Section 11. Time Off & Leaves of Absence

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Harris County provides employees with several forms of Paid Leave described below. Employees may not take Paid Leave until they have worked at least one day. You should save a reasonable amount of Paid Leave for personal emergencies or natural disasters. You may not take more than 40 hours of Paid Leave in one workweek.


Based on available budgeted funds allocated for Overtime compensation, Non-Exempt employees are compensated for Hours Actually Worked in accordance with applicable law. In lieu of cash payment for Overtime, Compensatory Time may be allowed.

11.011 Earning Compensatory Time

11.0111 When cash payment is not made for overtime, Non-Exempt Employees accrue 1.5 hours of Compensatory Time for each hour worked over 40 hours in one workweek. Exempt Employees accrue 1 hour of Compensatory Time for each hour worked over 40 hours in one workweek.

11.0112 If the combination of any employee’s Paid Absences and Hours Actually Worked exceeds 40 hours in one workweek, the employee accrues Compensatory Time on a straight time, hour-for-hour basis for each hour over 40.

11.0113 Department Heads who are not required to submit time records do not accrue Compensatory Time.

11.012 Compensatory Time Limits

11.0121 If a Non-exempt Employee’s Compensatory Time balance reaches 240 hours, the employee will be paid cash for all hours worked beyond 240.

11.0122 If an Exempt Employee’s Compensatory Time balance reaches 240 hours, the employee will not accumulate any more Compensatory Time regardless of the number of hours worked until the balance is reduced. Exempt Employees are not compensated for Overtime other than the accumulation of 240 hours of Compensatory Time. To maintain accurate County records, exempt employees who have exceeded the maximum compensatory time accrual limit must still record all the hours they actually worked on their timesheets.

The Compensatory Time balance must not exceed 240 hours and is carried forward indefinitely. Department Heads may limit the amount of Compensatory Time you accrue by ensuring that you do not work more than 40 hours in one workweek. Department Heads may also force employees to use any part of the Compensatory Time balance for budgetary reasons, including to avoid paying cash for Overtime.

11.013 Using Compensatory Time

11.0131 An employee’s request to use Compensatory Time is subject to the Department Head’s approval and must not unduly disrupt the operation of the department.

11.0132 Department Heads may compel employees to use any part of their Compensatory Time balance for budgetary reasons and for the best interest of the department.

11.0133 When employees who have both non-exempt and exempt Compensatory Time balances use Compensatory Time, the Compensatory Time used will be deducted from the non-exempt balance first.

11.014 Final Payment of Compensatory Time Balance

11.0141 When you leave the County,

  • Any balance of Compensatory Time you earned as a Nonexempt Employee gets paid based on your final regular rate of pay or in accordance with applicable law.
  • Half of any balance of Compensatory Time you earned as an Exempt Employee gets paid based on your final regular rate of pay.

11.0142 Employees who become a Department Head by election or appointment receive final payment of their Compensatory Time balance within 30 days of their election or appointment.

11.0143 If you leave your job and get re-hired by the County without a Break in Employment, you will not get paid for any Compensatory Time balance. The balance will transfer to your new department. You must work at least one pay period for the new department before using any available paid leave.

Employees who leave one department to accept a position in another department without a Break in Employment keep their Compensatory Time balance.


Each year Commissioners Court approves the paid Holidays for the next calendar year. Once on Active Duty, Regular Position Employees are paid for Holidays subject to the restrictions below.

11.021 All Regular Position Employees will receive 8 hours of holiday pay regardless
of their schedule.

11.022 Employees who work on the Holiday will be compensated for the Hours Actually Worked plus the Holiday hours. Employees on Unpaid Leave or receiving Workers’ Compensation temporary income benefits do not get Holidays.

11.023 Floating Holiday

11.0231 If Commissioners Court approves a Floating Holiday (8 hours), then Regular Position employees may take that Floating Holiday on any working day during the Payroll Year subject to the Department Head’s discretion.

11.0232 An employee may carry two unused Floating Holidays (16 hours) over to the next Payroll Year. An employee will never have more than three Floating Holidays (24 hours) available.

11.0233 Floating Holidays may be taken in increments.

11.0234 New employees may not use a Floating Holiday until the pay period after they receive their first paycheck.

11.0235 An employee who resigns and goes to work for another County department does not get a new Floating Holiday until the next Payroll Year. Unused Floating Holidays follow an employee who changes departments without a Break in Employment. Employees are strongly urged to reserve Floating Holidays for inclement weather and natural disasters.

Example: John, a Regular Position Employee, is scheduled to work 10 hours per day Monday through Thursday. Monday is a Holiday. If John is a non-exempt employee, he must make up the other two hours during the same workweek either by working or posting Vacation Leave or Compensatory Time. Departments may allow or require employees who usually work four ten-hour days to convert to five eight-hour days for that week.


The County provides vacation leave for all Regular Position Employees. Vacation Leave accrues at the rates and to the maximums in this table.

Years of Continuous Employment As a Regular Position Employee Accrual Per Payroll WeekMaximum Vacation Leave Accrual During the Calendar YearMaximum Balance
At LeastLess Than
New Hire to5 Years1.54 Hours10 Days/80 Hours280 Hours
5 Years15 Years2.31 Hours15 Days/120 Hours280 Hours
15 Years25 Years3.08 Hours20 Days/160 Hours280 Hours
25 Years3.85 Hours25 Days/200 Hours280 Hours

11.031 You can only take vacation on normally scheduled workdays and must get prior approval from your supervisor. Department Heads can adopt policies about scheduling Vacation Leave, including denying requests that were not pre-scheduled and pre-approved, prohibiting employees from using Vacation Leave until they have worked some minimum amount of time, and requiring employees to schedule vacations around business needs.

11.032 Employees who become a Department Head by election or appointment get paid any Vacation Leave balance within 30 days of their election or appointment. Department Heads who become a Regular Position Employee with no Break in Employment will receive credit for the years they served as a Department Head in determining their vacation accrual rate.

11.033 Regular Position Employees who move to a Part Time Position, Temporary Position, or Model Position within the same department without a Break in Service forfeit their Vacation Leave balances. Be sure to use your vacation before you move!


11.041 The County provides all Regular Position Employees with Paid Sick Leave for absences due to personal illness, personal injury, or an appointment with a health care provider, as that term is defined in FMLA § 11.1014. You must not work another job during the hours you miss work because you are sick or claim Family Sick and Wellness Leave.

11.042 Regular Position Employees accrue Sick Leave at a rate of 4 hours per pay period. The maximum accrual is 720 hours/90 days.

11.043 Sick Leave can be taken the pay period after an employee is hired subject to the employee’s department’s internal policies and procedures.

11.044 Family Sick and Wellness Leave

Employees may use up to 120 hours of Sick Leave per Payroll Year to care for an Immediate Family Member who is sick or to seek preventative or routine health care for themselves or an Immediate Family Member. Family Sick and Wellness Leave is deducted from the employee’s Sick Leave balance.

11.045 You should tell your supervisor as soon as practicable when taking Sick Leave or Family Sick and Wellness Leave.

11.046 To substantiate a request for a non-FMLA qualifying reason, Department Heads may require you to provide a statement of a health care provider for any period of Sick Leave, including Family Sick and Wellness Leave. For immediate family members not on the employee’s insurance, proof of family relationship may also be required, e.g. birth certificates, Certification Form, a marriage certificate, a court order, photos, or a combination thereof. If the Family Sick Leave also qualifies for FMLA, a completed FMLA certification may be sufficient.

11.047 If you use Sick Leave or Family Sick and Wellness Leave for 4 or more consecutive workdays, you must give your department a health care provider’s statement indicating the onset and duration of the illness. Otherwise, you will not be allowed to use Sick Leave or Family Sick and Wellness Leave for the 4th day. Department Heads must determine whether the absence is FMLA qualifying as soon as possible.

11.048 If you do not submit a healthcare provider’s statement timely, you may not take Sick Leave or Family Sick and Wellness Leave for the period.

11.049 Employees who have a Break in Employment forfeit all accrued Sick Leave. Department Heads who forfeited their sick leave balances when they became Department Heads get their prior sick leave balances restored if they become a Regular Position Employee again without a break in service.


11.051 Regular Position Employees may take up to 3 days off (up to 24 hours) with Department Head approval for the death of an Immediate Family Member. (See § 1.07).

11.052 The number of hours you get is prorated based on the number of hours you are regularly scheduled to work up to 8 hours per day. You must take the leave within 5 days of the funeral or date of death. Your Department Head may let you take more time off using Compensatory Time, Vacation Leave, or Unpaid Leave.

11.053 Department Heads may require you to provide proof of death and/or family relationship.

11.054 If you are already on Unpaid Leave or Workers’ Compensation, you are not eligible for Funeral Leave.

11.055 If your Immediate Family Member dies while you are on vacation, you may ask to change your Vacation Leave to Funeral/Bereavement Leave.

11.056 If a County employee, appointed official or elected official, or someone closely associated with the County dies, a Department Head may approve representation at the funeral. Employees who attend by direction of their Department Head are representing the County therefore, the hours spent at the funeral are Hours Actually Worked.


11.061 Regular Position Employees are eligible for paid leave if they are appointed to serve on a grand jury or are required by court order or subpoena to serve on a jury or appear as a witness in a federal, state, county, or municipal court on a day and during the hours that you are normally scheduled to work. Tell your supervisor as soon as possible after getting a jury summons or a witness subpoena.

11.062 To qualify for Jury or Witness Duty pay, you must tell your supervisor each day you are scheduled to go to court and get a statement from the court confirming the date(s) and time(s) you were there.

11.063 If you do not serve the entire day, you may return to work. The time spent driving from the courthouse directly to the worksite counts as Jury or Witness Duty. If you do not go to work, you are only paid for the hours you actually spent in court.

11.064 You will get paid up to 8 hours per day for Jury or Witness Duty. If the combination of Jury or Witness Duty and Hours Actually Worked is more than 8 hours, lower the Jury or Witness Duty hours on your timesheet so your work plus jury/witness hours total 8 hours per day.

11.065 Give a copy of your summons or subpoena and the statement from the court to your payroll clerk with your timesheet.

11.066 You do not get Witness Duty pay for:

  • appearing in court as a plaintiff or a defendant;
  • appearing as a prospective witness on a personal matter; or
  • testifying as an expert.

11.067 You can keep any fees you get for serving on a jury or grand jury. If you use Witness Duty on your timesheet, you have to give all subpoena or witness fees you receive to the County Treasurer.

11.068 If you testify in a case as a fact witness or an expert witness about your official duties, record that on your timesheet as Hours Actually Worked. You may not get paid from any other source.


We are extremely proud of our employees who serve in the military.

11.071 Reservists should tell their supervisors about their regular monthly training for the year as soon as they know it.

11.072 If you are ordered into active military service, you will get the employment and re-employment benefits granted by federal and state laws. Give your written duty orders to your Department Head or Department HR person as soon as possible.

11.073 Temporary Military Leave

Subject to the amendment of Texas Government Code Ann. §437.202, members of the state military forces or a reserve component of the U.S. armed forces may take a Temporary Military Leave with pay on a day they are regularly scheduled to work but are engaged in authorized training or duty ordered or authorized by a proper authority. Temporary Military Leave does not exceed 15 days or 120 hours per federal fiscal year (October 1 – September 30).

Military Leave is not limited to six months like a regular LOA.

Example: Rachel reports for Jury Duty at 8 a.m. She is released at 12 p.m. and drives straight to work, arriving at 12:30 p.m. She works 12:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. She first records 12:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. (5.5 hours) as work time and then records 2.5 hours as Jury Duty.


Harris County supports breastfeeding mothers by accommodating their desire or need to express milk during the workday. Departments will give a reasonable amount of break time and a place, other than a bathroom, which is shielded from view and free from intrusion from others to express milk.

Break times more than 20 minutes are unpaid. Retaliation against women who exercise their rights under this policy is strictly prohibited.


11.091 Regular Position Employees who have exhausted their Vacation Leave, Compensatory Time, and FMLA leave, if applicable, and have extenuating circumstances may request an unpaid Leave of Absence for up to 6 months. If you do not return from a leave on the date approved, you will be separated from the payroll. Give your Department Head at least 30 days’ written notice asking for the LOA and specifying when and why you need it. Departments can waive the 30-day notice requirement.

11.092 Department Heads may place a Regular Position Employee who has exhausted available paid leave and is unable to return to work on LOA without the employee’s permission with written notice to the employee.

11.093 People on LOA:

  • Must return all County equipment (e.g., keys, badges, laptops) before the leave;
  • Are not employees;
  • Do no work for the County; and
  • Have no job protection.

11.094 During an LOA, you may be eligible to continue health insurance coverage under the terms of COBRA. If you choose COBRA during an LOA and return to Active Duty, you will not have a 2-month waiting period for Group Health and Related Benefits.

11.095 People who return to Active Duty before or at the end of an LOA keep the benefit of any previously accrued Creditable Service.

11.096 Upon the expiration of an LOA, the Department Head must do one of the following:

  • return the individual to Active Duty in the same position and salary; or
  • return the individual to Active Duty in another position and salary; or,
  • remove the individual from the payroll by submitting a Change in Status Form.


The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides eligible employees with leave (with or without pay), certain benefits protection, and job restoration for qualifying events. It is an important right and we encourage you to apply for FMLA if you ever need it. Here is a general description of the FMLA. If this policy conflicts with the FMLA, employees will get the rights required by law. Key employees may be excluded from certain FMLA protections and will be notified of their “key employee” status if they request FMLA leave. If we reasonably believe that an employee has taken FMLA leave for a fraudulent reason, we may discipline the employee.


The words and terms defined in this section have the meaning given unless the context clearly indicates another meaning.

11.1011 Child

A biological, adopted, foster, or stepchild, a legal ward, or a child of a person standing in loco parentis, who is under 18 years of age or who is 18 years of age or older and is incapable of self-care because of a mental or physical disability.

11.1012 Employment Benefits

All benefits the County provides or makes available to Eligible Employees, including group life, health, and disability insurance, Sick Leave, and Retirement.

11.1013 Group Health Plan

Any plan of, or contributed to by, the County to provide health care to employees or the families of such employees.

11.1014 Health Care Provider

A doctor of medicine or osteopathy who is authorized to practice medicine or surgery (as appropriate) by the State of Texas; or any other person determined by the United States Secretary of Labor.

11.1015 Intermittent Leave

Leave taken in separate blocks of time due to a single illness or injury, rather than one continuous period of time, which may include periods from a portion of an hour or more to several weeks.

11.1016 Parent

The biological parent of an employee or an individual who stood in loco parentis to the employee when the employee was a child.

11.1017 Serious Health Condition

An illness, injury, impairment, or physical or mental condition that involves:

a. overnight, inpatient care at a hospital, hospice, or residential medical care facility, including any period of incapacity or subsequent treatment in connection with such inpatient care; or

b. continuing treatment by a licensed health care provider. Generally, a chronic or long-term health condition that would result in a period of three consecutive days of incapacity with the first visit to the health care provider within seven days of the onset of the incapacity and a second visit within 30 days of the incapacity would be considered a serious health condition. For chronic conditions requiring periodic health care visits for treatment, such visits must take place at least twice a year. Example: Chronic serious health conditions include things like, diabetes, lupus, multiple sclerosis, PTSD, and other qualifying emotional and mental illnesses.

c. A permanent or long-term condition for which treatment may not be effective. You or your covered family member must be under the continuing supervision of, but need not be receiving active treatment by, a health care provider.

Example: This includes conditions such as Alzheimer’s, a severe stroke, or terminal stages of a disease.

d. Any period of absence to receive multiple treatments (including any period of recovery therefrom) by a provider of health care services under orders of, or on referral by, a health care provider, either for restorative surgery after an accident or other injury, or for a condition that would likely result in a period of incapacity of more than 3 consecutive days in the absence of medical intervention or treatment.

Example: This includes treatment for conditions such as cancer (chemotherapy, radiation, etc.), severe arthritis (physical therapy), or kidney disease (dialysis).

e. Any period of incapacity due to pregnancy or for prenatal care.

11.102 Eligibility

You must have worked for the County for a total of at least 12 months within the past 7 years and have worked at least 1,250 hours during the 12 months before you begin FMLA leave.

11.103 Qualifying Events

FMLA leave can be for one or more of the following events:

11.1031 Any incapacity due to pregnancy, prenatal medical care, or childbirth.

11.1032 To care for your child after birth or placement for adoption or foster care within 12 months of the birth or placement of the child.  Spouses who work for the County do not need to split the 12 workweeks for the birth or placement of a child or to bond with a newborn or newly placed child.

11.1033 To care for yourself, your spouse, child, or parent (not in-law) with a “serious health condition” as defined in §11.1017.

11.1034 Qualifying exigencies arising because your spouse, child, or parent is a covered military member either on active duty or has been notified of an impending call or order to active duty, in support of a contingency operation in a foreign country.

The qualifying exigencies are:

  1. short-notice deployment (no more than 7 days),
  2. military events and activities,
  3. child care and school activities,
  4. financial and legal arrangements,
  5. counseling,
  6. rest and recuperation (up to 5 days),
  7. post-deployment activities,
  8. care for military member’s parent who is incapable of selfcare when care is necessitated by member’s covered active duty; and
  9. additional activities that arise out of active duty that your department agrees to.

11.1035 Military caregiver leave to care for an injured or ill service member or veteran who is your spouse, son, daughter, parent, or next of kin undergoing medical treatment, recuperation, or therapy for a serious injury or illness sustained in the line of active duty. For veterans, this leave is only available for 5 years after discharge. If you have questions regarding what is a qualifying event under the FMLA, contact Human Resources & Risk Management.

11.104 Amount and Use of Leave

11.1041 You may take up to 12 weeks of FMLA leave per calendar year for qualifying events listed in § 11.1031 – 11.1034. You may take up to 26 weeks for military caregiver leave in a single 12-month period measured forward from the first day of military caregiver leave. Spouses who work for the County must split the 26 workweeks for military caregiver leave. If you take Military Caregiver Leave and any FMLA leave for another qualifying event the total combined leave may not exceed 26 workweeks during a single 12-month period.

11.1042 If you qualify for FMLA, you may use it continuously, intermittently, or on a reduced leave schedule. Department Heads have the discretion to deny intermittent leave for the birth or placement of a child or to bond with the child.

11.1043 If you need leave intermittently or on a reduced schedule for planned medical treatment, you must try to schedule the treatment to avoid disruption to the department. We might temporarily transfer you to another position with equivalent pay and benefits if it makes it easier on the Department.

11.1044 If you use continuous FMLA leave (and are not on workers’ compensation) you must use all paid time available on the first day of leave before using unpaid FMLA leave. For intermittent FMLA leave, you have to use all available paid time before taking unpaid FMLA leave. Sick Leave is only applicable if the Qualifying Event is your own serious health condition or if you use Family Sick and Wellness Leave for the serious health condition of a spouse, parent, or child.

11.1045 Most injuries covered by workers’ comp leave also qualify as a serious health condition under FMLA. If the employee on workers’ comp leave is eligible for FMLA, we will designate the absences as both Workers’ Compensation and FMLA.

11.105 Your Health and Related Benefits During Leave

Harris County maintains Group Health Plan coverage for employees on FMLA under the same conditions as if you had continued to work.

11.1051 If you choose to continue coverage while on unpaid FMLA leave, you have to pay your share of the premiums, if any. Harris County will bill you bi-weekly. If Harris County does not get payment within 30 days of the due date, your coverage will end on the 31st day.

11.1052 If you choose not to return from FMLA or if you work less than 30 calendar days after returning to work, Harris County will bill you for any premiums Harris County paid for maintaining your benefits while you were on Unpaid Leave.

11.1053 Departments are responsible for notifying Human Resources & Risk Management if an employee fails to return to work.

11.106 Job Protection

11.1061 If you return to work before or on the working day after your authorized FMLA leave expires, you will get your job back or an equivalent job with equivalent benefits, pay, and other terms and conditions of employment.

11.1062 If you do not return to work after your FMLA, you may be disciplined, including termination. Check in with your department as the end of your leave approaches to discuss what options you might have.

11.1063 Deputies out on workers’ compensation leave who have exhausted FMLA leave and are unable to return to work at the end of their Department Head’s term are subject to having their employment terminated at the end of the current term of office.

11.107 Status Reports and Intent to Return to Work

Stay in touch with your department. We want to know how you are doing. Your department will tell you who to talk to and how often to call on the Notice of Eligibility and Rights & Responsibilities (Form 0455B). If you are on intermittent FMLA, you still have to follow your department’s call-in procedures for reporting an absence unless you have extenuating circumstances. Employees may be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including termination, if they fail to provide status reports or follow call-in procedures.

11.108 Requesting FMLA Leave

11.1081 If you need FMLA leave tell your supervisor or payroll clerk either orally or in writing. You have to give us sufficient information to determine whether the leave qualifies for FMLA protection and the anticipated timing and duration of the leave.

11.1082 If the need for leave is foreseeable, you have to notify your department at least 30 days prior to taking FMLA leave. If the need for FMLA arises unexpectedly, notify your department as soon as practicable. If you don’t, it may delay the start of the leave.

11.1083 Within five business days after you give sufficient notice, your department representative will give you Auditor’s Form 0455B, the Notice of Eligibility and Rights and Responsibilities and the applicable FMLA certification:

Calling in “sick” without giving more information is not sufficient notice that you need FMLA leave.

  • Auditor’s Form 0456A – FMLA Certification of Employee’s Serious Health Condition;
  • Auditor’s Form 0456B – FMLA Certification of Family Member’s Serious Health Condition;
  • Auditor’s Form 0456C – FMLA Certification of Qualifying Exigency for Military Family Leave;
  • Auditor’s Form 0456D – FMLA Certification for Serious Injury or Illness Current Service member;
  • Auditor’s Form 0456E – FMLA Certification for Serious Injury or Illness of Veteran.

You must return the completed certification within 15 calendar days or your request may be denied unless you give the department a reasonable explanation of why you need more time.

11.1084 If you are absent from work for 4 consecutive calendar days and your supervisor is uncertain whether the absence is for a Qualifying Event, your department may call you to discuss the situation. Of course, any time you are absent, we have the right to ask you about it. The department may also send the appropriate FMLA forms to you and start preliminarily designating your absences as FMLA leave. If it turns out that FMLA does not apply, we will remove the preliminary designation.

11.109 Obtaining Clarification or Authentication

11.1091 If the medical certification is incomplete or insufficient, the department representative will use Auditor’s Form 0457, FMLA Designation Notice, to tell you what information is still needed. You will get at least 7 calendar days to provide the missing information.

11.1092 After you have had the chance to cure any deficiencies, someone other than your immediate supervisor, may, with your permission, communicate with the Health Care Provider to clarify the certification. Your immediate supervisor will not contact your healthcare provider. If you do not authorize us to clarify the certification or get the requested clarification yourself, we may deny your FMLA leave request.

In all instances, it is YOUR responsibility to provide a complete and sufficient certification. If you don’t, it may result in the denial of FMLA leave.

11.1093 Someone other than your immediate supervisor may communicate with the Health Care Provider to authenticate any medical certification. We do not need your permission to do that.

11.1094 In certain circumstances, the Department has the right to require an employee to obtain a second or third opinion at the Department’s expense. Departments must consult the County Attorney’s Office before seeking a second or third medical opinion.

11.110 Designation of FMLA Leave

11.1101 Within five business days of getting the completed appropriate certification form, we will give you a written notice on Auditor’s Form 0457, FMLA Leave Designation Notice, stating whether your request qualifies for FMLA, and, if so, describing the conditions of the leave and the requirements for returning to work.

11.1102 As stated above, we can designate absences as FMLA without an employee’s permission if we have information that the absences qualify for FMLA and notify the employee in writing.

11.111 Re-Certification

11.1111 We can request recertification of the serious health condition (whether yours or your family member’s) if (1) you ask to extend the leave, (2) when circumstances have changed, or (3) if the department receives information casting doubt on the reason given for the absence.

11.1112 We may also request recertification every six months in connection with an FMLA absence.

11.1113 If you need FMLA for a chronic or lifelong condition, you will have to submit a medical certification each year.

11.112 Fitness for Duty Certification

If you take continuous FMLA leave for your own serious health condition, we expect you to return to work when your health care provider releases you. If your doctor releases you with restrictions, contact your department right away to discuss those restrictions and your work status. We will tell you on the designation notice if you are required to have a fitness for duty certification to return to work. Failure to submit a fitness for duty certification may delay, or result in the denial of, reinstatement.

We know FMLA is complicated. If you have any questions, talk with your supervisor, appropriate department representative, or call Human Resources & Risk Management.

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