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Staff Box

Human Resources Frequently Asked Questions...

...About the Family and Medical Leave Policy (HR Policy 631)

Q1: What is the Family and Medical Leave Act?
A1: The Family and Medical Leave Act ("FMLA") is a federal law that became effective on August 5, 1993. Implementing regulations were issued in March of 1995. The FMLA provides up to twelve (12) weeks of unpaid leave in a twelve (12) month period for an eligible employee to care for a newborn, adopted or newly placed foster child, or to attend to his/her own or a family member's serious health condition. In addition, the FMLA permits employees to maintain their medical benefits while on such leave. FMLA can be taken continuously or in smaller amounts, i.e., intermittently, depending on the reason for the leave.
Q2: When did the University Policy take effect?
A2: In compliance with federal law in 1993, the University established Human Resource Policy 631, Family Medical Leave. Effective February 1, 1998, the University restated its Family and Medical Leave policy. The restatement of the policy includes the following practices that the University has been following in administering the policy:
Inclusion of faculty and unionized staff members as eligible employees.
Use of the "rolling backward" method for determining the 12-month period for purposes of the eligibility for a Family and Medical Leave.
Expansion of the benefit beyond the requirements of the federal law to allow the use of Family and Medical Leave time for a same sex domestic partner consistent with the University's definition of a same sex domestic partnership.
Q3: Who is eligible for Family and Medical Leave (FML)?
A3: Eligible employees are those who have been employed by the University for at least twelve (12) months and have worked for at least 1,250 hours during the 12-month period immediately preceding the start of the leave. Additionally, the employee must work at a University location with 50 or more employees within 75 miles of that worksite.
Q4: Who is an employee covered by this policy?
A4: An employee is a faculty or staff member employed by the University on a full-time, part- time or temporary basis.
Q5: Are temporary employees eligible for this leave?
A5: Yes. However, employees that are employed by the University on a temporary basis must meet the eligibility requirements.
Q6: Are staff members in collective bargaining units covered by this policy?
A6: Yes, although specific provisions of this policy may be superseded by an applicable collective bargaining agreement.
Q7: Will I be paid during FML?
A7: A leave under the Family and Medical Leave Policy may be paid or unpaid depending on 1) the reason for the leave and 2) the sick leave and paid time off the staff member has available. When an employee takes FML because of the employee's own serious medical condition, the employee must substitute any unused paid time off, sick leave or short term disability leave for any otherwise unpaid FML.
Where an employee has paid time off, the employee must substitute that paid time off for all or part of any otherwise unpaid FML relating to the birth of a child or placement of a child for adoption for foster care, or care for a spouse, child or parent who has a serious health condition. In all other cases, accrued sick leave may be substituted for any otherwise unpaid FML leave if sick leave is permitted under the University's Sick Leave Policy. See Sick Leave policies (Human Resource Policies 612 and 613).
Q8: Do I have the option not to use my paid time off towards my FML?
A8: No. The University will designate an employee's use of paid leave as FML based on the information provided by the employee. Paid leave that is substituted for unpaid leave will be counted toward the 12 weeks of FML.
Q9: How is "serious health condition" defined?
A9: A serious health condition is an illness, injury, impairment, or physical or mental condition that involves either:
1) inpatient care in a hospital, hospice or residential medical care facility, or
2) continuing treatment by a health care provider.
Q10: What is meant by "continuing treatment by a health care provider" as a qualification for use of FML?
A10: Examples of continuous treatment are: prenatal visits, chemotherapy, and dialysis visits.
 
Q11: For which of my family members may I take FML?
A11: FML may be taken for the employee's child, spouse or same sex domestic partner or parent. For purposes of this policy, a parent means the biological parent of an employee or an individual who stands or stood in the place of a parent to an employee when the employee was a child. A child means a biological, adopted, or foster child, a stepchild, a legal ward, or a child of a person standing in the place of a parent, who is under 18 years of age or 18 years of age or older and incapable of self-care because of a mental or physical disability. A same sex domestic partnership must be consistent with the University's definition of a same sex domestic partnership.
 
Q12: How are my benefits affected while I am on a FML?
A12: During any FML, the University will maintain the employee's medical, dental, life and disability insurance coverage on the same conditions that coverage would have been provided if the employee had been continuously employed during the entire leave period. The University and the employee will each continue to pay their portion of the benefit costs. In some instances, the University may recover premiums it paid to maintain health coverage for an employee who fails to return to work from FML on a prorated basis.
Q13: What type of notice am I expected to provide to the University if I need to take FML?
 
A13: Employees seeking FML are required to provide their supervisors and the University's Division of Human Resources at least 30 days prior written notice of the proposed leave. Where advance notice is not possible, such as in the event of a medical emergency, notice should be given as soon as practicable. In practice "as practicable" means at least verbal notification within two business days after the employee becomes aware of the need for leave unless it is not feasible. Failure to give advance notice where foreseeable may delay or postpone the commencement of the leave. Please contact the Division of Human Resources or see our web site http://www.hr.upenn.edu for the applicable forms.
Q14: What kind of medical documentation will be required when I request a leave?
A14: Similar to a request for short term disability, if FML is based on a serious health condition, whether it involves the employee or a family member (parent, spouse, domestic partner or child), medical certification from a health care provider will be required. Failure to provide such certification may result in a delay or denial of the employee's leave. Where the University requires an employee to provide a medical certification, that certification must be provided within twenty (20) calendar days of the University's request.
Q15: Do I have to provide any medical documentation when I return to work?
A15: When returning to work from a leave taken because of the employee's own serious health condition, the employee will be required to provide medical certification that the employee is fit to return to work. Additionally, in certain instances an employee may be required to undergo a return to work physical. Please contact your supervisor or the Division of Human Resources/Benefits for available medical certifications forms.
Q16: Is there any other medical documentation that the University may require?
A16: Employees should be aware that the University may, under certain circumstances, require recertification of a medical condition or may request a second opinion regarding the medical condition. Additionally, the University may request an independent medical examination where there is a question regarding the documentation provided by the employee. This examination will be paid for by the University.
 
Q17: Does my department have to hold my job open while I am on FML?
 
A17: Generally, when employees return from a FML they will be reinstated to the same or equivalent position, with equivalent pay, benefits, and other terms and conditions of employment.
Q18: What happens if I do not return to work after my FML?
A18: An employee's failure to return to work may result in termination of employment. As a result it is important that you keep your department informed if there is a need to extend your leave beyond the time allowed by the Family and Medical Leave Policy. In some cases, your department, although not required to, may grant an additional unpaid leave of absence.
Q19: What 12-month period is used to determine how much FML I can take?
A19: When determining how much FML an employee may take, the University measures backwards from the date an employee uses any FML. Each time an employee takes FML the remaining leave entitlement equals the balance of the 12 weeks that has not been used during the immediately preceding 12 months.
Q20: If both my spouse and I work for the University are we both eligible for FML when we adopt a child?
A20: Yes. When both spouses or same sex domestic partners are employed by the University, they are each entitled to 12 weeks of FMLA leave for the birth and care of their newborn child, or for the care and placement with them of a child for adoption or foster care.
Q21: Does FML have to be taken in one continuous period, even if the leave is for a serious health condition?
A21: No. Depending on the needs of the employee and the recommendation of the health care provider, the leave may be taken on a continuous, intermittent or reduced schedule basis.
Q22: What is a "reduced schedule" leave?
A22: Where medically necessary, in certain circumstances, an employee may be permitted to work a reduced work week to care for their own or their family member's serious health condition.
Q23: What is an "intermittent leave"?
A23: Intermittent leave is leave taken in separate blocks of time for a single qualifying event. For example, employees that are receiving chemotherapy treatments may require intermittent leave to allow for their therapy over a period of time. In that case the employee may need leave to receive the therapy but will then return to his/her regular schedule upon returning to work.
Q24: Are there any restrictions on taking FML for the birth or adoption or foster care of a child?
A24: Generally FML for the birth or adoption or foster care of a child is to be taken as a continuous leave. Use of intermittent leave or leave on a reduced schedule will be allowed only with the University's prior written approval.
Q25: Where can I get additional information regarding the Family Medical Leave Policy or other leave policies at the University?
A25: Additional information regarding the University's Family Medical Leave Policy is available on the Human Resources web page www.hr.upenn.edu/ You may also e-mail Human Resources at askhr@pobox.upenn.edu or contact the Division of Human Resources, Department of Staff & Labor Relations, at 898-6093. In addition, a poster has been placed in the Division of Human Resources which includes further details regarding eligibility and other requirements of the law.

...On Pre-Tax Health Care and Dependent Care Accounts

When an announcement came out recently regarding the transfer to Eastern Benefit Systems (EBS) of the administration of our Pre-Tax Accounts, several questions were asked of the Human Resources. (EBS is a professional claims administrator that has been in business for over 20 years. EBS will be responsible for processing claims, issuing checks to plan participants, and answering participants' questions about their benefits.) The most frequently asked questions and their answers are summarized below.
Q. Will my account balance change as a result of the transfer of the servicing of these accounts?
A. No. The balance in your account at the end of February, 1998 is the same starting balance that will be recorded by EBS.
Q. How often will EBS process benefit payments?
A. Benefit payments will be processed twice monthly-on the 10th and 25th of the month.
Q. Where will reimbursement checks be sent?
A. Reimbursement checks will be sent to your home address.
Q. What if I need additional claim forms?
A. Simply call EBS at 1-888-PENNFLX (1-888-736-6359 Ext. 213) and identify yourself as a Penn faculty or staff member.
Q. Is there any change in covered items under the plans as a result of this change?
A. No. Plan coverages are determined by the Internal Revenue Service and will therefore not be affected by this change. You may verify plan coverages and ask other questions on the Spending Account by calling EBS.

--Division of Human Resources



Tax-Time Advisory on MEAs

To All Participants in the University's Tax-Deferred Annuity Plans:
The Internal Revenue Service sets an annual limit to the amount you can defer into your Tax-Deferred Annuity account; this limit is called the Maximum Exclusion Allowance (MEA). In order to help you with your financial planning for the year, we will be sending you a letter within the next three weeks showing your estimated MEA for 1998. The University has performed these calculations with the help of TIAA-CREF, one of the Tax-Deferred Annuity Plan providers.
If you have investments with the other plan providers, these figures are included in the calculations without identifying the other providers' names. You will be receiving another set of calculations later in the year which will take any salary changes into account. If you have any questions on the calculations, please call TIAA-CREF's Tax-Deferred Annuity Calculation Unit at 1-800-842-2733, Ext. 2929. To make changes in your deferrals, you will have to fill out forms that are available at the Human Resources/Benefits Office.

--Division of Human Resources


Return to: Almanac, University of Pennsylvania, March 3/10, 1998, Volume 44, Number 24