Frequently Asked Questions


Can employees request medical, maternity or paternity leave?

Yes, employees may request medical, maternity or paternity leave as allowed under federal and state law, union contracts and applicable employee handbooks.  Approval is contingent upon Human Resources receipt of supporting medical documentation.  The amount and type of leave granted is dependent upon eligibility and individual circumstances reviewed on a case-by-case basis. 

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Who is eligible?

An employee may be eligible for more than one provision below.  Human Resources will ensure a thorough review of all provisions for each employee that has provided notice of a need for leave. 

Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
  • Employees are eligible for leave under the federal and state Family Medical Leave Acts if they have:
    •   Been employed by Western for a total of at least 12 months (within the past 5 years) from the date the FMLA leave is to commence,
    •   Worked at least 1250 hours during the 12 month period preceding the first day of FMLA leave (not including paid leave time),

    •   A qualifying event.
State Family Care Act
  • Employees are eligible for leave under the state Family Care Act if they have:
    •   Available accrued leave and
    •   A qualifying event.
State Maternity-Disability Leave
  • Any female employee is eligible under the state sex discrimination provision when she is disabled (prohibited to work by her physician) during pregnancy or following the birth of her child.
ADA - Reasonable Accommodation Leave
  • Employees may be eligible for leave if the:
    •   Employee's condition meets the federal or state definition of disability, and
    •   The employee is not eligible for or has exhausted leave under other available provisions 

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What if the need for leave is due to a workplace injury?

The Worker's Compensation Program does not provide job protection when an employee requires a leave of absence due to a workplace injury.  If an injured employee must take leave to recover, Human Resources will review the employee's eligibility for the provisions listed above and coordinate services with the University's Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) department.  For more information on the Worker's Compensation program, call EHS at 360.650.2947.  

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What type of qualifying event may eligible employees request leave for and how much time is allowed?

Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA)

FMLA eligible employees may request:

  • Up to 12 workweeks (or 480 hours) of leave in a 12-month period:
    • For the birth and care of a newborn, or for placement of a child for adoption or foster care
    • Parental leave must be taken within one year of the date of the child's birth or placement
    •   To care for an eligible family member or state registered domestic partner with a serious health condition
    •   To take medical leave when unable to work because of their own serious health condition
    •   For a qualifying exigency arising out of a covered family member's active military duty or has been notified of pending call to active duty in the Armed Forces in support of a contingency operation
  • Up to 26 weeks of leave in a single 12-month period:
    •   To care for a covered service member recovering from a serious illness or injury incurred in the line of duty.  This provision includes a combined total of up to 26 weeks of all types of FMLA leave. 
State Maternity-Disability Leave

Female employees may request leave for the period of time that she is sick or temporarily disabled because of pregnancy or childbirth.  Leave time is typically 6-8 weeks of leave as determined by healthcare provider based on individual's condition.  This leave time is provided in addition to the leave time the employee may be eligible for under the Family Medical Leave Act.

State Family Care Act
  • Employees may request to take a leave of absence to care for:
    •   A child of the employee with a health condition that requires treatment or supervision, or

    •   A covered family member or state registered domestic partner with a serious health condition or an emergency condition

  • Leave protections are provided to the extent of the employee's accruals.  Use of leave must comply with the terms of applicable collective bargaining agreements, employee handbook policy except for any terms related to the choice and order of leave to be used.
  • ADA - Reasonable Accommodation Leave

    Employees may be grated leave under this provision for their own condition if it meets the definition of "disability" under state or federal law.  Leave may be grated as an accommodation when an employee is not eligible for leave protections under state and federal leave laws, collective bargaining unit agreements, or employee handbook provisions.  The amount of leave granted is determined on a case-by-case basis.  

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    Is elective surgery covered under the FMLA or other state leave laws?

    Elective surgery is not covered under the FMLA unless there are complications following the procedure that result in a "serious health condition" and requires the employee to be out beyond two weeks. 

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    Are spouses who both work for WWU each entitled to 12 weeks of FMLA?

    A husband and wife or state registered domestic partners who are eligible for FMLA leave and are employed by WWU may be limited to a combined total of 12 weeks of leave during any 12-month period if the leave is taken:

    •   For birth of the employee's son or daughter or to care for the child after birth;
    •   For placement of a son or daughter with the employee for adoption or foster care, or to care for the child after placement; or
    •   To care for the employee's parent with a serious health condition.

    Where the husband and wife or state registered domestic partners both use a portion of the total 12-week FMLA leave entitlement for one of the purposes above, the husband and wife or partners would each be entitled to the difference between the amount he or she has taken individually and 12 weeks for FMLA leave for a purpose other than those listed above.  For example, if each spouse or partner took 6 weeks of leave to care for a healthy, newborn child, each could use an additional 6 weeks due to his or her own serious health condition or to care for a child with a serious health condition.  

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    What medical/health or disabling conditions are covered?

    Family Medical Leave Act

    Serious Health Condition means an illness, injury, impairment, or physical or mental condition that involves one of the following:

    Hospital Care: Inpatient care (i.e., an overnight stay) in a hospital, hospice, or residential medical care facility, including any period of incapacity or subsequent treatment in connection with or consequent to such inpatient care.

    Absence Plus Treatment:  A period of incapacity of more than three consecutive calendar days (including any subsequent treatment or period of incapacity relating to the same condition), that also involves:

    •   Treatment two or more times by a health care provider, by a nurse or physician's assistant under direct supervision of a health care provider, or by a provider of health care services (e.g., physical therapist) under orders of, or on referral by, a health care provider; or
    •   Treatment by a health care provider on at least one occasion which results in regimen of continuing treatment under the supervision of the health care provider.

    Pregnancy: Any period of incapacity due to pregnancy, or for parental care.

    Chronic Conditions Requiring Treatments: A chronic condition which:

    •   Requires periodic visits for treatment by a health care provider, or by a nurse or physician's assistant under direct supervision of a health care provider;
    •   Continues over an extended period of time (including recurring episodes of a single underlying condition); and
    •   May cause episodic rather than a continuing period of incapacity (e.g., asthma, diabetes, epilepsy, etc.)

    Permanent/Long-Term Condition Requiring Supervision: A period of incapacity which is permanent or long-term due to a condition for which treatment may not be effective.  The employee or family member must be under the continuing supervisor of, but need not be receiving active treatment by, a health care provider.  Examples include Alzheimer's, a severe stroke, or the terminal stages of a disease.

    Multiple Treatments (Non-Chronic Conditions): Any period of absence to receive multiple treatments (including any period of recovery therefrom) by a health care provider or by a provider of health care services under orders of, or on referral by, a health care provider, either for restorative surgery after an accident or other injury, or for condition that would likely result in a period of incapacity of more than three consecutive calendar days in the absence of medical intervention or treatment, such as cancer (chemotherapy, radiation, etc.) severe arthritis (physical therapy), kidney disease (dialysis).

    Additional Definitions:

    Incapacity - inability to work, attend school or perform other regular daily activities due to the serious health condition, treatment therefor, or recovery therefrom.

    Treatment - includes examinations to determine of a serious health condition exists and evaluations of the condition.  Treatment does not include routine physical examinations, eye examinations, or dental examinations.

    A regimen of continuing treatment - includes, for example, a course of prescription medication (e.g., an antibiotic) or therapy requiring special equipment to resolve or alleviate the health condition.  A regimen of treatment does not include the taking of over-the-counter medications such as aspirin, antihistamines, or salves; or bed-rest, drinking fluids, exercise, and other similar activities that can be initiated without a visit to a health care provider.

    Family Care Act

    Serious health condition: an illness, injury, impairment, or physical or mental condition that involves any period of incapacity or treatment connected with inpatient care (ie., an overnight stay) in a hospital, hospice, or residential medical care facility, and any period of incapacity or subsequent treatment or recovery in connection with such inpatient care; or that involves continuing treatment by or under the supervision of a health care provider or a provider of health care services and which includes any period of incapacity (i.e., inability to work, attend school or perform other regular daily activities).

    Health Condition of a child:

    •   A medical condition requiring treatment or medication that the child cannot self- administer;
    •   A medical or mental-health condition which would endanger the child's safety or recovery without the presence of a parent or guardian; or
    •   A condition warranting treatment or preventive health care such as physical, dental, optical or immunization services, when a parent must be present to authorize the treatment

    Emergency condition:  a health condition that is a sudden, generally unexpected occurrence or set of circumstances related to one's health demanding immediate action, and is typically very short term in nature.

    ADA-Reasonable Accommodation

    Please refer to POL-U1600.03 Accommodating Persons with Disabilities for the definition of disability.

    Bargaining Unit Agreements/Employee Handbooks

    Please refer to the appropriate bargaining unit agreement or employee handbook for definitions. 

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    Who is considered a covered family member?

    Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA)

    The federal FMLA define a "family member" as:

    Son or daughter - a biological, adopted, or foster child, a stepchild, a legal ward, or a child of a person standing in loco parentis, 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.

    Spouse - a husband or wife as defined or recognized under State law for purposes of marriage in the State where the employee resides, including common law marriage in States where it is recognized.

    Parent - means the biological parent of an employee or an individual who stands or stood in loco parentis to an employee when the employee was a child.

    Washington State also recognizes state registered domestic partnerships and individuals for the purpose of leave benefits provided by RCW 49.78 (Family Leave).

    Family Care Act and Family Leave Acts

    A covered family member under the FCA includes a spouse, child, parent-law, grandparent, and state registered domestic partner. 

    Spouse: husband or wife

    Child: a biological, adopted, or foster child, a stepchild, a legal ward, or a child of a person standing in loco parentis who is:

    •   Under eighteen years of age; or
    •   Eighteen years of age or older and incapable of self-care because of a mental or physical disability

    Parent: a biological or adoptive parent of an employee or an individual who stood in loco parentis to an employee when the employee was a child

    Parent-in-law: a parent of the spouse of an employee

    Grandparent:  a parent of a parent of an employee

    Registered Domestic Partner:  A Washington-state registered domestic partner, qualified through the Certificate of State Registered Domestic Partnership or registration card issued by the Washington Secretary of State's office.  Including same-sex domestic partners, and opposite-sex domestic partners in which at least one partner is age 62 or older.

    Bargaining Unit Agreements/Handbooks

    Additional relationships may be covered under a Bargaining Unit Agreement or handbook  

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    What is the difference between maternity leave and paternity leave?

    For the purpose of administration of the family medical leave program,

    Maternity leave is considered to be the leave time a female employee needs to take when she is temporarily disabled (unable to work) due to pregnancy or childbirth

    Paternity leave is considered the time a female or male employee requests to take leave to care for and bond with a health newborn, newly adopted or placed foster child.

    Time requested by a male employee to care for his spouse who as been document to be disabled due to pregnancy or following childbirth or to care for a newborn, newly adopted or foster child with a serious health condition, is not considered paternity leave.  Rather this would be leave requested "to care for a family member with a serious health condition."  Paternity leave could be requested once the serious health condition was resolved.  

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    Can I return to work part time following maternity/paternity leave?

    If an employee is still eligible for FMLA hours, a part-time schedule requires departmental approval for the remainder of the FMLA allowance.  Extensions requested following exhaustion of FMLA hours would also require departmental approval.  

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    If an employee's qualifying event is eligible for leave under multiple provisions, does the leave time run concurrently?

    If an employee takes leave that is eligible under the Family Care Act, it will also be counted against an employee's available FMLA allowance.

    An employee eligible for leave under the state maternity-disability provision does not run current with FMLA leave, but is leave provided in addition to eligible leave under the FMLA.

    Leave taken due to a work place injury will run concurrently with FMLA leave if the condition meets FMLA eligibility criteria.  

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    Will the approved leave be paid?

    Family Care Act

    Employees eligible for a leave of absence under the state Family Care Act will remain in paid status since they must use available accrued leave during their absence.  Use of leave must follow the terms set forth in applicable collective bargaining agreement, employee handbook, or policy except the employee may choose the type of leave to use (sick/180-day medical leave, vacation, personal holiday) and in which order to use it.

    Family Medical Leave Act, ADA and Maternity-Disability Leave

    Leave granted under these provision is unpaid unless the employee chooses to use their available accrued leave in accordance to the applicable contract or handbook provisions as stated below:

    Washington Federation of State Employees - Bargaining Units A, B and

    • Employees on an approved leave of absence must ordinarily exhaust all available paid leave, including compensatory time, sick leave (if available for the purpose of the employee's leave), vacation leave, and personal holiday time before taking unpaid leave.  (Article 25.3)  This requirement does not apply to employees receiving Worker's Compensation time loss payments or payments on a Long-Term Disability claim. 
    • Employees must use compensatory time prior to using vacation leave, unless this would result in the loss of their vacation leave. (Article 17.8.2)

    Public School Employees - Bargaining Units D and PTE

    • Except as provided in Article 22.5 (BUD) or Article 19.5 (PTE), an employee on approved leave of absence must exhaust all available sick leave (if available for the purpose of the employee's leave), vacation leave, and personal holiday time before taking unpaid leave; employees who choose to use compensatory time as part of a leave of absence must use any such time prior to taking unpaid leave.  (BUD - Article 22.3; PTE - Article 19.3)  This requirement does not apply to employees receiving Worker's Compensation time loss payments or payments on a Long-Term Disability claim. 
    • Employees may not be compelled to use compensatory time (BUD - Article 15.6; PTE- Article 12.5.2)

    Professional Staff

    Professional staff may choose to use accrued leave for any portion of unpaid leave allowed under the law and as per the provisions of the Professional Staff Handbook.

    Faculty

    Faculty requests for paid medical and disability leave are approved by the Provost's office in coordination with Human Resources.  See the faculty bargaining unit contract (section 11) for additional information.  

    Workers Compensation Leave

    An employee who sustains a work related injury or illness that is compensable under the worker's compensation law may choose to receive time-loss compensation exclusively, use accrued paid leave exclusively, leave without pay exclusively, or combine time loss compensation, accrued leave, and leave without pay.  Accrued leave does not include Shared Leave.  Use of accrued paid leave and/or leave without pay are subject to bargaining unit contracts when applicable.

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    What if an employee does not have enough accrued leave to cover their absence?

    Classified and professional staff may request shared leave donations from other state employees.  Employees who have the 180-day medical leave plan are not eligible for shared leave donations.  Further information on the Shared Leave Program is provided on the Shared Leave Program Guide.

    If ineligible for shared leave and accrued leave balances are depleted, employees on an approved leave of absence will submit time as leave without pay.  

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    Will taking leave affect an employee's health benefits?

    Family Medical Leave Act

    While an employee is on an approved FMLA eligible leave of absence, Western will continue to pay for the employer portion of an employee's health insurance premiums (regardless if the leave is unpaid) under the same terms and conditions as if the employee had continued to work.  Employees are always responsible for payment of their portion of their health insurance premiums during an FMLA approved leave.

    Family Care Act

    Benefits will not be impacted for employees taking approved leave under this provision.

    ADA and Maternity-Disability Leave

    These provisions do not provide employer benefit coverage.  Whether or not benefits status remain the same during such leave, depends on the employee's pay status during the leave and applicable contract/handbook provisions.  

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    How do employees request family/medical leave?

    Provide notice to supervisor and Human Resources of need for leave

    •   Employees must provide at least 30-days advance notice of their need for leave when the need is foreseeable and when notice is practicable
    •   The notice may be verbal or in writing and is not required to include a diagnosis if the request is for leave for a serious health condition of the employee or family member

    Submit a Special Leave Request Form to supervisor

    •   Do not include confidential medical information  (e.g. diagnosis of condition) on the special leave request form; note only that "the need for leave is due to a health condition".  To protect confidentiality, the employee will submit medical information to Human Resources when requested.
    •   All requests will be reviewed and given final approval by Human Resources.

    Provide medical certification completed by a health care provider

    Employees requesting leave for their own, or a family member's serious health condition are required to submit a medical certification to Human Resources.  Only the physician or health care practitioner is to complete the medical certification.

    If supervisors or other department representatives receive any medical documentation, it is to be forwarded to Human Resources and copies are not to be made.  

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    What is a supervisor's role in notifying Human Resources about an employee's need for leave?

    Supervisors should contact Human Resources as soon as possible when they are aware that an employee is:

    •   Needing to take leave related to a medical condition for themselves or a family member (generally when the absence has or will exceed more than 10 work days)or
    •   Has had a significant number of off-and-on absences related to a medical condition for themselves or a family member 

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    How is FMLA time tracked?

    If FMLA eligible, use of accrued leave applies toward the 12-week or 480-hour leave entitlement allowed in a 12-month period.  This means available accrued leave used is not in addition to the FMLA entitlement.

    If FMLA eligible, absences related to a workers' comp injury apply toward the 12-week or 480 hour leave entitlement allowed in a 12-month period, whether employees are receiving time loss payments, using accrued leave or unpaid leave.  Any time taken due to a workers' comp injury is not in addition to the FMLA leave entitlement.

    Full time leave is tracked by Human Resources using the first day of absence and the date of return indicated on the medical release.

    Intermittent leave or reduced schedules are tracked for the duration the employee's physician indicates on the medical certification.  Employees approved for intermittent leave must submit departmental leave request forms for all approved time taken in each pay period, noting in the explanation that time taken is FMLA related when applicable.  A designated person in each department then provides this information to HR for tracking of FMLA time taken.  

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    How is leave time submitted/charged?

    Classified and Professional Staff

    Employees must submit time for all approved leave taken, whether paid or unpaid.  Supervisors are responsible for ensuring time is submitted accurately and as per the approved special leave request.

    If an employee has a shared leave balance, submit time as sick leave on the timesheet after all other leave balances have been depleted.

    Holidays are not paid unless in full pay status the day prior to the holiday.

    If an employee is on leave without pay for more than 10 days per month, no vacation or sick leave accruals will be credited for that month, including absences due to a workers' comp injury.

    Classified Staff:

    Reporting time as leave without pay requires prior approval from Human Resources.  Classified employees may submit leave without pay during an approved leave period only.  When all leave balances are depleted, including shared leave, submit time as leave without pay (LNN).

    Seniority is adjusted for each day of leave without pay.  Increment dates, if applicable, will be extended one month for each month on leave without pay that exceeds 10 days.

    Professional Staff:

    Please refer to the Professional Staff Time and Leave Reporting Guidelines

    Faculty:

    The Provost's office maintains faculty time records.  

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    What are employees and their supervisors required to do prior to returning to work?

    Employees are required to provide Human Resources a medical release from their health care practitioner prior to returning to work.

    When the leave is due to an approved worker's compensation injury, the release to work needs to be approved and coordinated by the Environmental Health and Safety Department's Claims Manager. 

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    What happens when an employee is not released to return to work?

    Employees who are not released by their physician should contact Human Resources at least three days prior to their initially expected return date.

    Extensions are approved on a case-by-case basis based on a number of factors including, but not limited to:

    •   If the employee is still eligible for protected leave provisions,
    •   Operational needs of the employee's department and/or
    •   Prognosis of condition

    If an employee is unable to continue to perform the essential functions of their position with or without an accommodation, it may become necessary to be separated from employment.

    For further information on reasonable accommodations and separations, please see the University's reasonable accommodation policy.

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    What resources are available to employees who cannot return to work?

    Employee Assistance Program

    Long-Term Disability Insurance

    Disability Services in Human Resources will assist an employee through the application process

    Department of Retirement Systems

    The Benefits Unit in Human Resources will assist an employee to determine eligibility and apply for disability retirement benefits.

    Social Security Disability Income  

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    Where can I learn more about laws related to family medical leave?

    Washington State Department of Labor and Industries

    Washington State Human Rights Commission

    U.S. Department of Labor

    Please contact the Disability Administrator in Human Resources for further information.

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    Page Updated 10.29.2013