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  1. What is my responsibility in the area of monitoring an employee's use of sick leave?
  2. Is sick leave monitoring intended to address only "abuse" of sick leave benefits?
  3. When talking about "excessive" sick leave usage, what are we talking about?
  4. I don’t follow. Is an employee who uses sick leave more than 12 times in a year, or more than96 hours and 6 times guilty of sick leave abuse or excessive use of sick leave?
  5. What do you mean by "appropriate corrective action," a suspension or discharge? What options for corrective action do I have?
  6. Beyond counseling and requiring a doctor's note, what can I do if an employee continues to miss work?
  7. Do we count only sick leave in adding up the hours and occasions?
  8. Must I wait a whole year before I can take corrective action for excessive sick leave?
  9. What is the first thing I should do if I observe a pattern of sick leave (absences) that would be greater than the yearly standard?
  10. Must I approve all sick leave requests? Or, put another way, can I disapprove an employee's request for sick leave compensation for an absence?
  11. Can I consider time off due to a work related injury (Workers' Compensation) in calculating overall sick leave usage or absences?
  12. Can an employee be disciplined for excessive use of "emergency vacation"?
  13. Should I approve sick leave for an employee taken off duty by the City Medical Director as a result of a positive drug or alcohol test?
  14. Do we do anything nice for employees who hardly ever take sick leave?

What is my responsibility in the area of monitoring an employee’s use of sick leave?
The supervisor is responsible for making sure the job is done right and on time. This is not going to happen if employees are injured or sick and off duty. It is also not going to happen if employees are not trained properly, not given adequate tools, and are not motivated. But, these things are for another set of FAQ’s.

Back to sick leave monitoring; the supervisor has every right to expect employees to come to work. Absences can slow down the work of others, or stop the work altogether. The idea behind sick leave monitoring is to minimize the loss of productivity due to absences - even legitimate absences for illness, family illness, or preventive treatment.

An employee needs to know that absences will be monitored, that verification of absences (doctor’s notes) may be required, and that even approved (verified) absences can lead to corrective (disciplinary) action.

Is sick leave monitoring intended to address only "abuse" of sick leave benefits?
No. Sick leave monitoring may reveal abuses, but supervisors monitoring sick leave are dealing primarily with the larger issue – having employees at work so the job can be done.  Sick leave monitoring IS NOT LIMITED to identifying abuse of sick leave. Corrective action (discipline or work fitness evaluation) is sometimes necessary to deal with legitimate illnesses.

In the next question, we talk about excessive use of sick leave.

When talking about "excessive" sick leave usage, what are we talking about?
Ever since the department was created (1979) we have followed a standard for excessive sick leave usage as:

a.  Any combination of sick leave that would total more than 96 hours in one year, and
b. Six (6) or more occasions of sick leave in one year. One "occasion" can be for more than one day and could encompass a weekend or a holiday.

For example, an employee on sick leave from Wednesday to the following Wednesday would be considered as accumulating  45 hours (5 days) of sick leave, but only one occasion or incident.

c. Or, twelve (12) occasions in one year, regardless of the number of hours.

I don’t follow. Is an employee who uses sick leave more than 12 times in a year, or more than 96 hours and 6 times guilty of sick leave abuse or excessive use of sick leave?
No. Sorry, let us clarify the answers to questions 2 and 3, above. The "numbers" (96 & 6 or 12) are guidelines, yardsticks, barometers, etc. The first step in controlling absences is to identify employees who exceed these numbers (or would in a 12-month period of time).

Once employees who meet the guideline are identified, the supervisor makes a determination on whether or not corrective action needs to be taken. If the absences are all due to maternity and complications, it would be wrong to take ANY corrective action. However, if the absences are due to a variety of illnesses, or a medical condition that can be treated (and reduce the amount of absences), corrective action may be appropriate.

What do you mean by "appropriate corrective action," a suspension or discharge? What options for corrective action do I have?
Excellent question. Corrective action can start with a gentle counseling session with the employee. If the counseling does not improve attendance, you may want to place the employee on the "Doctor’s Certificate" requirement - for each absence due to illness (employee’s or family). Either of these two steps should lead to you completing a "Supervisory Attendance Counseling Record" (SACR) for your division files.

If, after counseling and requiring a "Doctor’s Certificate," absences continue at a rate greater than the numbers above, you should consider issuing a "Notice to Correct Deficiencies" or requesting formal discipline through your division manager to Personnel Services. Formal discipline means suspension without pay or discharge.

Beyond counseling and requiring a doctor’s note, what can I do if an employee continues to miss work?
If the absences continue at a rate exceeding the "guideline" above, you will need to proceed with discipline - starting with a Notice to Correct Deficiencies (NTCD). Beyond the NTCD, we may need to suspend the employee without pay and ultimately discharge the employee if her attendance does not improve. Make sure you coordinate all disciplinary action with your supervisors.

Do we count only sick leave in adding up the hours and occasions?
No. Sometimes the employee has exhausted all paid sick leave and is recorded as on "leave with authorization" (LW) while off for an illness. This LW time, plus any AW time (leave without authorization) may count toward the 96 hours and the number of occasions. (But, do not think that AW time is allowed up to 96 hours, etc. Discipline can be taken for the first incident of AW.)

Sometimes we also count "emergency vacation" time off in computing the sick leave hours - if the emergency vacation was requested to avoid discipline for excessive sick leave.

Must I wait a whole year before I can take corrective action for excessive sick leave?
No, no, no! Corrective action should be taken the moment it appears that we may have a problem. That is, if an employee is sick 3 or 4 days (27-36 hours), 1 day at a time, in two months, you may want to counsel the employee and possibly even require a doctor’s note for each future absence.

We definitely do not want to take the first corrective action after an employee has been sick for over 300 hours, 20 different occasions, in the last twelve months.

What is the first thing I should do if I observe a pattern of sick leave (absences) that would be greater than the yearly standard?
First, talk to the employee. You do not need to know the nature of the illness, but the employee needs to know that he needs to correct any problem so that he can report for work every day. If you believe the employee is doing all he can to correct his problem, consider the first meeting as a gentle "counseling."

If the absences continue, you may require the employee to bring a doctor’s note for each occasion of absence. Be sure to put this instruction in writing. If the absences continue, you need to counsel the employee that his attendance must improve.

Note: If the employee is on probation, you should not be so understanding. If, during the probationary period an employee demonstrates poor attendance, you should discuss probationary termination with your division management and your Liaison Personnel Analyst.

Must I approve all sick leave requests? Or, put another way, can I disapprove an employee’s request for sick leave compensation for an absence?
No, I mean yes, I mean...  The answer to the first question is "no" and to the second is "yes." If an employee knew his sick leave request would be approved only if he brought you a doctor’s note, you can disapprove sick leave (AW) until you receive the doctor’s note. Beyond that, it is pretty hard to disapprove an employee’s sick leave request.

If you have concerns about the doctor’s notes or pattern of absences of an employee, you can call your liaison personnel analyst to talk about it and decide if any action can be taken.

Can I consider time off due to a work related injury (Workers’ Compensation) in calculating overall sick leave usage or absences?
No. There is absolutely no connection between monitoring an employee’s sick leave absences and time off (IOD) for an injury.

Can an employee be disciplined for excessive use of "emergency vacation?"
We in the Personnel Office have never handled a discipline case for use, excessive use, or abuse of emergency vacation. However, we have handled excessive absence cases where we counted emergency vacation as (a small) part of the absences. Think of emergency vacation with excessive sick leave as just making matters worse (employee not at work enough).

Some divisions have well-established policies on what emergency vacation is, when it will be approved, and tracking systems on the use of emergency vacation (apart from regular vacation). If this is the case in your division, you should include information on use of emergency vacation with any request for discipline for excessive absences.

Should I approve sick leave for an employee taken off duty by the City Medical Director as a result of a positive drug or alcohol test?
No, unless the employee was tested under DOT random testing regulations (Class A or B driver’s license). GSD has a longstanding practice of reporting time off because of a positive alcohol/drug test as Unauthorized Absence (AW). Then, we consider disciplinary action for the AW time as opposed to the positive test.

Do we do anything nice for employees who hardly ever take sick leave?
Yes, but unfortunatley we do not see much of this side of sick leave monitoring. It is great that you ask this question, and we hope you follow up with this suggestion: Award those employees who truly represent the very best in attendance by issuing a commendation. GSD has a little-known commendation program called, "Special Commendation" which is a framed, letterhead document signed by the General Manager. We use the Special Commendation to recognize ability and performance above the call of duty, exemplary behavior, or extraordinary actions.

If you and your division manager want to commend an employee for exceptional attendance, you can issue a Notice of Commendation or contact our Training Officer in Personnel Services for assistance in preparing a Special Commendation.

As you know, employees who accrue the maximum of 800 hours of 100% sick leave are paid for ½ of the hours added each year that takes the employee over 800 hours. Since an employee cannot accrue more than 800 hours of sick leave, he gets paid 50% for the amount of hours that would have exceeded the 800-hour limit.

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