will take furlough days between May 3 and July 31, 2020. Specifically, the number of mandatory furlough days is based on the employee’s current base salary according to the schedule below:

    • Annual salary of $150,000 or more – 10 furlough days 
    • Annual salary of $100,000 – $149,999 – 7 furlough days 
    • Annual salary of $75,000 – $99,999 – 5 furlough days 
    • Annual salary of $40,000 – $74,999 – 4 furlough days

Furloughs need to be taken in full-day increments. Furlough days are self selected by filling out the Mandatory Furlough Form by May 1, 2020. After May 1, 2020, furlough days will be selected for individuals who have not completed the Mandatory Furlough Form. 

Voluntary Furlough and Payroll Deduction

]In addition, all employees (faculty, professional, classified) have the opportunity to sign up for Voluntary Furlough days in one-day increments or contribute a portion of their pay through payroll deduction. The voluntary furlough days must be taken by July 31, 2020.

Additional Mandatory Furloughs

If the University does not achieve sufficient savings in the first two phases, additional, mandatory furloughs will be considered.

Last Updated: May 7, 2020.

Furlough Guidance and FAQs

NEW! Can I use mandatory furlough and voluntary furlough in the same week and still qualify for unemployment.

This is not recommended if you intend to apply for unemployment. According to the Idaho Department of Labor, taking a voluntary furlough day in a week where you are also taking a mandatory furlough day will most likely make you ineligible for unemployment benefits that week. We strongly encourage you to contact the Department of Labor if you are considering taking mandatory and voluntary furlough day(s) in the same week.

NEW! For a mandatory furlough, if the unemployment form asks when the last day of employment is what date do I put?

According to the Department of Labor, the last day of work before the furlough is the best date to use.

UPDATED! Am I eligible for unemployment benefits through the Department of Labor?

Message From Human Resources

We have confirmed with the Idaho Department of Labor that employees who are subject to mandatory furlough days are eligible to apply for unemployment. This is true even though employees get to select when to take those mandatory furlough days. Please review the rest of the FAQs regarding unemployment as there are other restrictions that make a person eligible/ineligible for unemployment compensation.

Please note: Taking voluntary furloughs makes you ineligible for unemployment.

Eligibility

According to the Idaho Department of Labor, as long as an employee does not work full time in any given week, the employee can apply for benefits during the week for which the employee works less than full time. Make sure to check the State Department of Labor for guidelines on unemployment and how to file a claim. 

Employees taking a voluntary furlough day are not be eligible for unemployment compensation for the week they take the voluntary furlough.

Working a Partial Week

If you work during the time you claim benefits, you may continue to receive some or all of your benefits depending on the number of hours you work and how much you earn. The wages you earn during a week for which you claim benefits will affect your payment in one of the following ways:

  • You can earn up to one half of your weekly benefit amount and still receive the full weekly benefit amount for that week. However, you must still report all amounts earned each week, even if gross earnings are less than half your weekly benefit payment.
    • Example: If your weekly benefit amount is $100 and you earn $47 in gross earnings, you will receive a payment for $100.
  • If you earn more than one half of your weekly benefit amount, you will receive a dollar-for-dollar reduction for every dollar you earn over one half of your weekly benefit amount for that week.
    • Example: If your weekly benefit amount is $100 and you earn $85 in gross earnings, you have earned $35 over one half of your weekly benefit, and you will receive a payment for $65 ($100-$35).
  • If you work full time, or if you earn 1½ times your weekly benefit amount or more in gross earnings in one week, you will not receive a benefit payment for that week. Full time is generally considered 40 hours per week for most occupations. If you earn over 1½ times your weekly benefit amount for two consecutive weeks, you must reopen your claim during the third week if you wish to claim for that week.
    • Example: If you worked full time or earned $150 or more in gross earnings, and your weekly benefit amount was $100, you would not receive a payment for that week.

Note: You can check your eligibility and estimate your projected benefit by logging into the Claimant Portal and completing the personal information and work history sections. Access the Idaho DOL Registration Guide for help creating your account.

Other Considerations when Filing for Unemployment

  • When filing for unemployment, individuals will be asked if their employer intends to rehire them.
    • Answering yes, with the intent to return to work within 16 weeks from reduction or hours, is referred to as “employer attached,” which exempts the individual from pursuing employment opportunities while collecting benefits.
  • If an individual is filing a claim against an Idaho employer (i.e. Boise State University), but has moved back to another state, they may also file a claim online at labor.idaho.gov/claimantportal.

For other answers and information about unemployment, visit the Idaho Department of Labor Questions and Answers webpage

CARES Act

Under the CARES Act, you can receive unemployment benefits if you are unable to work or are working reduced hours as a result of the coronavirus. Weekly unemployment benefits will consist of two parts:

  • The benefit amount allowed in Idaho, which is capped at $448.00 per week.
  • An additional $600 a week of Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation. You can receive this amount even if you’ve exhausted your state benefits.

The additional $600 will be automatically added to state benefits received between March 29th and July 25th.

NEW! How do I enter furlough days on my timesheet?

Human Resources will be entering furlough days from the forms you submitted, so you can leave those days selected for furlough blank your timesheet.

NEW! If I select voluntary furlough days, am I eligible for unemployment?

No. Voluntary furlough days are not eligible for unemployment benefits as it is a voluntary reduction in pay.

NEW! I accidentally filled out the voluntary furlough form when I meant to fill out the mandatory furlough form, how can I fix this?

Go to the mandatory form and click the ‘Revised’ radio button, complete it, then email furlough-forms-group@boisestate.edu to remove the voluntary form entry. 

Why are faculty exempt from the summer 2020 furloughs?

Faculty on 9 or 10 month contracts are not subject to the furlough based on the fact that they do not work during summer term. Faculty who are on contract to teach for the summer are only paid for instructional time, therefore if furloughed, would have to reduce the number of hours they teach, which would harm our students.  Faculty on 12 month contracts are participating in the furloughs.

Who else is exempt from the furlough?

Graduate Assistants, temporary non-benefit eligible employees, student employees, employees who are 100% grant funded, H1B, H1B1, and E3 employees cannot take voluntary or mandatory furloughs.

My funding is partially on grants, does that change the number of days for furlough? Are self-support and local funds considered grant funds?

Self-support and local funds are spent similarly to appropriated funds from a university standpoint and are not exempt from furloughs. The self-support and local funds of the employee’s base salary should be considered in allocating furlough days.  For example, someone with a base salary of $77k composed of $45k appropriated and $32k grant funding should take 4 furlough days, because the appropriated portion of their base salary falls into that first pay band.

Use the non-grant, contract, and endowment funded portion of the employees salary to determine which furlough pay band to use to determine how many furlough days.  Any funding and savings corrections will need to occur after the pay period by using the payroll correcting entry process

 The reason for excluding grant and contract funding is to avoid two undesirable consequences:

  • Including it reduces time and effort that we’ve committed to the sponsor, which could adversely impact the sponsored project and our future efforts to secure or sustain that external funding.
  • No savings accrue to the university, properly speaking, because the grant/contract funding isn’t fungible.

How are benefits handled during a furlough?

Health Benefits

Furloughs of 5 or more consecutive days may require the employee to pay their portion of the premium in order to keep health insurance.  However, if the employee has enough earnings during that pay period to cover the full employee portion of the premium based on the hours worked in the rest of that pay period, the employee would not be required to self-pay the premiums. Please review your past paychecks to determine if the reduction in hours leaves enough wages to cover your benefit deductions. Learn more about the self-pay process.

You can view your paychecks by logging into my.Boisestate.edu > HR Systems > Payroll and Compensation > View Paycheck.

Note: There are three paychecks in May 2020. The final paycheck will not deduct benefits as the previous two checks in May cover those benefit amounts. To furlough on this paycheck you will want to select furlough days between May 3rd – 16th.

PERSI

An employee accrues one month of service for each calendar month worked as an active member of PERSI. A calendar month is one in which the employee works 15 days or more at ½ time or greater. Employees who are subject to mandatory furloughs or choose to take voluntary furlough leave (up to five days) and do not experience other unpaid leave that results in less than 15 days worked in that month will receive service credit for PERSI. An employee must be paid (pay may include wages, holiday pay, sick, annual or allowed leave pay) for at least 20 hours per week. Those on academic appointment must have at least a 50% contract. Overtime does not provide additional credited service or count towards the minimum service requirement.

Optional Retirement Plans (ORP); TIAA and Valic

If an employee is not working or receiving wages the employee’s portion of the ORP is paused. Credited service or vesting is not affected by furlough for those who participate in ORP.

Can an employee perform any work during an involuntary/voluntary furlough?

No. Employees cannot perform work in any capacity during this time, including answering email, returning calls, or being “on-call.”

Who can I talk to about the impacts of the furlough on me?

The Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is a free, confidential service that provides short-term counseling services to help address personal, financial, career, and work-life issues to eligible employees and their families. To access this benefit, simply call the EAP at (877) 427-2327 and identify yourself as a Boise State University employee.

If you would like to speak with a mental health counselor or access other mental health resources, you can also call Boise State Counseling Services at (208) 426-1459 to schedule a telemental health counseling session, and/or visit the Boise State Counseling Services website, which offers links to counseling services off-campus, as well as other sources of information and assistance on mental health. There are occasions when a problem or crisis feels too overwhelming to wait for a scheduled appointment. If this is the case, Counseling Services have staff available during standard hours of operation to more immediately assess your needs. 

Our Boise State Human Resources team is here for you. If you would like to speak to one of our team members about how the furlough is impacting you and to see what resources may be available to you, please reach out at hrs@boisestate.edu or call (208) 426-1616.

Can the impact of the days I am furloughed be spread over multiple pay periods?

Yes, you have the ability to select mandatory furlough days between May 3 – July 31, 2020 by completing the Mandatory Furlough form. Please work with your supervisor when selecting furlough dates to ensure your unit’s basic services will be covered. Note that the month of May has 3 pay periods. If you typically budget on a monthly basis, you may want to take your furlough days in May to minimize the impact to your monthly budget.

Will a furlough leave impact sick and annual leave accrual?

Sick and annual leave accruals are based on hours worked. There will be no accrual of sick and annual leave balances during furlough hours.

How does a furlough day impact a holiday?

You cannot take a furlough day on a paid holiday. Upcoming paid holidays are Memorial Day on Monday, May 25, 2020 and Independence Day, observed on July 3, 2020. 

May I use vacation, sick leave, compensatory time, or other accrued leave to receive pay on a furlough day?

No, unfortunately, that does not result in cost savings for our organization. 

How can I be furloughed if I have an employment contract?

Contracts are issued “subject to” the State Board of Education’s policies and procedures. 

Employees may have their salaries reduced through furlough or work hour adjustments as provided for in Section II.B. of Idaho State Board Governing Policies and Procedures.

I am a classified employee on a probationary period, how does a mandatory or voluntary furlough impact me?

Furlough days do not count towards probationary hours, you will continue on probation upon your return. 

Can an employee that is scheduled to take Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) or an employee that is currently on FMLA be involuntarily furloughed or participate in a voluntary furlough?

Yes, however, no days associated with the furlough will count against the FMLA entitlement. 

Yes, employees are not eligible for Emergency Paid Sick Leave or Amended FMLA during furloughs. 

Can an employee that is scheduled to take or on Paternity Leave be involuntarily furloughed or participate in a voluntary furlough?

Yes, however, no days associated with the furlough will count against the Parental Leave entitlement.    

My contract was non-renewed and my last day of employment with the University is on or before June 27, 2020, am I required to take mandatory furlough days?

You will not be included in any of the mandatory furloughs, but may select voluntary furlough days by submitting the Voluntary Furlough Form.

I’ve already taken unpaid leave this year for other reasons. Can this be used as a voluntary/mandatory furlough day?

No, prior use of unpaid leave cannot be changed to furlough leave. 

Will an essential or critical employee face mandatory furloughs?

All employees that meet the criteria will be part of the furlough. 

How do I take voluntary furlough?

A voluntary furlough is approved by your supervisor, just like any other time away from work. Supervisors will approve furlough in a way to best ensure little to no impact on our students and business operations.  The voluntary furlough days must be taken by July 31, 2020.

You may request a voluntary furlough by completing and submitting the Voluntary Furlough Request Form. We appreciate your assistance in helping the University’s budget situation.

If I want to take more than one day of a voluntary furlough leave, can I spread the days out or do they need to be consecutive?

Furlough is taken in increments of one day up to as many days as your supervisor allows with supervisor prior approval, beginning May 3, 2020.

Yes. An employee on a less than 12-month appointment (i.e. academic year appointment) who is on spread pay will have a smaller impact. This is because the amount of furlough reduction in pay is based on the rate of salary during the furlough period, not the actual hourly rate of the employee. Spread pay employees are paid at a lower salary rate per hour because their annual salary is spread over the entire fiscal year, whereas the salary for standard pay employees is spread over the term of their contract.

I am a Classified Employee, in the same classification as my co-worker, and my co-worker is not being furloughed, does this violate Idaho Division of Human Resources Rules for Classified Employees?

No. Boise State University’s furlough plan was reviewed and approved by the Idaho Division of Human Resources and furloughs can be based on salary and not classifications.

According to Idaho State Board of Education policies and Boise State University policies, I should receive notice prior to furloughs. Why am I not receiving my full notice?

Due to the significant impact coronavirus has had on the University, the Idaho State Board of Education has waived the policies regarding furloughs and financial exigency and has approved  Boise State University’s furlough plan.

May I take a furlough day on behalf of another employee to reduce the impact to the employee?

No. However, you may take additional voluntary furlough days if desired. 

Do the Idaho State Board of Education policies apply to furloughs?

Due to the significant impact coronavirus has had on the University, the Idaho State Board of Education has waived the policies regarding furloughs.

I am an exempt employee - if I take a furlough day(s) in a week do I lose my exempt status under the Fair Labor Standards Act?

According to the United States Department of Labor, deductions from the pay of an employee of a public agency for absences due to a budget-required furlough shall not disqualify the employee from being paid on a salary basis except in the workweek in which the furlough occurs and for which the employee’s pay is accordingly reduced.

Is my tuition fee waiver still available during furlough days?

Yes.

I normally work 10 hour days, does this mean my furlough days count for 10 hours?

No. A furlough day will be recorded as 8 hours for a full-time 40 hours per week employee. Please work with your supervisor to adjust your schedule when taking furlough days similar to a week with a holiday.