Mark H. Moore Shares Legal Insight on Universities’ Decisions About Who Gets to Teach Remotely Amidst Pandemic-Related Health Concerns

As colleges and universities make decisions about returning to the classroom in the fall, professors with health concerns, or with family members with health concerns, still face uncertainty about who will get approved to teach remotely and who won’t.

On June 22, The Chronicle of Higher Education published an article written by Emma Pettit about the issue, telling the story of a tenured Texas Christian University associate professor, Jason Helms, who has a two-year-old daughter with congenital heart failure, but was recently denied his request for an accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). TCU’s human resources department claimed his request didn’t meet the criteria under the ADA and that he should have filed for leave under the Family Medical Leave Act instead.

Universities Debate Who Gets to Teach Remotely and Who Doesn't, Mark H. Moore Weighs InUnfortunately, there are many cases like Helms’ and limited routes to get protection and accommodation when the issue pertains to the health of family members. For instance, as RPJ Partner Mark H. Moore is quoted discussing, while under the Occupational Safety and Health Act, employees can refuse to work if they think they are in “imminent danger,” the standard to meet “imminent danger” is high. However, Moore says, universities tend to be more “collegial” work environments than others, and for tenured professors or those with union protections, it could prove more challenging for institutions to require them to return to typical working conditions than it may be in other industries.

The article goes on to discuss the debate among university leadership as between the importance of in-person teaching for the experience of the students and concerns about faculty who insist they should be able to determine for themselves how best to serve their students and the health and safety of themselves and their families at the same time.

For more, read the full article here: “Who Gets to Teach Remotely? The Decisions Are Getting Personal”


RPJ Partner Mark H. MooreMark H. Moore regularly counsels and litigates for clients in connection with employment matters and the education field. He has also written extensively about Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’s controversial proposed Title IX regulations addressing sexual assault on college campuses.