Family and Medical Leave Policy

 

Adopted March 13, 2000

 

 

1. A pool of money for replacement pay for faculty members taking family leave shall be established and administered at the provost's level.

 

2. A. When a faculty member takes family leave, the department/unit shall determine, subject to the approval of the Dean and Provost, if it is necessary to offer (all of) the courses scheduled to be taught by the faculty member taking family leave.

 

2. B. If the courses to be covered are sufficiently specialized that only faculty within that unit could teach them, the substituting faculty member shall be compensated from the replacement pool.

 

2. C. The salary for the replacement hire shall be negotiated by the department chair/program director, dean, and provost.

 

3. Faculty who are on family/medical leave must exhaust their accumulated sick leave (an exception being the instance of the adoption of a healthy child, in which case, according to existing policy, sick leave may not be accessed).

 

Once their sick leave is exhausted they may:

 

a. Take the remainder of their allotted 12 weeks on an unpaid basis.

 

OR

 

b. Resume non-teaching duties and receive their regular salary. Non-teaching duties might include such things as supervising graduate students and serving on graduate committees, administrative duties, committee work, and/or other duties designated by the chair.

 

4. The replacement pay pool must be accessed to hire a replacement for a faculty member on leave who requests more than 4 weeks' leave within a consecutive 12 week period.

 

5. For catastrophic illnesses, please refer to the appropriate Handbook of Operating Procedure Policy.

 

Background for the Policy

 

History:

 

The Family Leave Committee originated as a response to the many faculty members who have expressed dissatisfaction with UTA's current family leave policy. Three members of the present committee, Elizabeth Morrow, Laurie Porter, and Joan Rycraft, met with President Witt in June 1999 to discuss faculty concerns about the inequities and inadequacies of the existing policy. President Witt suggested that the Faculty Senate appoint a committee to investigate existing practices, both at UTA and elsewhere across the country, and draft a proposal for suggested changes. At the first Senate meeting of fall 1999 the current Family Leave Committee was appointed, with representation from both faculty (senators and non-senators) and staff.

 

The Family Leave Committee met monthly during the fall semester and weekly since mid-January. We set as our first task educating ourselves about UTA's current policy, which is based on the federal Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, and researching peer institutions (see Appendix I) so that we would be familiar with ways in which other universities have dealt with this issue. It became apparent to us that this is an issue of great concern across the country; in fact, President Clinton addressed his plans for more supportive family leave legislation in his recent State of the Union Address (see Appendix II). The following proposals are a result of our research and lengthy discussions about what is admittedly a very complicated issue.

 

Problems with UTA's current policy;

 

UTA's existing policy, essentially a default policy which complies with the national FMLA (Family and Medical Leave Act), states that all university employees are eligible for up to 12 weeks of family leave per year for certain family reasons (birth of child, adoption or foster care, serious health condition of employee or employee's spouse, child, or parent) provided they have been employed by the University for at least 12 months prior to the commencement of the leave and worked at least 1,250 hours. When on leave, employees must first use their accumulated sick, vacation, and compensatory leave pay (with the exception of the adoption of a child under three years old; sick leave may not be used for adoption unless the child is ill). Then the sick leave pay is exhausted, the remainder of the leave period is unpaid. All employees are guaranteed that taking family/medical leave will not cause them to lose their jobs, which is one of the main intentions of the 1993 federal FMLA.

 

In practice, the committee learned that this policy is administered inconsistently across the University. Some departments and units respond to requests for family/medical leave by hiring a replacement; some cancel that faculty member's courses, if possible; others request that colleagues take up the slack, assuming teaching and administrative duties for the faculty member on leave. The faculty member is thus at the mercy of his/her chair, director, and/or dean and frequently in the awkward position of knowing that his/her leave has placed a burden upon other members of the unit. This is particularly problematic if the faculty member taking leave is an untenured professor. The pressure to return to work as soon as possible (maybe sooner than is advisable, both for personal and health reasons) is considerable.

 

It became clear as we conducted our research that the situation for faculty is unique. Though currently there is one policy for both faculty and staff, the situation for faculty is different from that of staff in three principal ways:

 

        Faculty have nine-month contracts. Technically, we are not under contract during the summer unless we are teaching summer school.

        Faculty do not accrue vacation or compensatory leave.

        Faculty teaching highly specialized courses, supervising graduate students, and the like cannot readily be replaced.

 

Rationales for Provisions of the Policy

 

Rationale for Section 1: This provision would place the allocation of funds at the university rather than the departmental level. This would ensure that family/medical leaves be administrated more consistently across the university and addresses the problem of faculty members dependent upon the good will and largesse of their chairs, directors, and/or deans. It also removes the budgetary constraints that might make it difficult or even impossible for some units to fund such leaves.

 

Rationale for Section 2A: It may not be necessary in every case to offer all of the courses scheduled to be taught by the faculty member on family leave. The decision concerning what seeds to be offered should be made on a case-by-case basis by the department or unit.

 

Rationale for Section 2B: This provision addresses the inequity of requesting faculty to assume additional teaching responsibilities without compensation. It also addresses the problem of finding replacement hires for highly specialized courses.

 

Rationale for Section 2C: It is important that the salary for the replacement hire be equitable. The chair, director, or dean would be aware of salary ranges for that field, and the provost would provide the university-wide perspective.

 

Rationale for Section 3B: Faculty cannot be forced to take their full 12 weeks' leave. Many may not be able to afford unpaid leave. Thus after they have exhausted their sick leave, they may feel their only financially viable option is to return to work. Additionally, resuming non-teaching duties takes the burden off the department or unit and allows the faculty member to contribute. Also, allowing the replacement hire to complete teaching the assigned course(s) provides continuity for students whose semester could be disrupted by having two different professors teach their course.

 

Rationale for Section 4: The committee feels that a leave period of more than 4 weeks would place a hardship on both students and the colleagues asked to assume the on-leave faculty member's duties and that a replacement should be procured for the entire semester. This would allow for continuity in the classroom and prevent other colleagues from being pressured to take on additional long-term responsibilities.

 

Advantages of these changes:

 

1. These proposals are in the best interest of our students on several counts. While having a short-term substitute is not necessarily disruptive, to have a substitute for four weeks or longer and then having the original faculty member return does not provide for consistency in course content, objectives, grading, and the like.

 

Students will also not be well served by a) faculty members teaching an overload for absent colleagues, in that they may be over-worked and/or not fully prepared to teach a highly specific course or b) faculty on leave who return to teaching before they are physically or psychologically ready because they don't want to burden their colleagues.

 

2. A humane, realistic family/medical leave policy would increase the professional quality of life of the faculty and increase our chances of recruiting and retaining top faculty.

 

3. Faculty should not have to choose between their jobs and their families. This policy is a reasonable, good-faith effort to provide for the needs of faculty without sacrificing curricular and programmatic needs. It also ensures the continuity necessary to maintain a high quality education for our students.