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December 2000

Delphi Question: Family and sick leave, body odor

Question #459 (received 7 September):

I'm concerned about the response in Staff Notes Monthly in regard to leave time for adoption. I think it's important to add to the comments made by Laurie Carr in HR [question #455, published in the September Staff Notes Monthly] that individuals can only use their FMLA (Family Medical and Leave Act) time if their supervisor supports the leave. I know of one employee's supervisor who did approve the paid leave when this person adopted. I know of another employee who adopted, and the supervisor did not approve the leave, so this person could not use accumulated (paid) sick time for bonding time. I feel this is a discriminatory practice. This benefit should apply to every person who adopts, not just the ones who have reasonable supervisors. Could you please investigate this a little more and let the employees know about this? Thank you.

Response (16 November):

Your comment and question refer to two different issues—the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the family sick leave policy (80 hours per year).

Both adoption cases were eligible for FMLA, which provides employees the right to take unpaid leave, or paid leave if it has been earned, for a period of up to 12 work weeks per year for adoption or childbirth. Notice should be given 30 days in advance of the family or medical leave if at all possible. If the need for FMLA leave is not foreseeable, the supervisor should be notified as soon as practicable. FMLA is not subject to the approval or disapproval of the supervisor.

Family sick leave is granted according to UCAR policy to all employees; absences due to family illness of up to ten working days per year are permitted. Both employees were therefore allowed to take their accrued family sick leave.

In the first adoption case, which occurred more than five years ago, additional family sick leave was granted (see next paragraph below) during which time the FMLA was also applied. In the second adoption, although the employee's request for additional family sick leave was not granted, the FMLA was applied while the employee used the available ten working days of family sick leave and then some vacation hours. Arrangements were made with the supervisor to work an adjusted schedule. The employee's "accumulated sick time" was not accessed, as those hours are available only for the employee's personal use. In both cases, the employees were notified of their FMLA rights.

The family sick leave policy states, "additional time requested will be reviewed and must be approved by your NCAR division director, or the president of UCAR and the director of Human Resources." This allows the division or program to review the circumstances and approve or deny the request for additional family sick leave if the request is deemed appropriate. Over the past five years, there have been just a few requests for additional family sick leave and none have been approved. The sick leave policy will be reviewed in 2001. This provision of the policy and its application will be looked at closely, as we are concerned with the fair and consistent application of all benefit policies.

—Laurie Carr, benefits/compensation manager, Human Resources

Question #461 (received 27 September):

I've heard that other corporations have a policy in place whereby employees are granted vacation time inversely proportional to how much sick time they take, the idea being that if you're a person who's always calling in sick, you get less vacation accrual (or the flip side—if you rarely call in sick, you get more vacation). I don't know the finer details, but it basically sounds like a good idea. Other organizations may have a generalized leave policy whereby a set amount of leave is granted each year. It can be used for sick leave or vacation or whatever at the employee's discretion, no questions asked. Either scheme has its merits.

It's my feeling that certain people often abuse sick leave, and a policy such as outlined above would address this. I virtually never take sick time, and if I do, it's because I need it for genuine illness, not just because I feel like taking the day off or don't have enough vacation time available.

My question, then, is: Would UCAR consider implementing such a policy? While some abusers may not appreciate it, most of the rest of us would.

Response (16 November):

Yes, a lot of organizations have PTO (paid time off) policies that include a bank of time employees may use for any purpose. No distinction is made between vacation and sick leave.

We will be looking at all of our paid-leave policies in 2001. A PTO approach will be seriously considered. At this time, it is too early to speculate on the probability of our policy changing. I expect we'll know something by midyear. Any change will be announced to all employees.

—Laurie Carr, benefits/compensation manager, Human Resources

Question #462 (received 27 October):

I'm having trouble with a co-worker whose personal odor is so foul at times that when this person enters the room the environmental quality therein is changed. There are folks in our division who wait to let the air clear before they enter a space this person has been in. It is that bad. I can't imagine confronting anyone with this problem. Are there UCAR policies concerning personal hygiene in the workplace, or are there suggestions someone can provide that might help someone in my position solve this problem? I know that people are asked to be considerate about the amount of perfume they wear. What about someone who could maybe use a bit of perfuming?

Response (16 November):

Although not addressed in our employment policies, personal hygiene issues, such as offensive body odor, may occur in the workplace. If the problem is persistent, employees are encouraged to talk to the person. Since that may be awkward for some folks, employees may bring the matter to the attention of that employee's supervisor. The supervisor is responsible for addressing the situation with the employee as tactfully as possible. HR is available to assist supervisors or employees who are dealing with sensitive issues such as this.

—Bob Roesch, director, Human Resources

Questions and suggestions from the staff to management may be submitted in confidence to the coordinator, Janet Evans (ext. 1114, ML room 517). They should be submitted in written form, preferably via interoffice mail in a sealed envelope marked confidential; they must be signed. Detailed procedures for submitting questions are given in the UCAR Policies and Procedures Manual, section 4-1-2. Questions and answers of general interest to staff are submitted to Staff Notes Monthly by Janet. They may be edited for publication. For more information, including links to questions and answers published in Staff Notes Monthly and a log of all questions submitted since 1995, see the Delphi Service Web page.

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Edited by Bob Henson, bhenson@ucar.edu
Prepared for the Web by Jacque Marshall
Last revised: Wed Dec 13 17:30:40 MST 2000