The university endeavors to provide a work environment that affirms staff members in their roles as members of the university community, family members, and individuals. Certain life events such as a staff member's illness, disability or injury, a family member's illness, or the birth or adoption of a child are particularly significant. For this reason, the university strives to reasonably accommodate the needs of staff members for periods away from work. It has adopted human resources policies and benefits that support staff members and their families.
It is the policy of the university to authorize leaves of absence for staff members with qualifying personal and family medical circumstances, as specified in the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the Washington State Paid Family and Medical Leave Act, other relevant statutes and regulations, and institutional policies. Such leaves shall be administered in accordance with applicable laws, regulations, and related institutional procedures and policies.
All staff members who have been employed one (1) year and who have worked at least 1,250 hours in the twelve-month period immediately preceding the start of the leave are eligible to apply for FMLA leaves.
On January 1, 2020, all staff members who have worked at least 820 hours in the preceding 4 full calendar quarters will be eligible to receive paid Washington State Family and Medical Leave. The state legislature passed the Washington State Paid Family and Medical Leave program in 2017. It offers staff the opportunity to receive partial wage replacement while on approved leave. Staff and the university will be taxed through payroll deductions beginning on January 1, 2019, to fund this state-administered program. Staff can apply for state-paid FMLA leave, or staff can use Puget Sound provided paid time off benefits (e.g., sick leave, vacation, floating holiday, etc.) to pay for time off work during an approved FMLA leave. However, staff will not be able to receive both state benefits and Puget Sound benefits at the same time.
Staff Member Medical Leave
An approved absence is given to eligible staff members for up to twelve (12) workweeks of leave (combined paid and unpaid) in a rolling twelve-month period due to a staff member's serious health condition. Staff member medical leave may be taken when the staff member cannot perform the functions of his or her position because of a serious health condition. Staff member medical leave may be extended beyond the FMLA entitlement period subject to this policy's provisions regarding extensions. Also, see notes following Parental Leave.
Family Medical Leave
An approved absence is given to eligible staff members for up to twelve (12) workweeks of leave (combined paid and unpaid) in a rolling twelve-month period due to a staff member's need to care for a child, spouse, or parent with a serious health condition. Family medical leave may be taken when the staff member is needed to care for a child, spouse, or parent who has a serious health condition.
An approved absence is given to eligible staff members for up to twelve (12) workweeks of leave (combined paid and unpaid) in a rolling twelve-month period to care for a newborn child or a newly-placed adopted or foster child. FMLA parental leave must be taken within twelve (12) months of a child's birth or the placement of a foster or adopted child. When the university employs both spouses, a total of twelve (12) workweeks will be shared between the two staff members for this kind of leave.
Note: When an eligible female staff member takes an FMLA leave for no longer than the actual period of disability associated with pregnancy or childbirth (e.g., usually 6-8 weeks), the balance of her twelve (12) workweek FMLA entitlement (e.g., usually 4-6 weeks), falls under the FMLA parental leave guidelines. The FMLA parental leave initiation also initiates the female staff member's twelve (12) workweeks of Washington State Family Leave. As a result, the balance of the female staff member's FMLA parental leave and her Washington State Family Leave may run concurrently for a period of time. Once the female staff member's FMLA entitlement is exhausted, her leave conditions are governed by State law.
The actual length of a staff member's FMLA entitlement during a staff member's medical leave, a family medical leave, or a parental leave might be shorter than twelve (12) workweeks if prior FMLA leaves were taken during the previous twelve (12) month period.
Rolling Twelve-month Period
For all types of leaves of absence under the FMLA, the rolling twelve-month period is measured backward from the date the staff member requests to use any FMLA eligible leave (either paid or unpaid). Thus, each time a staff member takes an FMLA eligible leave, the remaining leave entitlement would balance the twelve (12) workweeks, which has not been used during the preceding twelve (12) months.
A biological, adopted, or foster child, a step-child, a legal ward, or a child of a person standing in loco parentis, who is either under 18 years of age or 18 years of age or older and incapable of self-care because of a mental or physical disability.
Includes (a) being treated two or more times by a health care provider; (b) being treated two or more times by a provider of health care services on referral from, or under the orders of a health care provider; (c) being treated at least once by a health care provider with a resultant regimen of continuing treatment under the supervision of the health care provider, or (d) being under the continuing supervision but not being actively treated by a health care provider due to a serious long-term or chronic condition.
Group Health Plan
Any plan of, or contributed to by the university, provides health care, including medical care, surgical care, hospital care, dental care, eye care, mental health counseling, and substance abuse treatment.
Health Care Provider
A doctor of medicine or osteopathy who is authorized to practice medicine or surgery by the state in which the doctor practices; podiatrists, dentists, clinical psychologists, optometrists, and chiropractors (limited to treatment consisting of manual manipulation of the spine to correct a subluxation as demonstrated by x-ray to exist); nurse practitioners, nurse midwives and clinical social workers performing within the scope of their practice as allowed by state law; Christian Science practitioners; or any other health care provider from whom the university's group health plan will accept the certification of a serious health condition to substantiate a claim for insurance benefits.
Serious Health Condition
A serious health condition means an illness, injury, impairment, or physical or mental condition that involves one of the following:
An overnight stay in a university, hospice, or residential medical care facility, including any period of incapacity or subsequent treatment in connection with or consequent to such inpatient care.
Absence Plus Treatment
Any period of incapacity of more than three (3) consecutive calendar days (including any subsequent treatment or period of incapacity relating to the same condition) that also involves:
- Treatment two or more times by a health care provider, by a nurse or physician's assistant under the direct supervision of a health care provider, or by a provider of health care services (physical therapy) under the orders of, or on referral by, a health care provider; or
- Treatment by a health care provider on at least one occasion results in a regimen of continuing treatment under a healthcare provider's supervision.
Any period of incapacity due to pregnancy or for prenatal care.
Chronic Conditions Requiring Treatments
A chronic condition which:
- Requires periodic visits for treatment by a health care provider or by a nurse or physician's assistant under the direct supervision of a health care provider;
- Continues over an extended period of time (including recurring episodes of a single underlying condition); and
- May cause episodic rather than a continuing period of incapacity (e.g., asthma, diabetes, epilepsy, etc.).
Permanent/Long-Term Conditions Requiring Supervision
A period of incapacity is permanent or long-term due to a condition for which treatment may not be effective. The staff member or family member must be under the continuing supervision of, but need not be receiving active treatment by, a health care provider (e.g., Alzheimer's, a severe stroke, or the terminal stages of a disease).
Multiple Treatments (Non-chronic Conditions)
Any period of absence to receive multiple treatments (including any period of recovery therefrom) by a health care provider or by a provider of health care services under orders of, or on referral by, a health care provider, either for restorative surgery after an accident or other injury, or for a condition that would likely result in a period of incapacity of more than three (3) consecutive calendar days in the absence of medical intervention or treatment, such as cancer (chemotherapy, radiation, etc.), severe arthritis (physical therapy), kidney disease (dialysis).
Note: A "period of incapacity" is when the staff member or family member is unable to work, attend school, or perform other regular daily activities due to the serious health condition, treatment, therefore, or recovery therefrom.
"Treatment" as used in the definition of serious health condition includes examinations to determine if a serious health condition exists and evaluations of the condition. Treatment does not include routine physical examinations, eye examinations, or dental examinations.
A "regimen of continuing treatment" includes, for example, a course of prescription medication (e.g., an antibiotic) or therapy requiring special equipment to resolve or alleviate the health condition. A treatment regimen does not include taking over-the-counter medication such as aspirin, antihistamines, or salves; or bed rest, drinking fluids, exercise, and other similar activities that can be initiated without a visit to a health care provider.
On-the-job injuries or occupational illnesses covered by workers' compensation may qualify as serious health conditions depending upon their severity and duration.
Generally, a cold, the flu, earaches, upset stomachs, minor ulcers, sunburn, headaches (other than migraines), periodontal disease, stress (other than mental illness resulting from stress), or allergies are not considered serious health conditions. Absences in these circumstances should be handled under the "Paid Sick Leave" policy in this manual section.
Voluntary or cosmetic treatments that are not medically necessary are specifically not covered under staff member medical leave unless inpatient hospital care is required. Absences in such circumstances should be handled under the "Personal Leaves of Absence" policy in this manual section.
A husband or wife as defined or recognized under applicable state law.
A staff member's biological adopted or foster parent. A person standing in loco parentis to the staff member. It does not include a staff member's mother- or father-in-law.
Unpaid Leave Status
A staff member who has no sick hours, vacation, or holiday leave hours available to use during their FMLA leave of absence.
Staff members who have worked at least twelve (12) months (52 nonconsecutive workweeks) and a minimum of 1,250 hours of work during the twelve (12) month period preceding the start of the leave are eligible for leave under the FMLA. The time paid for but not worked, like sick, vacation, holiday, or bonus day.
Note: Staff members who do not meet these eligibility requirements may, nevertheless, be granted leave due to personal illness, injury, or disability (including pregnancy-related disability) as a reasonable accommodation (see the "Disability Leave" policy in this section of the manual). Such staff members should contact Human Resources for assistance. Such leaves may be given on different terms and conditions than an FMLA eligible leave. Generally, staff members ineligible for FMLA leaves will need to continue insurance at their own cost, and the duration of their leave, as well as reinstatement conditions, will be determined under reasonable accommodation principles.
Basic Regulations and Conditions of FMLA Leaves
Staff members may request an FMLA staff member medical leave, family medical leave, or parental leave by submitting a written request for such leave or completing a "Leave of Absence Request" form, subject to the notice and certification requirements detailed these procedures and applicable regulations.
Staff Member Medical Leave
The university may require medical certification to support FMLA leaves' request due to a staff member's own serious health condition. For an FMLA staff member medical leave, the certification must include a statement that the staff member cannot perform the essential functions of his or her position. The university may require, at its discretion and expense, a second medical opinion. If the first and second opinions differ, the university may require, at its expense, the binding opinion of a third health care provider, who will be chosen jointly by the university and the staff member. The university may also require periodic recertification during the leave.
If certified as medically necessary due to the staff member's serious health condition, FMLA staff member medical leave may be taken on an intermittent or reduced leave schedule. Absences on an intermittent or reduced schedule basis will be counted against the twelve (12) workweek FMLA entitlement for such time actually absent from work. If leave is requested on this basis, however, the university may require the staff member to temporarily transfer to an alternative position that better accommodates the recurring periods of absence or part-time schedule, provided that the staff member receives equivalent pay and benefits.
Family Medical Leave
The university may require medical certification to support a staff member's request for FMLA leave to care for a child, spouse, or parent with a serious health condition. The certification must include a statement that the staff member is needed to care for the family member and must include an estimate of the amount of time the staff member is needed to provide care. The university may require, at its discretion and expense, a second medical opinion. If the first and second opinions differ, the university may require, at its expense, the binding opinion of a third health care provider, who will be chosen jointly by the university and the staff member. The university may also require periodic recertification during the leave.
If certified as medically necessary due to the staff member's serious health condition, child, or parent, FMLA family medical leave may be taken on an intermittent or reduced leave schedule. Absences on an intermittent or reduced schedule basis will only be counted against the twelve (12) workweek entitlement for such time actually absent from work. If leave is requested on this basis, however, the university may require the staff member to temporarily transfer to an alternative position that better accommodates the recurring periods of absence or part-time schedule, provided that the position has equivalent pay and benefits.
Staff members who request FMLA parental leaves may be required to provide reasonable documentation of family relationships. If the university consents, FMLA parental leave may be taken on an intermittent or reduced leave schedule.
Absences on an intermittent or reduced schedule basis will only be counted against the twelve (12) workweek entitlement for such time actually absent from work. Spouses who are both employed by the university are limited to a combined total of twelve (12) workweeks of FMLA parental leave (both paid and unpaid) for the birth, placement for adoption, or foster care of a child.
Notification and Reporting Requirements
When the need for any FMLA leave is foreseeable, such as a staff member's or family member's planned medical treatment or the birth, adoption, or foster placement of a child, the staff member must provide at least thirty (30) days prior notice, make efforts to schedule the leave so as not to disrupt the university's operations and provide any required medical certification before the leave begins. If the need for the leave, or its approximate timing, is not foreseeable, a staff member must provide notice as soon as practicable under the facts and circumstances of the particular case and will generally be given fifteen (15) days to provide any required medical certifications.
The staff member also may be required to report periodically while on leave of his or her continuing need for leave and intention to return to work. Staff members on FMLA medical leave because of their own serious health condition also may be required to provide a fitness-for-duty report from a health care provider as a condition of their return from leave.
The medical information provided to the university to comply with the medical certification and fitness-for-duty certification requirements will be held in the staff member's confidential medical file. It will not be the basis for any personnel action or decisions other than those related to the FMLA medical leave or reasonable accommodation.
Status of Pay and Insurance Benefits During FMLA Leaves
Paid Leave Status
A staff member on an approved FMLA leave will continue to be covered under the university's flexible benefits plan on the same conditions as coverage would have been provided if the staff member had been continuously employed during the FMLA entitlement period. Flexible benefits plan charges normally paid by the staff member will also apply to staff members on leave.
During paid leave status, the university and the staff member will also continue their respective contributions to the staff member's other group insurance benefits (e.g., life, long-term disability, accidental death, and dismemberment.
Staff members taking FMLA staff member medical leaves or family medical leaves due to their own or their children's serious health conditions are required to use accrued sick leave hours to the extent available. Once sick leave is exhausted, or sick leave is not available, such staff members must use any accrued vacation benefits. Once those benefits are exhausted, the balance of such leaves is unpaid.
Staff members taking FMLA parental leaves to care for a newborn child, a newly adopted or placed foster child, or FMLA family medical leaves to care for a spouse or parent with a serious health condition are required to use any accrued vacation benefits to the extent available. Once those benefits are exhausted, the balance of such leaves is unpaid.
Unpaid Leave Status
If a staff member does not have or exhausts applicable paid leave during his or her FMLA leave, the absence will be unpaid. During the unpaid portion of the FMLA leave, the university will continue its usual contributions toward the staff member's flexible benefits plan. In this circumstance, the staff member must make arrangements with Human Resources to cover his or her portion of any group health or any other group insurance premiums.
Note: If a staff member elects not to return to work upon completion of any FMLA leave, the university will request repayment from the staff member for payments made to maintain the staff member's insurance coverage, unless the failure to return to work was for reasons beyond the staff member's control.
Reinstatement from Leave
A staff member returning from an FMLA leave before or after the FMLA entitlement period is entitled to be returned to the same position that the staff member held when the leave commenced or to an equivalent position with equivalent benefits, pay, and other terms and conditions of employment. However, a staff member has no greater right to reinstatement or other benefits and employment conditions than if the staff member had been continuously employed during the FMLA leave period. Thus, if the staff member had been laid off had the staff member not been on FMLA leave, the staff member would be subject to a layoff while on leave. If a shift was eliminated or overtime has been decreased, a staff member is not entitled to return to work on that shift or the original overtime hours upon reinstatement.
Denial of Reinstatement
The university will make a reasonable effort to reinstate staff members from FMLA leaves; however, the university reserves the right to deny reinstatement to staff members who fail to provide the required fitness-for-duty certification. A staff member whose medical leave of absence is necessitated by their own serious health condition will be required to provide medical certification of fitness to return to work.
Recovery of Insurance Premiums for Failure to Return from Leave
As limited by applicable regulations, the university retains the right to recover premiums paid by the university to continue insurance coverage for a staff member. At the same time, on FMLA leave, if the staff member fails to return to work after the FMLA leave entitlement is exhausted or expires.
Extensions Beyond the FMLA Entitlement Period
Extensions of Staff Member Medical Leaves
Staff member medical leaves may be extended beyond the FMLA entitlement period as a reasonable accommodation to eligible staff members. Generally, staff member medical leaves are not extended beyond six (6) months. Requests should be made as soon as the need for an extension is known and supported by medical certification.
Staff members may continue their group health/dental coverage through COBRA by self-paying premiums during such extensions.
Extension requests are evaluated on a case-by-case basis using principles of reasonable accommodation and undue hardship. Whether an eligible staff member's position will continue to be held during the extension of their medical leave will be evaluated on the same basis. Factors considered may include the length of the extension, the prognosis for eventually returning to work, the nature of the staff member's job, the costs of temporary coverage, the impact on coworkers and the university of temporary coverage, and the impact of the extension on the department's operations. If a staff member's position cannot be held due to undue hardship, the staff member will be considered for reappointment to another vacant position upon providing medical certification of his or her fitness to return to work after the extended leave.
If no vacancy exists or the staff member is unable to return at the end of the extension, the staff member will be separated from employment and kept apprised of other vacancies for which they are qualified. Staff members and former staff members who decline offers of reemployment will no longer be eligible for reappointment. Staff members on extended medical leaves may be laid off if they would have been subject to a layoff had they not been on leave.
Extensions of Family Medical Leave
Staff members who have exhausted their FMLA entitlement and who need additional leave time to care for a spouse, parent, or child with a serious health condition will need to request a personal leave of absence (see the "Personal Leaves of Absence" policy in this section of the manual). Personal leaves may be granted on different terms and conditions than FMLA leaves.
Extensions of Parental Leave
Staff members who have exhausted their FMLA entitlement and desire additional leave to care for newborn or newly placed adoptive or foster children will need to request personal leaves of absence (see the "Personal Business Leave" policy in this section of the manual). Personal leaves may be granted on different terms and conditions than FMLA leaves.
Origination Date: 1996