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CHTU Update - 10.14.15 Sick Leave

Dear Colleagues,

By statute in Ohio, Teachers earn 1.25 days of sick leave each month.  This is repeated in our contract.  But, what is sick leave, who does it belong to, and can a person get in trouble for using it?

Sick leave is yours. You earn it.  It is an insurance policy that you hope to never have to use.  When a teacher moves from one public school district to another, sick leave can transfer to the new district (handy to know if you worked somewhere else or plan to leave).  If you retire in CHUH after at least 10 years, you get paid severance for one quarter of your unpaid days.  It can add up to a lot of money, just ask a retired high school English teacher who did not know it was coming and ended up buying a fancy little sports car with the license plates “SIKDAYS.”

You can use sick leave……….when you are sick!  Pretty obvious.  It is also when a family member is sick or dies.  You should not use sick leave for medical appointments that can be scheduled at different times.  You will find that scheduling such appointments outside of our work times may not always be possible, so some people use half of a sick day for appointments at times.  By the way, we can only use full or half days of sick leave even though Aesop does know how to keep track more precisely AND even though our sick leave balance is in hours to two decimal places.

If you use sick leave an extended period then you may be questioned by the district as to its validity.  This is a sticky point, because you don’t really have to tell them everything they might want to know.  For instance, you are not required to disclose the nature of the illness.  Administration will ask if an illness is Family Medical Leave Eligible if you use 5 consecutive days or 8 days in a month.  If you have enough sick leave to cover the absence it is a simple matter of answering “yes” or “no”, no paperwork required.  If you are out of sick leave you will be required to fill out the FMLA paperwork.  Even this paperwork does not disclose a lot of personal information.  In fact, if you are out for an extended time because a child or spouse is ill, then the district should not get any information about the nature of the illness, only that you are caring for someone who needs help.

So, the question is, why do we get threats about sending members to district doctors?  If an administrator is concerned about your ability to do your job then they can send you to a physician.  This is rarely done, but if they are concerned then they can do it according to the General Regulations of the Board of Education; A health examination may be required of any employee when deemed advisable by administration

Why do some administrators threaten to require a physician’s note?  We have language in our contract that states:  The Superintendent may require a physician’s statement, consistent with Ohio Revised Code Section 3319.141.

And then it explains that section of the ORC:

Section 3319.141 Ohio Revised Code provides in part as follows: A board of education shall require a teacher/non-teaching school employee to furnish a written signed statement on forms prescribed by such board to justify the use of sick leave. If medical attention is required, the employee's statement shall list the name and address of the attending physician and the dates when he/she was consulted.”

If you read closely, this is not really a requirement for a doctor’s note, it is signing a statement that you went to a doctor or are under a doctor’s care.  Not the same as a note.  It is our old sick leave form, which is in the back of the contract.  We furnish some of this info every time we use sick leave through Aesop.  We are swearing that we are using sick leave properly – and if we are not, then there could be consequences.  The truth is that we deliver physician’s notes as a courtesy through our office in certain circumstances where we are trying to make it easier for our member and easier for administration to understand particular situations.  It should not be the norm.  If you are asked to provide a note, please contact our office.

Consequences for using sick leave?  If administration determines you are not using sick leave properly, then they can fire you.  A good example of this is several years ago two tenured teachers used sick leave to go golfing out of state.  They were reported by a former administrator and resigned before they were fired.  Some people think you have to be sick to like golfing, but either way you cut it, it is not a proper use of sick leave.

The district looks for patterns of abuse in sick leave, but it is sometimes difficult to tell.  Someone who is out sick a lot, may have a reason for being out.  In fact, sometimes we need to ask for accommodations for people who are often ill on account of a serious medical condition.  Sometimes they don’t want anyone to know why – that is their right.  Administration will notice if an employee takes off Fridays and Mondays.  They notice these kinds of things and might try to investigate. 

So, use sick leave when you are sick or taking care of a family member who is sick.  No one wants to be out of the classroom, but there are times when it cannot be avoided.  If you have a question about using sick leave speak to your building steward first.

In Union,

Ari Klein

CHTU President

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