207 – Leave of Absence

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Purpose

This policy provides directives for Harris County Sheriff’s Office employees seeking leave of absence.

Policy

A leave of absence (LOA) is unpaid leave that allows an employee to be off work for up to six months and return to work when the leave ends. To be eligible, an employee must have already used all of their vacation and compensatory time, excluding military time, and submit a request for LOA in accordance with this policy. [CALEA Standard 22.1.2 a]

Reasons for LOA

Typical reasons for LOA may include:

  1. Temporary incapacity due to illness or injury;
  2. Pregnancy or other family matters;
  3. Exhaustion of paid benefits;
  4. Call to active military duty; or
  5. A compelling personal reason consistent with this policy and the Harris County personnel regulations.

Requesting a Leave of Absence

A request for LOA must be submitted by the requesting employee to his or her Bureau Commander at least two weeks prior to the LOA’s effective date.

The two-week requirement may be waived under exigent circumstances.

Each request for LOA must include:

  1. The reason for the request,
  2. The employee’s anticipated date of return, and
  3. Official military documentation, if applicable.

Limitations

LOA is granted as a matter of administrative discretion. No employee is entitled to LOA. The HCSO may transfer an employee to LOA status upon exhaustion of paid benefits at its own discretion.

Short-Time

Any employee anticipating an absence, and having no paid time off, must request a leave of absence. Working a reduced schedule with the intent to make up the hours later, i.e. short-time, is prohibited.

Creditable Service

In accordance with Harris County personnel regulations, time on LOA will not be considered creditable service, but the employee will retain seniority for creditable and continuous service performed prior to the leave of absence.

Availability of Positions

When an employee is placed on LOA, his or her position may be filled by another employee. Therefore, the employee on LOA is not entitled to:

  1. Occupy the same position upon his or her return, or
  2. Participate in any bid process which may occur during the LOA.

However, the employee has first priority to assume a comparable position when one becomes available.

If a comparable position is not available at the time an employee on LOA returns, the employee may assume a lesser position, if available, until a comparable position is open.

NOTE: A comparable position is a position with equal salary to that occupied by the employee at the time LOA began.

Duty to Return Equipment

An employee must turn in county-issued equipment prior to starting an LOA.

Upon approval for an LOA, employees must return county-issued equipment to Uniform Supply so the items can be stored until the employee’s return. The employee will receive a receipt for the items.

The receipt, as well as any badge, identification card, and magnetic facility access card must be turned in to the Human Engagement and Resources Division (H.E.A.R.D) for safekeeping until the employee returns to active duty.

Expiration of LOA

An employee on LOA who does not intend to return on the specified expiration date must notify his or her Bureau Commander, and H.E.A.R.D, in writing at least 10 days before the expiration date.

Upon expiration of an LOA, the HCSO will:

  1. Return the employee to active duty in the same position and salary;
  2. Return the employee to active duty in another position and salary; or
  3. Remove the employee from the payroll by submitting a change in status form if applicable.

An employee who is on FMLA (see Policy #205 – Family Leave) and unable to return when his or her FMLA benefits expire may either be placed on LOA, or administratively dismissed.

Automatic Transfer to LOA

Employees absent due to illness, but not on LOA, will be transferred to LOA on the date their paid time off benefits expire.

Procedure for Returning From LOA

Employees intending to return from LOA must provide written notice at least two weeks in advance to H.E.A.R.D., as well as the appropriate Division Commander. The request to return must contain:

  1. The original reason for LOA,
  2. The date of return, and
  3. If the leave of absence was for medical reasons, a physician’s release must accompany the request.

The release may not be conditional or require light duty assignments unless transitional duty is authorized by the Bureau Commander.

Return to Duty After Extended Absence

Any employee who is absent for more than fifteen weeks (600 hours), regardless of the reason, must comply with the provisions of Policy #215 – Return to Duty After Extended Absence. Military leave may be exempt from this requirement in accordance with federal law.

Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA)

Employees absent from active duty are cautioned that their Harris County insurance benefits expire if their pay allowances (compensatory time, vacation time, and sick leave) are exhausted.

Employees may retain their county insurance by making advance arrangements through the Office of Risk Management to pay monthly insurance premiums directly to the Harris County Auditor’s Office.

Employees should refer to the Harris County personnel regulations regarding the “Four Week Rule” on loss of benefits (regular employees compensated for less than 32 hours per week for 4 consecutive weeks lose eligibility for group health and related benefits).

See Policy #213 – Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) for more information.

Revision

This policy has been revised on the below listed dates:

April 21, 2009

June 15, 2021

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