July 1, 2007
Medical Leave (Unpaid)
All staff who have been employed by the university in a benefits-eligible position for at least 12 months by the start of the medical leave of absence and who have worked at least 1250 hours during the 12-month period immediately preceding commencement of the leave of absence are eligible. Excluded are faculty, postdoctoral scholars and those claiming student status (including teaching and research assistants). Absences due to a pregnancy-related disability or work-related illness or injuries or for reasonable accommodation of disabilities under both state and federal law are not subject to the 12-month (1250 hours) requirement.
Related Policies and Resources
Pregnancy-Related Medical Leave
Provisions of the university’s Pregnancy-Related Medical Leave policy apply when the disability is, or is related to, pregnancy or childbirth.
Family Care and Medical Leave
Provisions of the university’s Family Care and Medical Leave policy apply to leave for the employee’s own serious health condition, the birth or adoption of a child, or for the care of seriously ill family members.
The disability programs available to staff employees as well as procedures for applying for benefits are explained on the benefits website.
Questions regarding Pregnancy-Related Medical Leave, Family Care and Medical Leave, and Disability benefits should be directed to Human Resources Administration at (213) 821-8100.
Work-Related Injuries or Illness
The University of Southern California does not discriminate toward employees who have filed or made known their intent to file workers’ compensation claims. An employee who sustains a work-related injury and reports the same will obtain all of those benefits he or she is entitled to under California law. All matters relating to a job-related illness or injury must be referred to Workers’ Compensation at (213) 740-6205. This includes, but is not limited to, eligibility for medical leave, benefits eligibility, medical certifications, the length of the leave, return to work, and accommodation for return to work.
Upon written notification from a qualified medical practitioner, an unpaid medical leave of absence may be granted to an eligible staff employee for a period of certified disability of up to one year, provided there is a reasonable expectation he or she will be able to return to work.
The staff employee must submit a request for a medical leave of absence in writing to his or her supervisor, in accordance with departmental request procedures, as soon as he or she learns of the temporary disability and anticipates being unable to work. The request must specify the date the leave begins and an expected return-to-work date. If there is a change in the return-to-work date, the staff employee must notify his or her supervisor immediately. The staff employee is required to provide periodic certification of the medical disability. At any time during the leave, the university may require an independent confirmation of the medical disability by a qualified medical practitioner chosen by the university.
Although the leave is unpaid, the staff employee may be entitled to disability benefits for some or all of the leave and is encouraged to apply. The staff employee may use accrued sick leave or vacation leave during any portion of the leave in which he or she is not receiving disability or workers’ compensation benefits. A department may not continue to pay wages or salary, beyond available accrued paid leave, to a staff employee who is absent due to a medical condition.
A department may not terminate nor post or fill a position vacated by a staff employee on medical leave until receiving authorization to do so by the university’s Medical Leave Review Committee. In most cases, the staff employee’s right to return to the position he or she held prior to the leave is protected for the first 4 months (within a rolling 12-month period) of the medical leave of absence.
Employee Benefits during a Medical Leave of Absence
Health (Medical and Dental) Benefits
During a medical leave of absence, the university will pay the employer’s contribution toward health (medical and dental) benefits only for a defined period of time based upon the staff employee’s cumulative years of benefits-eligible service as noted below. In order to continue health benefits coverage, the staff employee also must continue paying the employee contribution.
- 4 months of employer-paid contributions for employees with 1 through 4 years of cumulative, benefits-eligible service;
- 8 months of employer-paid contributions for employees with 5 through 9 years of cumulative, benefits-eligible service; or
- 12 months of employer-paid contributions for employees with 10 or more years of cumulative, benefits-eligible service.
When the university stops making the employer contribution toward health benefits, the employee will have the opportunity to elect COBRA coverage. COBRA coverage allows the employee to continue health benefits coverage for an additional 18 months on USC’s Network Plan, vision and dental plans; and 36 months on other medical plans, provided the employee pays the full premium plus an administrative fee.
Life and Accidental Death and Dismemberment Insurance
The university continues its contribution to existing life and accidental death and dismemberment insurances for a defined period of time based upon the staff employee’s total years of cumulative benefits-eligible service as noted above. In order to continue life and accidental death and dismemberment insurance coverage, the employee also must continue paying the employee contribution. Employees (under the age of 60) who become totally disabled for at least nine consecutive months may file a claim with the insurance carrier to have life insurance premiums waived during their disability. The employee must file the premium waiver claim during the first 12 months of his or her disability.
University and both matching and supplemental employee contributions to the USC Retirement Savings Program are made on disability payments, excluding any disability payments made after the employee terminates employment. Employees may adjust their voluntary retirement contributions at any time (with a corresponding change in the university’s matching contribution) and should contact Benefits if they would like to do so prior to or during a medical leave of absence. Disability payments are not included in calculating retirement benefits for the Non-Exempt Staff Retirement Plan.
A staff employee on medical leave who is receiving or who is sponsoring his or her child or spouse receiving tuition assistance will retain eligibility for the benefit only while eligible for short-term disability benefits. Exceptions to this policy for employees who have 15 or more years of cumulative benefits-eligible service or become permanently disabled are explained in the Tuition Assistance program document. Questions about tuition assistance during a medical leave of absence should be directed to Human Resources Administration at (213) 821-8100.
Vacation and sick leave are not earned or accrued during a medical leave of absence after the leave extends beyond 30 days.
A staff employee is not eligible for holiday pay for university holidays during the medical leave of absence.
Returning to Work at the University
Before returning to his or her position at the university, the staff employee must present a qualified medical practitioner’s statement indicating readiness to return to work and ability to perform all essential functions of his or her position. If the position the staff employee held prior to his or her leave of absence is no longer available, the department may reinstate the staff employee into a position of comparable pay and responsibility.
If a comparable position within the department is not available, the staff employee may remain on an unpaid leave of absence of up to 90 days if he or she begins an active search for a comparable position at the university within 30 days of being medically cleared to return to work. During this period, Talent Management will place the employee’s application in consideration for positions for which the employee wishes to apply, provided he or she meets minimum qualifications for those positions.
Termination of Employment
A department may not terminate a staff employee on a medical leave of absence without receiving authorization from the university’s Medical Leave Review Committee. The committee may authorize termination of employment in the following cases:
- employee fails to provide acceptable medical certification and does not return to work;
- employee fails to notify his/her supervisor of his/her status and does not return to work;
- the length of the medical leave of absence reaches the maximum of one year;
- the staff employee is medically cleared to return to work during the time his or her position is being held open, and does not immediately return to work;
- the staff employee is medically cleared to return to work after his or her position has been filled and he or she does not actively seek employment at the university within 30 days, or the employee does not accept the offer of a comparable position at the university; or the employee is not offered a comparable position at the university within 90 days;
- the staff employee is declared by a qualified medical practitioner to be permanently disabled and/or the Medical Leave Review Committee finds that reasonable accommodations cannot be made that would allow the staff employee to return to the position he or she occupied prior to the leave;
- for cause unrelated to the medical leave of absence (refer to Staff Disciplinary Practices policy).
Human Resources Administration
Benefits provided under disability and workers’ compensation insurance do not necessarily end with the termination of employment. Staff employees on a medical leave of absence who have been terminated should contact Disability at (213) 740-5875 or Workers’ Compensation at (213) 740-6205 to review the status of their claims.
Todd R. Dickey, Senior Vice President, Administration
University of Southern California