University Policy 89
Serious Illness and Disability Leave for Faculty

Administering Office: Academic Affairs/Human Resources
Initially Approved: October 2005
Posted: December 9, 2005

Western Carolina University, in accordance with Board of Governors policy, has developed this “Policy on Serious Illness and Disability Leave for Faculty.”

The following guidelines govern the administration of this policy on the campus of Western Carolina University.

1. This policy has been approved by the Chancellor and is effective with the beginning of Fall Semester, 2005.

2. Eligible faculty members are those who: (1) do not accrue sick leave and are eligible to participate in the N.C. Teachers’ and State Employees’ Retirement System or the UNC Optional Retirement Program [i.e., continuing faculty who are employed at least 75% of full-time]; and (2) are eligible for family medical leave under the provisions of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) [i.e., who have been employed at least one year and have worked at least 1,040 hours within the last 12 months].

3. The duration of leave includes a period of up to 60 calendar days of paid leave within a single academic semester. An extension of unpaid leave up to a full semester or an additional semester may be requested if the illness or disability requires a longer leave. Leave beyond the initial 60 day paid period will be leave without pay, however.

(Note: Employees are eligible for short-term disability benefits under the N.C. Disability Income Plan if they have at least one year of contributing membership service in the N.C. Teachers' and State Employees' Retirement System or the UNC Optional Retirement Program earned within the 36 calendar months preceding the disability. Benefits become payable following a 60-day waiting period from the date of disability onset. In addition to their eligibility for the N. C. Disability Income Plan, faculty should consider enrolling in one of the supplemental disability income plans available to UNC employees.)

4. Leave may be used for, and only for, the following conditions:

  • the birth of a child and to care for the newborn child after birth;
    (Note: An expectant mother may take leave before the birth of the child for prenatal care or if her condition makes her unable to work or requires a reduced work schedule.)
  • placement of or to care for a child placed with the employee for adoption or foster care;
    (Note: Leave may be granted before the actual placement or adoption of a child if an absence from work is required for the placement for adoption or foster care to proceed.)
  • serious health condition of employee’s child, spouse, or parent, that requires the employee’s care;
  • serious health condition of the employee that prevents the employee from performing the essential functions of his or her job.

5. This policy is consistent with the provisions of the Family and Medical Leave Act and the N. C. Family Illness Act as stated in federal and state statutes and campus policies and coordinates with other respective benefits.

Paid leave provided for under this policy has no negative impact on the faculty member’s other employment benefits.

All periods of paid leave under this policy will be construed as family and medical leave under the FMLA. The FMLA entitlement of up to 12 weeks of leave without pay will run concurrently with any period of paid time off.

The North Carolina Family Illness Act allows for an extension of up to 52 weeks of leave without pay during a five-year period in cases of serious illness of a child, spouse, or parent.

6. Following are the procedures for application and approval for leave.

  • It is the responsibility of the faculty member to request leave in writing to the department head. In those departments not having a department head, the request should be submitted to the immediate supervisor. Requests for leave should be submitted at least 60 days in advance of the leave or as soon as practicable after the need for leave is foreseeable.
  • The department head (or immediate supervisor if appropriate) will make a recommendation to the dean concerning whether or not to grant the request for leave after consulting with the Office of Human Resources regarding eligibility.
  • The dean is responsible for deciding whether or not to approve the request for leave and provide written notification to the department head and the faculty member and provide a copy to the Office of Human Resources. If leave is denied, the written notification should include the grounds for denial.
  • An expedited appeals process if the request for leave is denied is available by written appeal to the Provost within five (5) business days of notice of denial of leave. Before making a decision, the Provost may consult with the immediate supervisor, department head or dean, review any documents deemed pertinent, and must meet with the faculty member to discuss the appeal. Unless delayed by the actions of the faculty member, the Provost must render a decision on the appeal within ten (10) business days of receiving the written appeal.

7. A medical certification or other appropriate documentation must accompany the request for leave, consistent with FMLA.

The Office of Human Resources may request additional medical verification of the faculty member’s illness or disability, including a physician’s statement about the probable length of absence from normal duties. If the request is for the purpose of caring for a family member or dependent, Human Resources may request medical verification of that person’s illness or disability and may also inquire about the circumstances that make it impossible or difficult for the faculty member to carry on with normal duties.

8. The department head is responsible for securing, to the extent possible, substitute personnel for the duration of the faculty member’s leave. The faculty member is not responsible for arranging for such coverage. Any adjustments in work schedules within the department are at the discretion of the department head with the approval of the dean and are subject to departmental and institutional needs and resources.

Funds for substitute personnel shall be handled by the Provost/Dean. In recommending approval of a leave to the dean, department head or immediate supervisor will submit a plan to cover the responsibilities of the faculty member for the duration of the leave. This plan must be approved prior to the leave.

9. Unused leave under this policy shall not be accumulated or carried over to another academic year, allowable as terminal leave payment when the faculty member leaves the University, or used to extend years of creditable state service for state retirement benefit purposes.

Employees with a balance of accrued leave from a previous 12-month appointment must exhaust that leave before receiving sick leave under this policy.

10. The Office of Human Resources is responsible for maintaining leave records.

11. At the time a request for leave is granted, the faculty member, department head, dean, and Provost will agree in writing whether time spent on leave will count as probationary service. In the absence of an agreement or if the parties fail to reach agreement, time spent on leave shall count as probationary service.

A faculty member granted leave under this policy may have his or her five-year post-tenure review delayed by a period agreed upon by the faculty member, department head, and dean.

Faculty will not be penalized in their condition of employment because they require time away from work caused by or contributed to by conditions such as pregnancy, miscarriage, childbirth, or recovery. Requests for leave because of these conditions shall be treated the same as a temporary disability.

12. Communications concerning leave requested or granted under this policy are subject to the same confidentiality requirements as other personnel records.

13. The Office of Human Resources will maintain the official records of leaves taken under this policy.

 

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