June 29, 2018

Unpaid Accommodated Medical Leave

All employees are eligible. Up-to-date certification from a qualified healthcare provider documenting the need for a medical leave is required. USC reserves the right to modify this policy and/or related practices to conform to applicable state and federal laws that may change at any time. In the event of a difference between this policy and a collective bargaining agreement, the terms of the collective bargaining agreement govern. In the event of a difference between this policy and the Faculty Handbook, the terms of the Faculty Handbook govern.

Medical leave is an unpaid leave of absence to be used for an employee’s own serious health condition including a work-related illness or injury. Medical leave may be taken for continuous periods or intermittently, including a reduced schedule.

An employee may be deemed to be on an unpaid medical leave when one of the following occurs:

  • the employee informs their manager and/or local HR representative that their healthcare provider has determined the employee is unable to report to work due to a medical condition
  • the employee has not reported to work due to a medical condition for more than seven consecutive calendar days

Maintaining medical leave status requires up-to-date certification from a qualified healthcare provider; the university will review status from time to time throughout the leave. At any time during the leave, the university may require an independent medical examination that is job-related and consistent with business necessity. The independent medical examination will be conducted by a qualified healthcare provider of the university’s choosing.

Leave under Family and Medical Leave Act and/or the California Family Rights Act (FMLA/CFRA) will run concurrently with and unpaid medical leave provided the employee meets the eligibility requirements of the FMLA/CFRA. After these protected leaves are exhausted, additional leave under this policy may be considered as a reasonable accommodation under the ADA.

Responsibilities

Employee

  1. Inform manager and local HR representative of the need for a medical leave as soon as the healthcare provider has determined a leave is necessary.
  2. Record medical leave in Workday.
  3. Keep in touch with manager throughout process.
  4. Provide current medical certification to local HR representative or the Disability Accommodation Coordinator (this includes start and stop dates of leave and any accommodations required – not personal medical information).
  5. When required, participate in an independent medical examination at USC’s expense and/or a workplace modification assessment.
  6. If there is a continuation or recurrence of a serious health condition, or new condition, request an extension of medical leave by providing updated medical certification.
  7. If time off is needed for intermittent treatment or a reduced work schedule is needed, make a reasonable effort to schedule the treatment so as not to disrupt departmental business operations.
  8. As soon as it is known, inform manager and local HR representative of the return-to-work date. Provide medical certification documenting a release to return to work.
  9. Be aware that an employee on medical leave will be contacted from time to time by the university’s Disability Accommodation Coordinator, ADA/504 coordinator and/or local HR representative to discuss ability to return to work with or without accommodation.
  10. Participate in the interactive dialogue, a process between employee and employer to determine if a reasonable accommodation can be made that would enable the employee to perform the essential functions of his/her job. By law, employers and employees are required to engage in the interactive process.

Manager

  1. Do not ask employees any questions regarding their medical condition.
  2. If employee provides medical certification, forward to the local HR representative (medical certification includes only start and stop dates of leave and accommodations required).
  3. Evaluate staffing needs in relation to the absence to ensure adequate coverage.
  4. Participate in university-facilitated interactive dialogue process regarding any necessary accommodations to facilitate the employee’s return to work.
  5. Comply with required reasonable accommodations communicated by the university’s Disability Accommodation Coordinator or the ADA/504 coordinator.
  6. Upon request, provide any information requested by the Disability Accommodation Coordinator or the ADA/504 coordinator.
  7. If manager becomes aware of medical updates (e.g., return to work, accommodation, extension of the leave, etc.), provide this information to local HR representative.

Local HR representative

  1. Forward any documentation to the Disability Accommodation Coordinator.
  2. Stay in touch with employee throughout process.
  3. Facilitate the interactive dialogue process regarding any necessary accommodations for the employee’s return to work.

Disability Accommodation Coordinator

  1. Forward documentation to third party provider as appropriate.
  2. Provide guidance to local HR representative and manager as appropriate.
  3. Contact employee on leave for updates as appropriate.
  4. Take appropriate steps when a department requests authorization to replace an employee on leave (see Authorization to replace staff employees section below)
  5. Resolve disputes regarding accommodations.
  6. Escalate disputes as needed to ADA/504 Coordinator.

ADA/504 Coordinator or designee

  1. Contact employee on leave for updates as appropriate.
  2. Resolve escalated disputes regarding accommodations.

Authorization to replace staff employees

When holding an employee’s position open creates an undue hardship, the Medical Leave Review Board (MLRB) may authorize departments to replace an employee on medical leave. The MLRB analyzes each case according to the information presented by the department and makes a determination on a case-by-case basis. Departments may permanently replace the employee only when authorized by the MLRB.

When a department believes holding an employee’s position open creates an undue hardship, the Disability Accommodation Coordinator will:

  1. Engage in an additional interactive dialogue with the employee, as necessary.
  2. Schedule department representatives (usually the manager and HR Partner) to present, in person to the MLRB, the facts that explain how holding the position open creates an undue hardship.
  3. Notify the department and employee of the outcome of the review within ten days.

Pay options while on medical leave

Although the medical leave is unpaid, the employee may be eligible for disability pay for some or all the leave and is encouraged to apply. The employee may use sick accruals while on a medical leave as a substitute for disability pay. At no time may paid departmental leave (continuation of regular wages/salary) or vacation accruals be used in place of a medical leave. A department may not continue to pay wages or salary.

The employee may use sick and/or vacation accruals in conjunction with disability pay to receive 100% of gross pay. The local HR representative will facilitate the use of sick and vacation accruals used while on medical leave in conjunction with disability pay. This is for “topping” off where the department will coordinate with the Disability Office for the correct dollar amount.

USC Disability/Workers’ Compensation

Employees who have USC disability with or without USC supplemental disability may be eligible for pay through these plans by filing a claim. For information on how to file a disability claim and information regarding workers’ compensation and/or disability plans available to employees, see the Employee Gateway’s Disability page.

State disability

Employees who have state disability may be eligible for pay by filing a disability claim directly with the state Employee Development Department (EDD). The Employee Gateway’s Disability page has information needed to file a claim with the state as well as a link to the state EDD website. Note that employees eligible for pay through state disability instead of USC disability must contact the HR Service Center to arrange payment of their medical premiums during leave.

Employee benefits while on medical leave

See the Employee Gateway for information regarding health benefits (medical, dental and vision) as well as other benefits while on leave.

Returning to work

The university is committed both to supporting the health and well-being of our employees and the business objectives of our schools and divisions. Employees should be supported in their efforts to return to work as soon as they are qualified to do so by their physicians and must be provided with reasonable accommodations that would allow their return with restrictions, if necessary. Employees must demonstrate that they are able (or will be in a reasonable amount of time) to complete all essential functions of their positions, with or without accommodation.  Permanent removal of an essential function of a position is not considered a reasonable accommodation.

Managers are responsible for making staffing, assignment and environmental adjustments necessary to support the employee’s prompt return to work with or without restrictions. Department managers may authorize transitional positions, when practical. In certain circumstances it may be appropriate to provide transitional duties that would allow an employee to return to work in a different capacity while recovering, to maximize employees’ abilities prior to their full release, or to reduce the time between an on-the-job injury and a return to work for employees who are eligible for workers’ compensation.

Before returning to the university, the employee must provide a qualified healthcare provider’s statement indicating readiness to return to work and ability to perform all essential functions of the position, with or without a reasonable accommodation. If the employee is released to return to work with restrictions, the restrictions must be detailed and precise and should include an estimated end date. Employees who present restrictions that are vague and not well-defined will be required to submit clarification from their qualified healthcare provider before resuming their duties. The university and/or its third party provider may contact the employee’s qualified healthcare provider directly for clarification and assessment.

If holding a position open creates an undue hardship, the department will reinstate the employee into a vacant position of comparable pay and responsibility, if such position is available. If no position is available, the employee is encouraged to work with the university’s job placement specialist on both internal and external job opportunities. Employees returning to work at the end of a leave under the FMLA/CFRA will generally be reinstated to the same or a comparable position.

Separation from employment

The university is unable to grant indefinite medical leaves. If an employee will not be able to perform the essential functions of his/her position with or without accommodations in the foreseeable future, the university has the right to terminate the employee’s relationship with the university. If the employee is covered by FMLA/CFRA, the employee’s right to return to the position held before the leave is protected for the first 12 weeks (within a rolling 12-month period) of the medical leave. Consistent with applicable law and university policy an employee may be terminated while on medical leave:

  • An employee may be laid off as a result of a reorganization, in which case the employee will be laid off in accordance with the Layoffs and Reorganizations policy in effect at the time of the layoff
  • An employee may be terminated as a result of a finding of misconduct following an investigation, including but not limited to cases involving misconduct that took place prior to the leave; or falsifying documents related to medical leave

Benefits provided through disability and workers’ compensation insurance do not necessarily end with the termination of employment.

Related policies and resources

Staff Parental Leave policy – Provisions of this policy apply when the disability is related to pregnancy or childbirth. Direct questions to the HR Service Center at (213) 821-8100. 

Family Care and Medical Leave policy – Provisions of this policy apply to leave for the employee’s own serious health condition, birth or adoption of a child, or care of seriously ill family members. Direct questions to the HR Service Center at (213) 821-8100.

Disability benefits – Disability programs available to employees and the procedures for applying for these benefits are explained on the Employee Gateway’s Disability page. Direct questions to the HR Service Center at (213) 821-8100.

Work-related injuries or illness – USC does not discriminate against faculty or staff who have filed or made known their intent to file workers’ compensation claims. Any employee who sustains a work-related injury and reports the same will obtain all benefits to which they are entitled under California law. All matters relating to a job-related illness or injury must be referred to the HR Service Center at (213) 821-8100. This includes, but is not limited to, eligibility for medical leave, benefits eligibility, medical certifications, length of leave, return to work, and accommodations.

Responsible office

Human Resources Administration
uschr@usc.edu
(213) 821-8100

Issued by

Todd R. Dickey, Senior Vice President, Administration