Policies and Practices

As a university employee, you help to support and serve students, patients, faculty, and other staff. It is important for you to be well informed about your workplace, including the policies and practices that govern your work and that of your colleagues.

The following sections provide information to help you understand the university's policies and answer questions about them.

Emergencies can occur anywhere at any time. The university plans for all hazards and relies on designated on-site and essential employees to perform specific critical and essential functions that support the university during an emergency or disruptive incidents.

Despite disruptions or emergencies, the university strives to operate on a normal schedule. For purposes of emergency planning, management should pre-identify employees as designated on-site, essential, or non-essential, unless otherwise prescribed through a collective bargaining agreement.

Additionally, managers should inform employees of their emergency designation on an annual basis and review employee roles and responsibilities before, during, and after an emergency or adjustment to the university’s operating status.

Cancellation of classes does not mean the university is closed or has implemented liberal leave for employees. In addition, special events may be held despite an adjustment to the university's operating status.

Emergency Designation definitions are as follows:

Designated On-Site

Employees who are required to physically report to work or remain at work during an emergency or adjustment to the university's operating status.


Employees who are generally expected to work from home during an emergency or during an adjustment to the university's operating status. During special circumstances, a manager may require essential employees to physically report to work or remain at work.


Employees who are not required to work unless directed to do so by their manager.

Employees with telecommuting agreements are expected to work from home during an adjustment to the university's operating status unless specifically advised otherwise by their manager.

GW provides several means by which staff may receive information on the university’s operating status related to adverse weather, emergencies and other disruptive event:

  • CampusAdvisories.gwu.edu - the university's primary website used for communicating emergency preparedness and incident-related information to the GW community. Employees should monitor the Campus Advisories site regularly.
  • GW Alert - Text and email alerts - Staff should sign up for GW Alert, a notification system that sends emergency alerts to email addresses and mobile devices. Customize your GW Alert settings and select the GW Alert Emergency Notification tab. Register your cell phone numbers and email addresses in order to receive alerts on multiple devices.
  • GW Information Line: 
    • 202-994-5050 
    • Allows employees to check the university's operating status and receive important updates.
  • Virginia Science and Technology Campus Information Line: 
    • 571-553-8333 
    • Allows employees assigned to the VSTC to determine operating status and receive important updates
  • School of Medicine and Health Sciences Information Line: 
    • 202-994-2196 
    • Provides updates for employees of SMHS

Other Resources

Because certain critical and essential university services must be maintained at all times, it is important that employees and managers prepare for emergencies and disruptive incidents by reviewing roles and responsibilities during an emergency or when the university's operating status is adjusted. Resources such as the GW Emergency Response Handbook and the  Designated and Essential Employee brochure are available to provide guidance.

Many positions at the university involve the use of computers and other devices that provide access to a wealth of data and permit us to perform our jobs much more rapidly and efficiently. The data produced and records held are the property of the university, and the university has a right to access any and all information held on its equipment. The Division of Information Technology (DIT) provides support to the university community and has provided a number of technology related policies regarding security, access, and conduct/compliance to support the university’s ever changing technology needs and challenges. The university's social media policy also outlines a number of areas to avoid when using popular sites.

As a general practice, you should treat your electronic communication as seriously as you would any written communication. Your electronic transmissions to others may be read through an error on your part, someone else's misconduct, or as part of a planned review of computer records. In addition, although you may have deleted materials from your computer, they may be recoverable if, at the university's discretion, it is necessary to do so.

Additional information about the responsibilities of computer users may be found on the Division of IT website.

Individuals who work in student, patient, faculty, and administrative offices often have access to information that is sensitive or confidential. Such information includes, but is not limited to, budgets, salaries, student records, employee records, patient records, personal messages, grant proposals, and real estate.

Sensitive or confidential information may be shared only with others with a need to know and only as required in the course of performing your job.

You are responsible for ensuring that sensitive information is kept confidential. If you have any questions about the confidentiality of information to which you have access, ask your manager and/or department head for clarification. You may also consult with the Division of Information Technology (DIT) regarding ways to secure your information at [email protected]. For more information, please see the university's Policy on Information Security.

In accordance with the Drug-Free Workplace Act of 1988 and the Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act of 1989, the university is committed to maintaining a drug-free workplace and promoting high standards of employee health and safety. University standards of conduct prohibit the illegal manufacture, possession, distribution, or use of alcohol and drugs. Violations of this standard may result in disciplinary action up to and including termination. The university's  Alcoholic Beverage Consumption Distribution Policy provides additional information on preparing for events and enforcement of rules.

Employees may be dismissed for drug-related offenses, including unauthorized use or possession of alcoholic beverages or illegal or nonprescription controlled substances, or for reporting to or being at work while under their influence. The misuse of prescription drugs by employees during working hours, on university business, or during use of university-owned property is strictly prohibited.

Concerns about substance abuse involving an employee may be discussed with staff in the Office of Equal Employment Opportunity & Employee Relations (EEO/ER)

In addition, federal law requires that you notify the Office of Equal Employment Opportunity & Employee Relations within five days if you are convicted under a criminal drug statute of offenses committed on university property or while on university business.

If you have been convicted of such offenses, you must notify EEO/ER of the circumstances. If you have any questions about this issue, please contact them at [email protected].

In addition to any disciplinary action other than termination, you may be referred to the university's Employee Assistance Program, the Wellbeing Hotline, and through that program, to a treatment and counseling program for alcohol or drug abuse.

The university cooperates fully with law enforcement authorities. Violations of university policy that are also violations of federal or local law will be referred to the appropriate agency. In such situations, action to address the infraction may proceed concurrently in the university and in the criminal justice system.

If you are governed by a collective bargaining agreement or are working under U.S. Department of Defense grants and contracts, you may be subject to drug-free workplace compliance requirements under those documents.

The goal of the university’s Smoke Free Policy is to provide a clean and healthy environment for all members of our community on all university campuses. In addition to indoor space, the policy also includes university-owned outdoor spaces as well as certain public spaces adjacent to GW buildings. Staff members are asked to help support this initiative by encouraging others to refrain from smoking in front of GW buildings or in GW outdoor areas.

GW’s Smoke Free website includes resources to assist staff with smoking cessation and maps of smoke free zones and smoke free partners on campus.