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  • Writer's pictureMike Zilles

Benefits Explanation: Personal Sick Leave

The first thing to note about personal sick leave, is that the benefit is the same for all members of Units A, B, C, and E.  Each employee receives 14 days of personal sick leave per year. If an employee does not use all of their sick days in a given year, they accumulate and are carried forward to the next year.

The second thing to note is that our contract provides significantly more generous and stronger protections than either federal or state laws. Here are some important ways our benefits are more generous, provide better protection, and in effect supersede federal and state law: (1) To qualify for the federal protections under the Family Medical Leave Act, or FMLA, an employee must work a certain number of hours per year, and many Unit C members, especially elementary aides, do not work enough hours to qualify. Nor do most part time employees.  But the Newton Public Schools contractual sick leave benefit applies to all employees, regardless of the number of hours they work.  The Family Medical Leave Act requires employers to inform employees whether their request for leave qualifies as FMLA leave under federal guidelines. Members are often put off when they receive a letter from HR telling them that they do not qualify for FMLA. But because of the strong contractual sick leave benefit the NTA has negotiated, this really doesn't matter. Not qualifying for FMLA is, practically speaking, irrelevant, because members do qualify for our contractual benefit, and it is much better.  (2) FMLA only guarantees employees unpaid sick time; our contractual benefit provides for that time to be paid, either through a member's own accumulated sick days, or, when those days are exhausted, for serious illness, through access to a sick leave bank.  (3) FMLA only guarantees an employee can take up to 60 working days of unpaid leave per year; our contractual benefit does not have a set limit on how much time a member can be out on paid medical leave. This is assessed on a case by case basis, but in cases of very serious illness, members have sometimes been on paid leave for a year or even more. When members exhaust their own personal sick days, and apply to the sick leave bank, decisions about whether to award days are made by a committee comprising two NTA members and two NPS central administrators. This assures that decisions are fair and member needs are given all due consideration. Some other notable elements of the personal sick leave benefit, in the form of FAQs: 1. Q: What is the difference between a medical leave of absence and a sick day? A: They are effectively the same, except that when you are out for a longer period of time, you will have to provide medical documentation of your illness or injury. 2. Q: How far in advance do I need to provide notice that I am going to be out on medical leave? A: Obviously, there will be times when you can't notify your employer until the day you learn you are sick. In those cases, you simply report in sick, and if you hope you will be able to return to work the next day, that is all you need to do. If you know in advance that you will be out for a medical appointment or procedure, or if it is very clear your illness or injury is going to be make you absent for a lengthier period, as a matter of professionalism, it is best you give as much advance notice as possible of the dates you will be absent. 3. Q: When do I need to provide medical documentation to the district? A: You need to provide medical documentation after you have been out of work at least six (6) consecutive working days.  4. Q: What documentation do I need to provide after six days? A: You can either fill out the FMLA form WH380-E the HR office sends you, or you can simply have your medical professional send medical documentation on letterhead, with a signature that states the professional's specialization, which includes:  1.   Your name 2.   Approximate date the illness or injury commenced, 3.   A description of the injury, illness or medical condition, 4.   A statement that you are not able to perform his/her position, 5.   The expected return to work date. Note that you do not need to provide information on the treatment you are undergoing. Your privacy is protected. 5. Q: What medical professionals can provide documentation? Can my nurse practitioner, for example, write the letter? A: Doctors of medicine or osteopathy, clinical psychologists, physicians' assistants, nurse practitioners, certified nurse-midwives, podiatrists, and clinical social workers can all provide documentation. 6. Q: I get fourteen sick days a year. Am I allowed to use all 14? A: It is very important to note that you can ONLY be absent using personal sick days to cover personal illness. Even though you receive 14 new sick days per year, that does not entitle you to use all 14 sick days per year if you are not actually medically unable to work.  On the other hand, you may use all of those days and more from your own personal banked days and from the sick leave bank, IF you are ill or injured. That said, if you taking a day off for other than medical reasons, and call it a sick day, you expose yourself to possible discipline by the district.  7. Q: Are the rules the same for caring for a family member? A. The benefit described above applies to personal sick leave. Beginning next year, you may use up to 11 of your personal illness days to care for relative or dear friend, but that is the limit. All other rules are the same.



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