Section 12. Time Off & Leaves of Absence
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.
Department Heads have discretion to adopt policies prohibiting employees from performing any outside work or engaging in any extra-duty employment while out on sick and family medical leave.
12.01 OVERTIME COMPENSATION AND COMPENSATORY TIME
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.
12.011 Earning Compensatory Time
12.0111 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.
12.0112 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.
12.0113 Employees are prohibited from accruing Negative Compensatory Time.
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.
12.012 Compensatory Time Limits
12.0121 If a Non-exempt Employee’s Compensatory Time balance reaches 240 hours, the employee will be paid cash for all hours worked beyond 240.
12.0122 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.
12.013 Using Compensatory Time
12.0131 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.
12.0132 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.
12.0133 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
12.014 Final Payment of Compensatory Time Balance
12.0141 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.
12.0142 Employees who become a Department Head by election, appointment, ratification by Commissioners Court, or designation by the County Administrator, receive final payment of their Compensatory Time balance within 30 days of their election, appointment, ratification, or designation in accordance with §12.0141.
12.0143 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.
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.
12.021 All Regular Position Employees will receive 8 hours of holiday pay regardless of their schedule.
12.022 Employees who work on the Holiday will be compensated for the Hours Actually Worked plus the Holiday hours.
12.023 Floating Holiday
12.0231 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.
12.0232 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.
12.0233 Floating Holidays may be taken in increments. Employees who leave one department to accept a position in another department without a Break in Employment keep their Compensatory Time balance. 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.
12.0234 Department Heads can adopt internal policies about scheduling the Floating Holiday, including denying requests that were not prescheduled and pre-approved, prohibiting employees from using their Floating Holiday until they have worked some minimum amount of time, and requiring employees to schedule the time off around business needs.
12.0235 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.
12.0236 Only Regular Position Employees receive floating holidays. Regular Position Employees who move to a Part Time or Temporary Position within the same department or another County department without a Break in Service forfeit any Floating Holiday balances that are not used before being moved to a Part Time or Temporary Position.
12.03 VACATION LEAVE
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 Week||Maximum Vacation Leave Accrual During the Calendar Year||Maximum Balance|
|At Least||Less Than|
|New Hire to||5 Years||1.54 Hours||10 Days/80 Hours||280 Hours|
|5 Years||15 Years||2.31 Hours||15 Days/120 Hours||280 Hours|
|15 Years||25 Years||3.08 Hours||20 Days/160 Hours||280 Hours|
|25 Years||3.85 Hours||25 Days/200 Hours||280 Hours|
12.031 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 prescheduled 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.
12.032 Employees who become a Department Head by election, appointment or ratification by Commissioners Court or designation by the County Administrator, get paid any Vacation Leave balance within 30 days of their election, appointment or ratification or designation. 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.
12.033 Regular Position Employees who move to a Part Time or Temporary Position within the same department or another County department without a Break in Service forfeit their Vacation Leave balances. Be sure to use your vacation before you move. Employees who forfeited their prior Vacation Leave balance when they moved to a Part Time or Temporary Position get their prior vacation balances restored if they become a Regular Position Employee again without a Break in Service.
12.04 SICK LEAVE
12.041 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 § 12.1314. You must not work another job during the hours you miss work because you are sick or claim Family Sick and Wellness Leave.
12.042 Regular Position Employees accrue Sick Leave at a rate of 4 hours per pay period. The maximum accrual is 720 hours/90 days.
12.043 Sick Leave can be taken the pay period after an employee is hired subject to the employee’s department’s internal policies and procedures.
12.044 Family Sick and Wellness Leave
12.0441 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.
12.0442 For immediate family members not on the employee’s insurance, proof of family relationship may also be required, e.g. birth certificates, a marriage certificate, a court order, photos, a certification form, or a combination thereof. If the Family Sick Leave also qualifies for FMLA, a completed FMLA certification may be sufficient.
12.045 You should tell your supervisor as soon as practicable when taking Sick Leave or Family Sick and Wellness Leave.
12.046 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.
12.047 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.
12.048 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.
12.049 Employees who have a Break in Employment forfeit all accrued Sick Leave. Regular Position Employees who move to a Part Time or Temporary Position within the same department or another County department without a Break in Employment forfeit their Sick Leave balances. Employees who forfeited their prior Sick Leave balances when they moved to a Part Time or Temporary Position get their prior Sick Leave balances restored if they become a Regular Position Employee again without a Break in Employment. 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 Employment.
12.05 SICK LEAVE POOL
The purpose of the Sick Leave Pool Program is to alleviate the financial, health and emotional hardship caused when a Catastrophic Injury or Illness forces an employee to exhaust all accrued paid leave and subsequently lose compensation and benefits from Harris County.
To participate in the program, including contributing to, and receiving benefits from the Pool, Regular Position Employees must have been continuously employed by the County for at least twelve (12) months immediately preceding participation in the program.
12.0511 Participation in the program ceases once an employee is no longer in a Regular Position.
Upon eligibility, an employee may donate between a minimum of eight (8) hours to a maximum of forty (40) hours of Sick Leave and/or Vacation Leave to the Pool each Fiscal Year during enrollment period(s). The donation cannot cause the employee’s combined Sick Leave or Vacation Leave balance to fall below forty (40) hours.
12.0521 Time donated to the Pool is irrevocable and is not designated to any particular employee. Donation to the Pool is not a guarantee that an employee will receive any Catastrophic Leave from the Pool.
12.0522 When an eligible employee voluntarily or involuntarily separates employment from the County, the employee may donate up to an additional ten (10) days (80 hours) of combined Sick and Vacation Leave hours to take effect immediately before the effective date of separation.
12.053 Catastrophic Leave Requests
12.0531 Catastrophic Leave is defined as a “Serious Health Condition” as defined under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) in Section 12.1317 of the Harris County Personnel Policies and Procedures. FMLA defines a serious health condition as an illness, injury, impairment, or physical or mental condition that involves (A) inpatient care in a hospital, hospice, or residential medical care facility; or (B) continuing treatment by a health care provider.
12.0532 A Serious Health Condition includes ailments such as, but not limited to, cancer, myocardial infarction, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, chronic liver disease and cirrhosis, chronic kidney disease and injuries from accidents, including motor vehicle accidents. Incapacity or disability related to pregnancy is considered a serious health condition (does not apply to bonding time after pregnancy). Catastrophic Leave requests for stress-related illness, including mental distress and depression, may only be granted for hospitalization.
12.0533 Only eligible employees are permitted to request and receive Catastrophic Leave from the Pool for their own serious health condition. Catastrophic Leave cannot be used to care for a family member.
12.0534 Employees who are placed on an approved leave of absence or who are receiving Workers’ Compensation indemnity benefits are not eligible to receive Catastrophic Leave from the Pool. Donations to the Pool are strictly voluntary
12.0535 The employee must have a Catastrophic Injury or Illness and must have exhausted all accrued paid leave and compensatory time before receiving Catastrophic Leave from the Pool. The employee must be absent at least ten (10) continuous work days before receiving Catastrophic Leave from the Pool.
12.0536 The maximum amount of Catastrophic Leave that can be given to an employee in a rolling twelve (12) month period is the lesser of:
• The number of hours needed to cover the employee’s absence due to the Catastrophic Injury or Illness,
• Sixty (60) work days (480 hours) for employees who donated to the Pool for the fiscal year or twenty (20) work days (160 hours) for employees who did not donate to the Pool for the fiscal year, or
• One-third of the total amount of time in the Pool.
12.0537 Catastrophic Leave will be administered on a first-come, first-serve basis, determined by the date or time when all necessary information has been provided. If there are not enough hours available in the Pool to cover requests for Catastrophic Leave, employees who donated to the Pool during the fiscal year will be given preference. The Administrator determines eligibility and the amount of Catastrophic Leave given. All decisions by the Administrator are final.
12.0538 Catastrophic Leave is treated for all purposes as if the employee were absent on Sick Leave. All Catastrophic Leave used from the Pool will count towards the employee’s available FMLA entitlement.
12.0539 All unused Catastrophic Leave granted to the employee shall be returned to the Pool under any of the following conditions:
• The employee returns to work full-time;
• The employee voluntarily or involuntarily separates employment with the County;
• The employee becomes deceased;
• The employee voluntarily cancels their participation in the Program; or
• The employee violates this policy and/or commits fraud or misrepresentation in the request or use of Catastrophic Leave;
An estate of a deceased employee is not entitled to payment for unused Catastrophic Leave acquired by the employee from the Pool.
12.054 Coordination with Other Benefits
12.0541 An employee is no longer permitted to receive or use Catastrophic Leave when they begin receiving Workers’ Compensation indemnity benefits, long-term disability benefits, Social Security disability benefits, or any other supplemental benefits.
12.0542 An employee receiving Catastrophic Leave may not perform any outside work or engage in any extra duty employment while using Catastrophic Leave.
12.06 JURY AND WITNESS DUTY
12.061 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.
12.062 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.
12.063 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. 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.
To qualify for Jury or Witness Duty pay, you must tell your supervisor each day you are scheduled to go to court and provide documentation from the court confirming the date(s) and time(s) you were there.
12.064 Give a copy of your summons or subpoena and the statement from the court to your payroll clerk with your timesheet.
12.065 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.
12.066 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.
12.067 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.
12.07 MILITARY LEAVE
We are extremely proud of our employees who serve in the military.
12.071 Reservists should tell their supervisors about their regular monthly training for the year as soon as they know it.
12.072 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.
12.073 Temporary Military Leave
Pursuant to Texas Government Code Ann. §437.202, members of the state military forces, a reserve component of the U.S. armed forces, or a state or federally authorized urban search and rescue team 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).
12.074 The County provides up to an additional seven (7) workdays in a federal fiscal year if a qualifying employee is called up to state active duty by the governor or another appropriate authority in response to a disaster. Military Leave is not limited to six months like a regular LOA. To receive the extra seven (7) days or 56 hours, the department will need to submit a request to Central Human Resources requesting the additional hours be added to the employee’s military leave balance.
12.08 PAID PARENTAL LEAVE
Harris County proudly promotes a family-friendly workplace by providing paid leave to eligible employees to bond and care for a child after the birth, adoption, or foster-toadopt placement.
12.081 The Rolling 12 – Month Period in this section is defined as a period of 12 consecutive months on a rolling basis, with a new 12-month period starting after the exhaustion of the employee’s previous approved Paid Parental Leave or the last day the employee used Paid Parental Leave.
12.0821 To be eligible for Paid Parental Leave and Infant Sick Leave, employees must meet the following criteria:
• Be a full-time, Regular Position Employee (part-time and temporary employees are not eligible); and
• Been continuously employed with the County as a fulltime, regular employee for at least 180 consecutive calendar days immediately preceding the birth, adoption, or foster-to-adopt placement of a child. In addition, employees must meet one of the following criteria:
• Be a new parent by birth of a child;
• Be the new adoptive parent of a child who is 17 years or younger; or
• Be the foster parent to a new foster-to-adopt child who is 17 years or younger and placed with the foster parent.
12.083 Amount and Use of Leave
12.0831 Starting January 14, 2023, employees who have reached 45 consecutive calendar days of employment but have not reached 180 consecutive calendar days of continuous employment immediately preceding the birth, adoption, or foster-to-adopt placement of a child may receive Paid Parental Leave as outlined in the following table.
Continuous Employment As a Regular Position Employee / Maximum Paid Parental Leave During Rolling 12-Month Rolling Calendar Year
At Least Less Than
45 Days 90 Days 3 Weeks/120 Hours
90 Days 180 Days 6 Weeks/240 Hours
180 Days 12 Weeks/480 Hours
12.0832 Employees will not receive more than the maximum allotted amount of Paid Parental Leave in a rolling 12-month period starting from the exhaustion of the previous approved Paid Parental Leave or the last day the employee used Paid Parental Leave, regardless of whether more than one birth, adoption, or placement event occurs within that 12-month time frame.
Example: Kimberly adopted a child with an effective court order date of March 31, 2022. She used 10 weeks of Paid Parental Leave from June 3, 2022, to August 12, 2022. Kimberly adopted another child, with an effective court order date of May 26, 2022. Kimberly will not be eligible for Paid Parental Leave for the second adoption (Kimberly would qualify for Paid Parental Leave for a birth or adoption/placement occurring after August 12, 2022).
12.0833 For child bonding purposes, Paid Parental Leave must be used entirely before other forms of paid or unpaid leave are used after the birth, adoption, or foster-to-adopt placement of a child.
12.0834 Approved Paid Parental Leave may be taken at any time during the 12- month period immediately following the birth, adoption, or fosterto-adopt placement of a child with the employee. Paid Parental Leave may not be used or extended beyond this 12-month time frame.
12.0835 Employees must take Paid Parental Leave in one continuous period of leave unless the employee’s Department Head allows the employee to use Paid Parental Leave intermittently.
12.0836 Paid Parental Leave is compensated at the employee’s regular rate of pay. Any unused Paid Parental Leave is not compensable and will be forfeited at the end of the 12-month time frame or when an employee separates from employment with Harris County or moves to an ineligible position, whichever occurs first.
12.0837 Recipients of Paid Parental Leave must maintain full-time employment with Harris County for at least 180 consecutive calendar days of continuous service immediately after the expiration of approved leave or reimburse Harris County for the Paid Parental Leave funds received.
12.0838 Harris County shall be entitled to recover from the employee any Paid Parental Leave funds received if such employee does not return to work as a full-time, Regular Position Employee for at least 180 days of continuous service after receiving Paid Parental Leave.
12.084 Requesting Paid Parental Leave
12.0841 Employees should notify their supervisor or Department Head of their intention to request Paid Parental Leave as soon as practicable and provide them with the anticipated start date and duration of the leave. Department Heads may delay Paid Parental Leave if advanced notice of the leave is not given.
12.0842 To receive Paid Parental Leave, eligible employees must complete a Request for Paid Parental Leave Form and submit it to their department’s human resources representative within thirty (30) days of the birth or adoption/placement.
12.0843 The request must include appropriate documentation that shows the employee’s use of Paid Parental Leave is directly connected to a birth, adoption, or foster-to-adopt placement of a child. If the employee is eligible for FMLA leave, the FMLA leave requirements will govern, and the FMLA documentation provided will be used to verify eligibility.
12.0844 If the employee is not eligible for FMLA leave, proof of the birth or placement of the child must be provided. The employee’s name must be included as a legal parent on the birth certificate or legal document establishing paternity or establishing adoption/placement.
12.0845 To qualify for Paid Parental Leave, documentation of the birth or adoption/placement of a child should be submitted as soon as it becomes available and no later than thirty (30) days after the birth or adoption/placement. Submission of supporting documentation to HRRM Benefits does not substitute submission of supporting documents to the HRRM Paid Parental Leave Administrator.
12.0846 If the employee fails to provide the Department Head with the required documentation or certification within the specified time period, the Department Head should determine that the employee is not entitled to Paid Parental Leave and require that the absence be charged to leave without pay or other forms of paid time off.
12.0847 To validate an absence, appropriate documentation may be required at any time if requested by the department, Central HR, or Payroll. Paid Parental Leave may be denied if appropriate documentation is not received.
Employees begin their Paid Parental Leave on the date specified in their request unless their child is born or adopted earlier or later. In these cases, employees need to notify their department and Central HR as soon as possible to be able to begin leave.
12.085 Limitations of Paid Parental Leave
12.0851 An employee may not use Paid Parental Leave in excess of the employee’s normally scheduled workweek.
12.0852 For Paid Parental Leave to be used on a part-time (intermittent) basis, the leave schedule must be consistent with the department’s operational needs and be approved in writing by the Department Head prior to the beginning of the leave.
12.0853 Eligible employees are strongly encouraged to plan in advance for when they expect to use Paid Parental Leave and communicate their plans to their immediate supervisor or Department Head, so they can do the necessary planning for their department’s operational needs.
12.0854 Paid Parental Leave must be used only for caring for or bonding with the child. Employees are not allowed to engage in any employment during the time the employee is taking Paid Parental Leave. Department Heads may also adopt policies prohibiting their employees from engaging in any employment while on any type of paid leave including Paid Parental Leave. Department Heads may take disciplinary action against an employee who uses Paid Parental Leave for purposes other than those described in this policy.
12.0855 Employees out on Workers’ Compensation or Leave of Absence (LOA) are not eligible for Paid Parental Leave.
12.086 Coordination with Other Leave
12.0861 Paid Parental Leave is a supplement to the employee’s existing sick and other leave at the time of the qualifying event (birth, adoption, or foster-to-adopt placement).
12.0862 Paid Parental Leave is designed to run concurrently with FMLA and is not intended to extend the 12-week FMLA period. An employee on Paid Parental Leave who meets the FMLA eligibility requirements will be placed on FMLA leave at the start of the Paid Parental Leave. If the employee meets FMLA eligibility during the Paid Parental Leave period, the employee will be placed on FMLA at that time. All other requirements and provisions under the FMLA will apply.
12.0863 The County will maintain all benefits for employees during the Paid Parental Leave period just as if they were taking any other County paid leave.
12.09 INFANT SICK LEAVE
In recognition of the additional medical care needs of infants after birth, Harris County will provide eligible employees up to 40 hours of Infant Sick Leave to seek medical care for their infants during the infant’s first 12 months of birth. An employee will not receive more than the maximum allotted amount of Infant Sick Leave in a rolling 12-month period, regardless of whether more than one birth, adoption, or foster-to-adopt placement event occurs within that 12-month time frame. The Infant Sick Leave expires a year after the birth and also applies to adopted and foster-to-adopt placement infants. Eligible employees must provide medical documentation to support the need to use Infant Sick Leave.
Example: Jessica’s baby was born on May 2, 2022. Jessica has until May 1, 2023, to use up to 40 hours of Infant Sick Leave to seek medical care for her infant.
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. If you need assistance locating or establishing a Lactation Room, please contact HRRM or Facilities & Property Maintenance. Break times more than 20 minutes are unpaid. Retaliation against women who exercise their rights under this policy is strictly prohibited.
12.11 LEAVE OF ABSENCE WITHOUT PAY (LOA)
12.011 Regular Position Employees who have exhausted their Vacation Leave, Compensatory Time, Sick Leave, 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. Employees must follow their department’s call-in procedures and provide periodic status reports to their department when on Paid Parental Leave.
12.012 Employees on Leave of Absence do not get paid for the holidays.
12.013 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.
12.014 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.
12.015 During an LOA, you are not eligible for Harris County health insurance unless you elect 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.
12.016 People who return to Active Duty before or at the end of an LOA keep the benefit of any previously accrued Creditable Service.
12.017 Upon the expiration of an LOA, if the Department Head fails to 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.
12.018 The Auditors Office will automatically remove the individual from the payroll effective the expiration date of the LOA.
12.12 FUNERAL / BEREAVEMENT LEAVE
12.121 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).
12.122 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.
12.123 Department Heads may require you to provide proof of death and/or family relationship.
12.124 If you are already on Unpaid Leave or Workers’ Compensation, you are not
eligible for Funeral Leave.
12.125 If your Immediate Family Member dies while you are on vacation, you may ask
to change your Vacation Leave to Funeral/Bereavement Leave.
12.126 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.
12.13 FAMILY AND MEDICAL LEAVE
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; however, Department Heads are deemed Key employees. 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.
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.
12.1312 Employment Benefits
All benefits the County provides or makes available to Eligible Employees, including group life, health, and disability insurance, Sick Leave, and Retirement.
12.1313 Group Health Plan
Any plan of, or contributed to by, the County to provide health care to employees or the families of such employees.
12.1314 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. Chiropractors are only health care providers under the FMLA if they are providing treatment consisting of manual manipulation of the spine to correct a subluxation as demonstrated by X-ray to exist.
12.1315 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.
The biological parent of an employee or an individual who stood in loco parentis to the employee when the employee was a child.
12.1317 Serious Health Condition
a. An illness, injury, impairment, or physical or mental condition that involves: 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.
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.
12.133 Qualifying Events
FMLA leave can be for one or more of the following events:
12.1331 Any incapacity due to pregnancy, prenatal medical care, or childbirth.
12.1332 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.
12.1333 To care for yourself, your spouse, child, or parent (not in-law) with “serious health condition” as defined in §12.1317.
12.1334 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:
- short-notice deployment (no more than 7 days),
- military events and activities,
- child care and school activities,
- financial and legal arrangements,
- rest and recuperation (up to 5 days),
- post-deployment activities,
- care for military member’s parent who is incapable of selfcare when care is necessitated by member’s covered active duty; and
- additional activities that arise out of active duty that your department agrees to.
12.1335 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 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.
12.134 Amount and Use of Leave
12.1341 You may take up to 12 weeks of FMLA leave per calendar year for qualifying events listed in § 12.1331 – 12.1334. 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.
12.1342 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.
12.1343 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.
12.1344 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.
12.1345 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.
12.135 Requesting FMLA Leave
12.1351 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.
12.1352 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. 12.1353 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:
• 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.
12.1354 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.
Employees are strictly prohibited from performing their regular job duties for Harris County or any other employer while out on FMLA.
Calling in “sick” without giving more information is not sufficient notice that you need FMLA leave. 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.
12.136 Obtaining Clarification or Authentication
12.1361 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.
12.1362 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.
12.1363 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.
12.1364 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.
12.137 Designation of FMLA Leave
12.1371 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. 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.
12.1372 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.
12.1381 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.
12.1382 We may also request recertification every six months in connection with an FMLA absence.
12.1383 If you need FMLA due to your own health condition or that of a family member that lasts beyond a calendar year, you will be expected to provide a new medical certification each year.
12.139 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.
12.1391 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.
12.1392 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.
12.1393 Departments are responsible for notifying Human Resources & Risk Management if an employee fails to return to work.
12.140 Job Protection
12.1401 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.
12.1402 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.
12.1403 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.
12.141 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.
12.142 Fitness for Duty and Return to Work Documentation
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.