15 Aug Know Your Contract – Life-Changing Events
- All full-time faculty experiencing life-changing events are entitled to modified duties for up to 1 semester
- This option is available in addition to the use of any paid leave you have accumulated at UIC, and/or unpaid leave under FMLA
- Eligible circumstances include a new child entering the home, as well as a terminal condition or death in the immediate family
- This entry refers to article VI.B of the 2018-2022 NTT contract and TT contract, university policy FPPG Section 501, and the Family & Medical Leave Act
- TAKE ACTION: Welcome new faculty to UIC, afternoon of August 21st. Sign up here.
Faculty have a right to these accommodations, but since the laws and university policies governing them are broadly defined, the exact outcomes may differ depending on your circumstances. Also, given the mix of policies involved, thinking this through to best meet your needs can be a challenge. We have members experienced in navigating these policies who are able to assist you and advocate for you, so please reach out at UICUnitedFacultly@gmail.com for assistance.
What Qualifies as a “Life-Changing Event”?
Per university policy FPPG 501, in the context of eligibility for modified duties a Life-Changing Event is defined as one of the following:
- A new child enters the home
- A spouse/partner, child, sibling, or parent is diagnosed as having a terminal illness and requires intensive life-saving treatment or is in the end stages of the illness
- Death of a spouse/partner, child, sibling, or parent
So, while this type of policy is usually associated with the birth of a child, it’s actually significantly more expansive. It’s also important to note that these qualifying events aren’t open to debate or interpretation by your supervisor. If you fall into a qualifying category, they MUST work with you on accommodations if that’s what you want.
These circumstances are also typically eligible for consideration under the Family & Medical Leave Act, FMLA, which grants expanded options for taking paid or unpaid leave.
When/How Long Can I Take Modified Duties?
You are entitled to modified duties for up to 1 semester, typically within 12 months of the event in question. This can be in lieu of, or in addition to other leave you intend to take in relation to these circumstances, including paid or unpaid leave under the FMLA.
Under the FMLA, you’re entitled to 12 weeks of unpaid leave, some or all of which can be substituted with any paid leave you have at your disposal. At UIC, using paid leave time in this way is optional. So you might use the two weeks of paid sick days you have, a week of paid vacation time, and then take up to 9 additional weeks unpaid leave. You cannot be denied this time, nor can you be penalized, disciplined or fired for taking it.
What Does “Modified Duties” Mean?
Under university policy, you have to be given accommodations that make it possible for you to continue working in alternative capacities to those you normally perform.
There are some qualifications here. First and foremost, modified duties should be something you actually can do given your current circumstances. Equally important, you will keep your full pay. Your modified duties also should not entail a greater work commitment than what you are already doing, so you can’t be asked to replace two classes with 40 hours of administrative duties, for example.
Beyond this, there is a great deal of flexibility in what might be considered as modified duties. This is owing to the fact that work across departments and job titles at a major university are incredibly diverse, and typically require case-by-case solutions. Typical alternate tasks often include research or service responsibilities for Tenure Track faculty, or various administrative duties for Non-Tenure Track faculty. Depending on your circumstances, the modifications might be as minimal as scheduling all of your on-campus duties on the same day to simplify balancing care-giver responsibilities. You and your unit executive officer can get creative with it, as long as the solution you arrive at is mutually agreeable.
Lastly, though it is not required, it’s not uncommon for a unit executive officer to forgive up to one class worth of work time for a semester.
What Is FMLA?
FMLA is the Family & Medical Leave Act, which grants an array of rights and protections to people experiencing life-changing events like those described above. We touched incidentally on some aspects of FMLA, but it is a complex law, and we aren’t going to be able to describe all of its implications here. You can visit the FMLA area of the Department of Labor website for more detailed information on this law.
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