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Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) Policy

Purpose

Columbia College values its employees and recognizes the challenges employees can face when it comes to balancing work and personal responsibilities.  Accordingly, this College policy adopts the provisions of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) that in summary, allows eligible employees in some instances (described in detail below) up to twelve (12) weeks of unpaid, job protected leave per year.  Set forth in this policy is information and guidance for employees regarding the College’s FMLA policy.

Scope

This policy applies to College employees 

Policy

In general, the FMLA entitles qualified employees to take up to twelve (12) weeks of unpaid leave during the applicable twelve-month period for the birth or adoption of a child, to care for a spouse or an immediate family member with a serious health condition, for the employee’s own serious health condition, or for a “qualified exigency” that results from a family member’s active military duty or call to active military duty; and up to twenty-six (26) weeks of unpaid leave during the applicable twelve-month period for the care of a covered service member injured in the line of active military service. 

The College calculates FMLA leave on a rolling calendar basis.  This means that an employee’s use of FMLA leave is calculated based on any twelve-month period from the first use of such leave.

Eligibility

To be eligible for FMLA leave, an employee must:

  • Have been employed for at least twelve (12) months with the College prior to the start of the leave; and
  • Have worked at least 1,250 hours during the twelve-month period preceding the start of the leave; and
  • Be employed at a worksite where 50 or more employees are employed within 75 miles of that worksite.

Columbia College will extend FMLA leave benefits to all Adult Higher Education (AHE) campus locations, though some AHE campus locations may not be covered by the FMLA.  This policy shall not be viewed as a waiver of any of the College’s rights with respect to such leave.  Although all campuses locations are eligible for leave, each employee must still meet the individual requirements. 

All employees who meet the applicable eligibility requirements may be granted a total of twelve (12) weeks of FMLA leave for the following reasons: 

  • The birth of the employee's child and in order to care for the child;
  • The placement of a child with the employee for adoption or foster care;
  • To care for a spouse, child, or parent who has a serious health condition;
  • A serious health condition that renders the employee incapable of performing the functions of his or her job; or
  • For a "qualifying exigency" that results from the active military duty or call to active military duty of an employee's spouse, son, daughter, or parent ("Active Duty Leave").

The benefit to leave for the birth or placement of a child for adoption or foster care expires twelve (12) months from the date of the birth or placement.

Employees who meet the applicable eligibility requirements ("eligible employees"), may be granted a total of twenty-six (26) weeks of FMLA leave during a single twelve (12) month period for the care of a covered service member injured in the line of active military service ("Military Caregiver Leave"). 

Provisions Specific to Military Leave

Military Caregiver Leave

  • For purposes of Military Caregiver Leave, an eligible employee is the spouse, son, daughter, parent, or next of kin of a covered service member.
  • A "covered service member" is: (1) a current member of the Armed Forces who is undergoing medical treatment, recuperation, or therapy, is otherwise in outpatient status, or is otherwise on the temporary disability retired list, for a serious injury or illness; or (2) a veteran who was discharged or released under conditions other than dishonorable at any time during the five-year period prior to the first day the eligible employee takes FMLA leave to care for the covered veteran, and who is undergoing medical treatment , recuperation, or therapy for a serious injury or illness.
  • Eligible employees may take no more than twenty-six (26) weeks of Military Caregiver Leave in a twelve (12) month period for all FMLA-qualifying reasons. In other words, if an employee takes the full twenty-six (26) weeks of Military Caregiver Leave in a twelve (12) month period, the employee is not entitle to any additional FMLA leave for another qualifying reason (such as his or her own serious health condition) during the same twelve (12) month period.
  • The Military Caregiver Leave that may be taken by spouses who work for Columbia College is limited to a combined total of twenty-six (26) workweeks during any twelve (12) month period if leave is taken for birth or placement for adoption or foster care, to care for the employee's parent with a serious health condition, or to care for a covered service member with a serious injury or illness. This limitation applies even if the spouses work at different work sites or in different departments of Columbia College.

Active Duty Leave

The College provides Active Duty Leave, as part of FMLA leave, for “qualifying exigencies” as that term is defined in 29 C.F.R. § 825.126.  Active Duty Leave allows for employees to take FMLA leave for a variety of situations when an employee’s spouse, son, daughter or parent is on active duty or call to active duty status as defined by 29 C.F.R. §825.126(b)(2).  Relevant family/military members are referred to as “covered military members.”  Qualifying exigencies include the following:

  • Issues arising from a covered military member's short notice deployment (i.e., deployment on seven (7) or less days of notice) for a period of seven (7) days from the date of notification;
  • Military events and related activities such as official ceremonies, programs, or events sponsored by the military or family support or assistance programs and informational briefings sponsored or promoted by the military, military service organizations, or the American Red Cross that are related to the active duty or call to active duty status of a covered military member;
  • Certain childcare and related activities arising from the active duty or call to active duty status of a covered military member, such as arranging for alternative childcare, providing childcare on a non-routine, urgent, immediate need basis, enrolling or transferring a child in a new school or day care facility, and attending certain meetings at a school or a day care facility if they are necessary due to circumstances arising from the active duty or call to active duty of the covered military member; 
  • Making or updating financial and legal arrangements to address a covered military member's absence;
  • Attending counseling provided by someone other than a health care provider for oneself, the covered military member, or the child of the covered military member, the need for which arises from the active duty or call to active duty status of the covered military member;
  • Taking up to fifteen (15) days of leave to spend time with a covered military member who is on short-term temporary rest and recuperation leave during deployment;
  • Attending to certain post-deployment activities, including attending arrival ceremonies, reintegration briefings and events, and other official ceremonies or programs sponsored by the military for a period of ninety (90) days following the termination of the covered military member's active duty status, and addressing issues arising from the death of a covered military member;
  • Any other event that the employee and the College agree is a qualifying exigency.

Columbia College may require documentation of an employee's need for Active Duty Leave.

FMLA leave is unpaid leave. If FMLA leave is requested for an employee's own serious health condition, or for the serious health condition of the employee's spouse, child, parent, or covered service member, the employee must use all his or her accrued paid sick leave and accrued paid vacation leave that shall run concurrently beginning with the start date of any approved FMLA leave period. For any of the other reasons listed in this policy, the employee must use all his or her accrued paid sick leave and accrued paid vacation leave that shall run concurrently beginning with the start date of any approved FMLA leave period.  In both cases, the paid leave runs concurrently with the FMLA leave, so that the period of FMLA leave is no more than twelve (12) weeks (or twenty-six (26) weeks in the case of Military Caregiver Leave).

FMLA leave that may be taken by spouses who both work for the College is limited to a combined total of twelve (12) work weeks during any twelve (12) month period if leave is taken for birth and bonding, placement for adoption or foster care and bonding, or to care for a parent with a serious health condition. This limitation applies even if the spouses work at different work locations or in different departments of the College. This limitation does not apply to leave taken by either spouse to care for the other who is seriously ill and unable to work, to care for a child or a parent with a serious health condition, or for his or her own serious illness. 

Requesting Leave

An employee intending to take FMLA leave because of the expected birth or placement of a child for adoption or foster care, or because of a planned medical treatment, must submit an application for leave at least thirty (30) calendar days before the leave is to begin.

If leave is to begin within thirty (30) calendar days, an employee must give notice to his or her immediate supervisor and the Human Resources Office and complete a Leave of Absence Application as soon as the necessity for the leave arises.

Medical Certification

Based on the serious health condition of the employee; the employee's spouse, child, or parent; or a covered service member, a Medical Certification Statement must be completed by the employee’s health-care provider and returned to the College’s Human Resources Department. The employee must ensure the treating physician provides the medical certification within fifteen (15) calendar days of the requested FMLA leave, unless it is not practical to do so under the circumstances, in which case the employee must provide the Medical Certification Statement must be provided to the Human Resources Office as soon as the necessity for the leave arises.                                                                         

For the College to evaluate a request for FMLA leave, the Medical Certification Statement must be completed in its entirety, stating the date on which the health condition commenced, the probable duration of the condition, and the appropriate medical facts regarding the condition. It must also contain the signatures of the appropriate individuals as listed on the certification forms.  If the Medical Certification Statement is incomplete, the College may not be able to evaluate the request and may not be able to determine eligibly and it may be returned to the employee to be completed by the health care provider.                                                                                       

If the employee is needed to care for a spouse, child, parent, or covered service member, the certification must state this need, along with an estimate of the amount of leave the employee will be taking. If the employee has a serious health condition, the certification must state that the employee cannot perform the functions of his or her job.                                                                                    

The Medical Certification Statement is provided to the College by the employee’s health care provider at the employee's expense. The College may require the employee to obtain a second medical opinion from a health-care provider selected by the College, at the expense of the College. The College may require a third opinion, again at the expense of the College, from a health-care provider mutually agreed upon by the College and the employee.  In this case, the third medical opinion will be the determinant.

Second and third opinions and recertification are not permitted for certification of a covered service member’s serious injury or illness.  The College may use a health care provider, a human resource professional, a leave administrator, or a management official – but not the employee’s direct supervisor – to authenticate or clarify a medical certification of a serious injury or illness. 

Active Duty Leave Certification

Leave for a qualifying exigency may be supported by a copy of the covered military member’s active duty orders and certification providing the appropriate facts related to the particular qualifying exigency for which leave is sought, including contact information if the leave involves meeting with a third party.  Second and third opinions and recertification are not permitted for certification of a qualifying exigency. The College may contact the individual or entity named in a certification of leave for a qualifying exigency for purposes of verifying the existence and nature of the meeting.

Approval/Denial Notification Process

Upon receipt of a properly completed Leave of Absence Application and the Medical Certification Statement forms and/or documentation supporting a request for Active Duty Leave, the Human Resources Office will process the request.  The Human Resources Office will then complete an “Employer Response to Employee Request for Family Medical Leave” if the leave is approved.  If the leave is not approved, the Human Resources Office will notify the employee that the leave was denied.

Intermittent Leave or Reduced Workweek

An employee taking leave for the birth of a child, or because of placement or adoption or foster care of a child, may take FMLA leave intermittently or by working a reduced workweek only with the approval of the College. An employee may apply to use FMLA leave intermittently or by working a reduced workweek, whenever medically necessary, to care for a seriously ill family member, covered service member, or because of the employee's own serious health condition. These conditions must be verified by the health-care provider on the Medical Certification Statement.  Employees may also apply to take Active Duty Leave intermittently.

Benefits Coverage during Leave

During a period of FMLA leave, an employee is retained on the College health plan under the same conditions that applied before leave commenced. If the employee has enrolled his or her dependent(s) in the College’s health plan, he or she must pay the appropriate premium by the first day of each month or dependent coverage may be terminated within thirty (30) days following the past due date of the premium.  If the employee fails to return to work after the expiration of the FMLA leave, the employee is required to reimburse the College for payment of health insurance premiums during the FMLA leave, unless the reason the employee fails to return is the presence of a serious health condition that prevents the employee from performing his or her job or is due to other circumstances beyond the employee's control.

Return to Employment

An employee must notify Human Resources before he or she can be returned to active employment status. If an employee wishes to return to work prior to the expiration of an FMLA leave of absence, notification must be given to his or her immediate supervisor and the Human Resources Office at least two (2) working days prior to the employee's planned return. A Return to Work note is required from the treating physician to release an employee back to work following FMLA leave for their own serious health condition.

During the period of approved FMLA leave, the employee is required to report biweekly to his or her immediate supervisor in regard to the employee's anticipated return to work.  During the period of approved FMLA leave the employee is not permitted to work.

Restoration to Employment Following Leave

An employee eligible for FMLA leave – with the exception of those employees designated as key employees – will be restored to his or her position prior to the leave or to a position with equivalent pay, benefits, and other terms and conditions of employment. The College cannot guarantee that an employee will be returned to his or her original job.

A key employee eligible for FMLA leave may or may not be restored to his or her previous position or to an equivalent position (i.e., a position with equivalent pay, benefits, and other terms and conditions of employment) depending on the College's judgment regarding whether such reinstatement would cause substantial and grievous economic injury to the College.

The determination of whether a position is an "equivalent position" and whether reinstatement will cause substantial and grievous economic injury is made by the College. Key employees are informed of the possibility of non-reinstatement prior to the beginning of their leave.

Failure to Return from Leave

The failure of an employee to return to work upon the expiration of an FMLA leave of absence will subject the employee to immediate termination unless an extension is granted.  An employee who requests an extension of FMLA leave due to the continuation, recurrence, or onset of his or her own serious health condition or of the serious health condition of the employee's spouse, child, or parent, must submit a request for an extension, in writing, to the Human Resources Office.  The written request must be made as soon as the employee realizes that he or she will not be able to return at the expiration of the approved FMLA leave period. 

Making Up FMLA Leave

Employees are permitted to make up used FMLA time within the same workweek (Monday through Sunday). Regularly scheduled work missed due to FMLA leave will still be counted toward the employee's FMLA entitlement. Make up time is allowed to recover lost wages. For each week that employees make up FMLA, time must be reported to their supervisor and Human Resources.

Questions regarding this policy may be directed to Human Resources at humanresources@ccis.edu or via phone at 573-875-7495.

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