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January 5, 1995

Medical/family leave policy OKd for faculty

Pitt faculty members with serious illnesses or health conditions — including pregnancy — can now take up to 26 work weeks of paid sick leave during any 12-month period, upon being certified by a physician or practitioner.

Under the University's new faculty medical and family leave policy, the faculty member must give 30 days notice of intent to take leave if the reason for the leave is foreseeable. If the reason for the leave is not foreseeable, as much notice as possible is required. When the medical leave extends beyond six months, faculty must apply for disability insurance under Pitt's long-term disability plan.

Chancellor J. Dennis O'Connor approved the medical and family leave policy last month. It applies to full-time faculty and faculty librarians, and part-time tenure-stream faculty and part-time faculty librarians who are employed at least half time.

In addition to providing for paid sick leaves of up to 26 weeks, the policy gives eligible faculty the following benefits: Faculty who have been employed at Pitt for 24 calendar months can take up to four weeks of paid leave during any consecutive 24-month period to care for a seriously ill spouse, biological or adopted child, or parent for whom the faculty member has major responsibility.

A physician or practitioner must outline why the faculty member is needed to attend the sick spouse, child or parent. "Every effort shall be made to encourage a collegial exchange to minimize the direct cost of the leave on the (faculty member's) unit," the policy states.

Salary will continue only during that period for which the faculty member normally would be on the payroll.

When the medical leave extends beyond six months, the individual must apply for an unpaid leave of absence not to exceed 12 additional months, or for disability insurance under the long-term disability plan.

"During paid or unpaid medical leave, the faculty member may elect to perform certain responsibilities on a part-time basis, if approved by the dean and with the health care provider's certificate of fitness to work," according to the policy. "In no event, however, shall a faculty member who is on medical leave be compelled to waive any part of the leave to which he or she is entitled under this policy.

"When medically necessary, leave may be used on an intermittent basis. No faculty member will be paid for total medical leave time in excess of six months during any consecutive 12-month period." Men as well as women faculty may take up to two weeks of paid parental leave within one calendar year after the birth or adoption of a child for whom the faculty member has parental responsibilities.

Married faculty members both employed at Pitt are each eligible for parental leave.

The faculty member and his or her chairperson will determine whether the leave is taken full-time or as equivalent pro-rated, part-time leave. Parental leave is in addition to medical leave and accrued vacation time.

Faculty are eligible for up to one calendar year of unpaid family leave to care for a spouse, biological or adopted child, foster child, parent or other household member for whom the faculty member has major responsibility. This may include routine child care.

Combined paid and unpaid leave shall not exceed 12 calendar months.

Faculty should submit a written request for a family leave to their department chairpersons as far in advance as possible "so that the instructional or research programs are not interrupted," the policy states.

"Upon return from family leave, the faculty member will be assured of the same or equivalent position. A family leave shall not, in itself, adversely affect decisions regarding a faculty member's salary, benefits, tenure or promotion." During all the paid and unpaid leaves, Pitt will continue to pay its share of health, life and disability insurance premiums, and the faculty member will be responsible for his or her portion. "If a faculty member does not return to University employment after the leave, he/she is obligated to reimburse the University for its insurance expenditures during the leave," according to the policy.

The policy includes the following tenure considerations:

* "When a faculty member takes medical or family leave for four calendar months or longer, the academic year in which the leave is taken shall not be counted as a year towards mandatory tenure review. No special request need be made to receive this waiver.

* "When a faculty member becomes a parent by birth or adoption, or takes medical or family leave for less than four months, he or she may request that the year in which the leave is taken or parenthood occurs not count towards the mandatory tenure review. Any such request shall be reviewed by the provost, who shall have the final decision with regard to its approval.

* "Mandatory tenure review may not be delayed by the faculty member for more than three years under this policy." The policy was drafted by a task force of faculty members and administrators representing various academic units, the Provost's office, the Provost's Advisory Committee on Women's Concerns and the University Senate benefits and welfare committee.

The policy exceeds the requirements of the federal Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, which guarantees employees 12 weeks of unpaid leave for the birth or adoption of a child and for the illness of an immediate family member.

The federal law ensures that an employee returning to work after a leave will come back to the same position or an equivalent position that he or she held before. Also under the act, employees are to receive the same benefits and seniority they had before the leave, and employers must continue contributing to the employee's health care insurance during the leave.

— Bruce Steele

Filed under: Feature,Volume 27 Issue 9

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