What you should know about absences

Mar 2, 2006 11:52 AM

Your rights and how to stay out of trouble

Many UFT members are confused or have mistaken ideas about the regulations governing sick days. Some have found themselves disciplined — in a few publicized instances, quite severely — when they misused their sick days.

To help members avoid such problems, here is a Q&A that tells you everything you should know about sick days and how you may use them in accordance with the contract:

Q. How many days may I take each year for self-treated illness?
A. Article 16a of the teachers’ agreement (and corresponding articles) states that regular appointed teachers are granted up to 10 days in any school year for absences for illness without a doctor’s note.

Q. How do pedagogues earn sick leave?
A. One day of sick leave is earned for every month in which they serve at least 16 calendar days. This is up to a maximum of 10 days per school year.

Q. I have not taken any days this year. If I go to the doctor for my first illness do I need a note?
A. You do not need a doctor’s note for the first 10 days you take off for self-treated illness in any school year. However, it is always wise to submit a note if you did see a doctor.

Q. Why?
A. If you do present a doctor’s note then you won’t use up any of your 10 self-treated sick days that don’t require a note.

Q. May I use any of the 10 self-treated illness days for other business?
A. Three of the 10 sick days may be used for personal business. Reasonable notice must be given to the principal for this type of absence.

Q. What does “reasonable notice” mean?
A. There is no specific number of days that define “reasonable notice.” It would depend on the nature of the business. The need to care for an ill child would probably allow for very little advance notice. On the other hand, if you will be closing on your new house then that probably would be known well in advance so you can give considerably more notice.

Q. What does personal business cover?
A. Personal business is defined in the agreement as any business that cannot be conducted on other than a school day and during other than school hours.

Q. May I use any of the self-treated days to care for my ill child?
A. Two of the three personal business days may be used for care of a sick family member.

Q. Do I have to tell my principal the nature of my personal business?
A. Yes, since he or she would need to know whether this is business that can only be conducted during school time. That’s one reason to give advance notice. Since the principal must approve of the business, advance notice gives you more time to show that it can only be performed during school time.

Q. May I work for an outside business on either a personal business day or a self-treated illness day?
A. No. A teacher may not earn income while on a personal business day.

Q. May I work per session on a personal business day?
A. You may not work per session on a day you did not work during school hours.

Q. May I take a personal sick day for reasons other than illness or personal business?
A. No. Your 10 days per school year may only be taken for illness, disability or approved personal business.

Q. If I don’t use my 10 self-treated days during a school year, do I lose those days?
A. No. Any unused days are placed in your CAR. This is commonly known as your sick bank. You may accumulate up to 200 days in your CAR.

Q. What are my options if I am sick for more than 10 days in a school year?
A. If you have unused sick days accumulated in your CAR you may use those days for illness. However, for all absences after 10 self-treated sick days, medical certification must be presented.

Q. What happens if I don’t have any days in my CAR?
A. You may borrow up to 20 days of additional sick leave.

Q. What happens if I take more than 10 self-treated days in a school year?
A. A payroll deduction is made at the rate of 1/300 of your annual salary for any day after the 10th day without a doctor’s note.

Q. Are there any diseases that do not require a charge to my CAR?
A. Measles, mumps and chicken pox are childhood diseases that are not charged to your CAR.

Q. Do I have to prove that I contracted measles from a child in my class or school?
A. No. You must submit an OP198 form, which is available from your school secretary.

Q. A child in my class has rubella (German measles). I also came down with it. Are my absences for this illness charged to my CAR?
A. Yes. Rubella is not a children’s disease that is listed in the agreement as exempt from CAR deductions.

Q. I came down with shingles, which is a form of chicken pox. Is my CAR deducted for days I took for this illness?
A. Yes. Although shingles is a form of the same virus that causes chicken pox, it is not covered in the agreement.

Q. My principal warned me about excessive absences. How many days may I take off each year without the threat of an unsatisfactory rating?
A. There is no specific number of absences that would trigger a U rating.

Q. I am a regularly appointed pedagogue. My illness or injury requires several months of absence. I only have 12 days in my car. What are my options?
A. First, you must use the days in your CAR. You are then permitted to borrow up to 20 days. This is usually done because it allows you to be paid your regular salary. Then you are entitled to a one-month grace period. This allows you to remain on payroll while maintaining your health insurance. During this grace period you will get paid for weekends and holidays that fall within that time.

Q. What are my options after the grace period is over?
A. You must either return to service or take a leave without pay for restoration of health.

Q. Are there any options other than taking a leave for health reasons?
A. You may be entitled to a family medical leave (FMLA) for personal illness, to care for an ill family member, for maternity or child care. For further information see your chapter leader. In addition, pedagogues are permitted to take sabbaticals for restoration of health as long as they meet the requirement for a six-month sabbatical and have exhausted their CAR. For further information, contact your borough office.

Q. I have been absent eight times in the past 10 months. My principal has called me in to a disciplinary meeting because he believes that there is a pattern to my absences. Can he do this?
A. If the principal sees a pattern to your absences, such as Mondays or Fridays, or before or after a holiday, the principal has an obligation to investigate. This is one reason why doctors’ notes are important. Notes would nullify any appearance of a pattern of absence. 1