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Updated Guidance on Telework From Seth Grossman to HR Representatives

March 25, 2020

Dear Colleagues,

Thank you for all the hard work of you and your teams as we moved to expanded telework. We know this transition comes with challenges, and we greatly appreciate your leadership.

DC Mayor Bowser recently issued a new order on how business should operate in the District for the period through April 24. We wanted to provide you guidance on how this order applies to AU so that you can tailor this information for your departments and your managers can communicate necessary updates to your team members. 

Today Mayor Bowser announced that she is ordering businesses to stop performing non-essential functions on site and is advising city residents to stay at home unless they have essential business. Essential functions, as defined by the city and explained below, can still be performed on site, and non-essential functions can be performed by people working remotely. The order goes into effect at 10:00pm tonight, March 25, 2020, and lasts through April 24, 2020.

While this is not a shelter-in-place directive, it does call for reducing on-site employees to those required to perform essential functions as outlined in the Order. At the university, this applies to duties which facilitate distance learning; support housing and food service for students remaining on campus; provide healthcare; provide health care services to research animals; support essential infrastructure; perform law enforcement functions; support media services, including radio, and information technology infrastructure; support construction; and support mailing services. Departments may designate a small number of staff to come to the office to collect mail on a limited basis (we suggest no more than once a week), provided that mail is critical to the functioning of that office (such as paying time-sensitive bills that arrive only through the mail or obtaining time-sensitive legal documents). Essential functions that can be done via telework should be done remotely to the greatest extent possible. Those requiring a physical presence should consider offsetting shift hours, maintaining social distancing, and discontinuing gatherings of 10 or more persons for meetings and other purposes. During this period, AU buildings will be locked and faculty and staff will be able to use their AU card to access buildings. If an employee forgets their card or otherwise has access issues, they can reach out to AUPD for assistance.

Importantly, the DC guidance provides that if an employee performing essential functions has symptoms of a cold or flu, they may not perform work on site. If one of these employees required to work on-site experiences cold or flu symptoms, they should notify Employee Relations at They should also notify Employee Relations at if they or a family member has a confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19.

Earlier this week, department heads recategorized all staff that were originally designated as either fully or partially physical presence required to plan for this possibility. Please communicate to your staff if their status has now changed.  The requirement is to further reduce our on-site presence to those functions outlined by the D.C. government, and we will now need to take steps to comply with this order.

Thank you all for your continued responsiveness and quick actions as we adjust to these new situations. We appreciate all your hard work, and, as navigate these challenging times, we’re continuing to think of ways that we can support our staff.  

If you have further questions on this guidance, including about student workers, please reach out to the HR Response team, John O’Malley, Beth Muha, Ann Joiner, Deadre Johnson, or Katherine Simpson.

All the best,


Seth Grossman
Chief of Staff and Counselor to the President
American University
202-885-2164 (o)