Policy Title:  NEW YORK PAID FAMILY LEAVE

Type or category of Policy:  Administrative

Approval Authority:    Cabinet

Responsible Executive:  Vice President for Finance and Administration

Responsible Office:  Office of Human Resources

Owner Contact:  Office of Human Resources, Trustco Bank Center Room 120, humanresources@siena.edu, 518-783-2420 

Reviewed By:  Cabinet

Reviewed Date:  December 2017

Last Revised and Effective Date of Revision:  Effective January 1, 2018

Brief Overview of the Policy

Siena College (the “College”) will provide covered employees with paid leave benefits in accordance with the New York State Paid Family Leave Benefits Law.  Paid Family Leave (“PFL”) is designed to enable eligible employees to take time off from work to care for family members under circumstances as outlined below.  Employees taking PFL will receive partial wage replacement through an insurance policy that is funded by weekly, post-tax employee payroll deductions (established annually in accordance with state law).  Payroll deductions will begin on January 1, 2018, or the employee’s first day of employment, whichever is later. 

Reason for Policy

This policy is intended to implement and comply with the New York State Paid Family Leave Benefits Law (N.Y. Workers Compensation Law, Section 201, et seq.) and supporting regulations (12 N.Y.C.R.R. Part 380). 

Scope of the Policy

All employees of the College are covered by this policy, except for:

  • Friars and members of religious orders
  • Executive officers identified in the college’s by-laws
  • Daytime students in elementary or secondary school
  • Full and part-time faculty members
  • Librarians
  • College Counsel
  • Certain Counseling Center positions
  • Employees who are eligible for and execute a PFL waiver (see below)

Student employees are covered, but are not subject to the payroll deduction.

Policy and Procedures

  1. Qualifying Reasons for Leave

Eligible employees may take leave in accordance with this Policy for the following reasons:

  1. Caring:  To provide care for a child (regardless of age), parent (including parent-in-law), grandparent, grandchild, spouse and/or domestic partner with a “serious health condition”.
    1. Providing care” includes: necessary physical care, emotional support, visitation, assistance in treatment, transportation, arranging for a change in care, assistance with essential daily living matters, and personal attendance services.  During the leave, the employee must be in close physical proximity to the identified family member who is receiving care.
    2. Serious Health Condition” means: an illness, injury, impairment or physical or mental condition that involves either in-patient care or continuing treatment (or supervision) by a health care provider.  Questions regarding the definition of “serious health condition” should be directed to the Human Resources Office.
      • Note:  Absent complications, the common cold, the flu, an earache, an upset stomach, a minor ulcer, a headache (other than a migraine), a routine dental procedure / orthodontia problem, a periodontal disease, etc. does not typically constitute a serious health condition.
  2. Bonding: To bond with a child following the child’s birth, adoption or placement in foster care.
    1. In the case of adoption or placement, PFL may be taken prior to the adoption or placement if the employee’s absence is necessary for the placement or adoption to proceed.  PFL taken for these circumstances must be used within one year of the first day of leave, or within one year of the adoption / placement, whichever is earlier.
    2. In the case of the birth of a newborn child, PFL taken to bond with the child must be used within the first year following the child’s birth.
  3. Preparing: To prepare for, or attend to, a qualifying exigency arising out of a family member’s military service.
    1. Family member”, as applied to this particular provision, shall include the employee’s spouse, domestic partner, child or parent who is currently on active duty or has been notified of an impending call to active duty in the Armed Forces of the United States.  
    2. Qualifying exigency” shall have the same meaning and interpretation under PFL as the term is currently used under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”).  Questions regarding the definition or application of “qualifying exigency” should be directed to the Human Resources Office.

PFL is not available for the employee’s own disability or serious health condition.  Disability, FMLA leave may be available in those circumstances.  Please see the College’s Short-Term Disability and FMLA policies for additional information.

  1. Eligibility

A covered employee who is regularly scheduled to work at least 20 hours per week is eligible to take PFL after he/she has been employed by the College for 26 consecutive weeks.

A covered employee who is regularly scheduled to work less than 20 hours per week is eligible to take PFL after working for the College for 175 days.  

  • Note:  Time spent on paid vacation, sick and personal leaves, will count towards an employee’s eligibility determination, provided deductions were taken during that period of paid time off.  However, time that an employee spends on NYS disability leave or unpaid leave will not be counted towards an employee’s eligibility determination. 
  1. Interaction with FMLA

PFL will run concurrently with leave under the FMLA where the reason for leave qualifies under both PFL and FMLA.  In these cases, employees will be required to comply with all applicable employee requirements (e.g., application, certification, notice, etc.) under both policies.  Accordingly, employees should also review and refer to the College’s FMLA Policy.  If an employee’s need for leave qualifies under both PFL and FMLA, but the employee declines to apply for PFL benefits (despite being notified that the reason for leave is a PFL-qualifying reason), any leave taken by the employee for such reason will nevertheless be counted against the employee’s PFL allotment.

  1. Waivers

Employees have the opportunity to waive PFL benefits under the following limited circumstances:

  1. The employee’s regular work schedule is 20 or more hours per week, but the employee will not work for the College for 26 consecutive weeks.
  2. The employee’s regular work schedule is less than 20 hours per week and the employee will not work for the College for 175 days during a consecutive 52-week period.

If an employee elects to waive PFL coverage, the College will not take PFL payroll deductions from that employee.  However, if an employee elects to waive PFL coverage and his/her regular schedule changes such that he/she works for either 26 consecutive weeks or 175 days in a consecutive 52-week period, the employee’s waiver will be automatically revoked under the law.  When such a waiver is revoked, the College will notify the employee regarding his/her contribution obligations.  Thereafter, the College may begin taking PFL payroll deductions from the employee, including any retroactive amounts from the employee’s date of hire or the amount necessary to prevent the College from having to pay the applicable PFL insurance premium.

  1. Amount of Leave Available

The amount of PFL time available to eligible employees will be phased-in over a period of 4 years as follows:

YEAR # OF WEEKS OF PFL AVAILABLE
DURING 52-WEEK TIME PERIOD
2018 8
2019 10
2020 10
2021 (and beyond) 12
 

The 52-week time period is calculated by measuring backwards from each day for which PFL is taken.  PFL may be taken in daily or weekly increments.  In the event that an employee also collects New York State Disability Leave Benefits (DBL) for his/her own disability, the maximum combined amount of time that can be taken for both DBL and PFL can total no more than 26 weeks during a 52-week time period.

The College will not permit more than one employee to use PFL to care for the same family member at the same time.

Example: If both spouses work for the College, the College may deny PFL to one spouse if both employees have requested to take PFL during the same period of time to bond with the same child.  However, both spouses could take PFL at different times to bond with the same child.

  1. PFL Benefit Levels

Employees do not continue to receive their full pay from the College during PFL.  Rather, they will receive a partial wage replacement benefit payment which will be paid directly from the College’s insurance carrier.  Benefit levels are set by state law as a percentage of the employee’s average weekly income, which will be capped as a percentage of the NY state average weekly wage.  Benefit levels will be phased-in over a period of 4 years as follows:

YEAR Maximum % of Employee’s Average Weekly Wage Capped % of the State Average Weekly Wage
2018 50% 50% (capped at $652.96 for 2018)
2019 55% 55%*
2020 60% 60%*
2021 (and beyond) 67% 67%*

*In the years following 2018, NYS will make an annual determination (most likely during the fall) about the benefit cap amount that will be used / applied in the next calendar year (i.e., beginning January 1st).

If PFL leave spans across calendar years, the employee’s benefit amount/ rate is set at the time the PFL leave begins and does not increase during the leave period.

  1. Intermittent Leave

PFL may be taken on either a weekly or intermittent basis (i.e., separate blocks of time).  Intermittent PFL must be used in full-day increments.

If an employee takes intermittent FMLA in partial day increments for a reason that also qualifies for PFL, and the employee is paid and works at least part of a day, the College will track the hours taken against the employee’s FMLA allotment.  When the partial day increments taken total the number of hours in the employee’s regular work day, the College will deduct one day of PFL from the employee’s available PFL allotment.

  1. Notification Requirements

Employees must provide the College with notice regarding the need for PFL before the start of the leave; notice should be given to the Human Resources Office.  Employees are required to provide sufficient information and notice to inform the College of the qualifying event, the anticipated timing, and the duration of leave.

  1. If the need for PFL is foreseeable (i.e., planned medical treatments / appointments, to bond with a child, a qualifying military exigency, etc.), the employee must provide the College with at least 30 days’ advance notice, or as soon as the need for leave becomes known.
  2. If the need for PFL is not foreseeable because of a medical emergency, change in circumstances or lack of advance knowledge, the employee must notify the College as soon as practicable under the circumstances.  It should be practicable for the employee to follow the College’s usual and customary call-in procedure, which requires employees to notify their Supervisor as far in advance of their scheduled start time as possible regarding their inability to report for work as scheduled.
  3. If an employee fails to provide 30 days’ advance notice of foreseeable PFL and provides no reasonable excuse for the delay, the insurance carrier may partially deny the claim for a period of up to 30 days from the date the notice is given.
  4. If leave is taken on an intermittent basis, the employee must provide notice as soon as is practicable before each day taken as intermittent leave.

Additionally, when the need for PFL is foreseeable, including intermittent leave, employees are encouraged to consult with their Supervisor and the Human Resources Office regarding leave scheduling so as to minimize operational disruptions to their department. 

  1. Applying for Leave Benefits

In addition to the notification requirements above, in order to receive income replacement benefits while on PFL, an employee must submit a claim form to the College’s PFL insurance carrier using the applicable Request for Paid Family Leave forms.  The claim form(s) will provide details regarding the documentation that will be required to support the request for PFL benefits.  These forms may be obtained from the Human Resources Office.

Employees are responsible for timely filing their own PFL claim(s) with the College’s insurance carrier.  While employees have 30 days from the date PFL is taken to file the claim, employees should consider filing the claim as quickly as possible to ensure prompt payment of PFL benefits if the claim is ultimately approved.  The College will not file a claim on an employee’s behalf.  In addition, an employee will not receive any PFL benefits until the claim has been fully submitted and approved by the insurance carrier.  The insurance carrier has 18 days, from the date of submission, to make this decision.

If the leave is also FMLA-qualifying, and the individual is an eligible employee under the FMLA, the employee must also apply for FMLA pursuant to the College’s FMLA Policy.

An employee who is absent from work and whose PFL claim is later denied by the insurance carrier, may be authorized for leave, if eligible, under the College’s other leave of absence policies.  If the employee is not eligible under any other leave of absence policy, the employee will be required to apply any accrued, unused vacation time.  If the employee does not have any accrued, unused vacation time, the employee’s absence may be treated as unexcused and subject to the College’s attendance policy.

  1. Use of Vacation and Sick Time

An employee has the option to supplement his/her PFL benefit with accrued vacation or sick time in order to receive full pay.  In no event can the combination of PFL benefits and vacation and/or sick time result in the receipt of more than 100% of an employee’s regular wages.

  1. Status of Benefits during a Leave

In the consideration of advancement in salary, and in determining eligibility for tuition benefits, sick time, personal time, and vacation (if applicable), the time taken for an approved leave of absence under this policy will be considered as service. 

Applicable fringe benefits, including health, vision, and dental insurance, tuition benefits, life insurance, and long-term disability insurance will be continued during a leave at the same contribution rates in effect for active employees. 

If an employee elects to receive any vacation or sick pay, as outlined in Section J above, during any portion of the leave, the employee’s benefit contributions will be made through payroll deduction.  If the leave is unpaid, payment is due from the employee at the same time it would be made if by payroll deduction.  If payment by the employee is more than 30 days late, the employee’s insurance coverage will cease for the duration of the leave. The College will provide 15 days’ notice prior to terminating coverage.

  1. Restoration of Employment

An employee who returns to work at the conclusion of an approved period of PFL will be restored to the same position or to a comparable position (with comparable pay, benefits and other terms and conditions of employment).  If the employee has exhausted all weeks of available PFL and is still unable to return to work, the employee is no longer guaranteed any job restoration rights under PFL, unless other job protections apply (e.g., FMLA). 

  1. Appeal Rights

If an employee’s request for PFL has been denied by the insurance carrier, the employee has the right to appeal the determination through an arbitration proceeding.  Information regarding the appeal process is available from the insurance carrier.

  1. Protection from Discrimination and Retaliation

The College will not discriminate and/or retaliate against any employee for inquiring about, applying for, or using PFL benefits.  Employees who believe they have experienced discrimination and/or retaliation should immediately notify their supervisor, the Human Resources Office or any other member of management.

  1. Fraud

An employee who fraudulently obtains PFL, or who uses PFL in an improper manner, is subject to disciplinary action, up to and including termination.

  1. Questions

An employee who has questions concerning PFL is encouraged to contact the Human Resources Office for more information, clarification and/or appropriate guidance.  

Resources

Family & Medical Leave Act Policy

Adopted:  December 18, 2017

Reviewed:

Revised