207 – Leave of Absence

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Policy

Leave of absence (LOA) is an inactive status which may be granted at administrative discretion to a regular employee of Harris County for six (6) months at a time, during which time the employee: [CALEA Standard 22.1.2 a]

  1. Receives no pay,
  2. Performs no services for Harris County,
  3. Has exhausted all vacation and compensatory time combined (except for military leaves of absence), and
  4. Accrues no vacation or other fringe benefits (NOTE: The employee must use all vacation and compensatory time).

An employee may be accorded leave of absence for:

  1. Extended sick leave, including pregnancy (must exhaust all vacation and compensatory time),
  2. Loss of paid benefits,
  3. Call to active military duty (not required to exhaust all vacation and compensatory time prior to the granting of the military leave), or
  4. A compelling personal reason in accordance with the procedures set forth below and in compliance with Harris County personnel regulations.

Procedure

Requesting a Leave of Absence

Except for an emergency, a request for a leave of absence must be submitted by the requesting employee to his or her bureau commander at least two (2) weeks in advance of the leave of absence effective date.

Each request for a leave of absence must also specify the employee’s anticipated date of return to active duty.

An employee who requests military leave of absence (MLOA) must present orders or official military documentation before the leave can be approved.

Administrative Discretion

Leaves of absence are granted as a matter of administrative discretion, and no employee may demand that a leave of absence be granted. Additionally, an employee may be placed on leave of absence as a matter of administrative discretion when paid benefits have expired.

Short-time

Any employee anticipating an absence from active duty, for any period of time after paid time off benefits have been exhausted, must request a leave of absence. Harris County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) employees may not accrue short time.

Creditable Service

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

Limitations

When an employee is placed on leave of absence, his or her position is filled by another employee. Therefore, the employee on leave of absence is not entitled to:

  1. Occupy the same position upon his or her return to active duty, or
  2. Participate in any bid process which may occur during the employee’s leave of absence.
  3. 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 leave of absence desires to return to active duty, the employee may assume a lesser position if one is available at the time and occupy the lesser position until a comparable position becomes available.

A comparable position shall be defined as a position with equal salary to that occupied by the employee at the time the leave began.

County-Issued Equipment

An employee must turn in all county-issued equipment prior to beginning a leave of absence. Upon approval of a LOA, MLOA, FMLA, or workers’ compensation, an employee shall present all county-issued equipment to the Uniform Supply section where the items can be stored and reissued upon the employee’s return.

The employee will receive a receipt for the items. The receipt, badge, identification card, and magnetic facility access card shall be turned in to Human Resources for safekeeping until the employee returns to active duty.

Expiration of a Leave Of Absence

An employee on approved leave of absence who does not intend to return to active duty on the specified expiration date must notify his or her bureau commander and Human Resources, in writing, at least ten (10) days in advance of the expiration date.

At the time the leave of absence expires, the HCSO must:

  1. Return the employee to active duty in the same position and salary, or
  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.

An employee who is on FMLA and is unable to return to active duty when his or her FMLA benefits expire may be placed on leave of absence on that date or be administratively dismissed.

Transfer to a Leave Of Absence

An employee absent from active duty due to illness, but not on approved leave of absence, will be transferred to leave of absence on the date his or her paid time off benefits (sick leave, vacation, and compensatory time) expire.

Return to Duty

Two Weeks’ Notice: An employee on leave of absence is required to contact Human Resources at least two (2) weeks in advance of his or her return to active duty.

Requested Date: An employee must advise the requested date of return to active duty.

Available Position: An employee must confirm whether or not a comparable position will be available on that date. Failure to comply may result in termination.

Written Notification: A written request to return to active duty shall also be submitted to the division commander at least two (2) weeks in advance, subject to review by the bureau commander. The request shall contain information pertaining to the reason (illness, injury, personal, military) for the leave of absence and the anticipated date of return.

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 employee’s bureau commander.

Return to Duty After Extended Absence

Any employee who is absent from active duty for more than fifteen weeks (600 hours), regardless of the reason for the absence, must comply with the provisions of HCSO Policy #215, “Return to Duty After Extended Absence.” The only exception is according to federal law addressing military leave.

Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) – Continuation of Benefits

All personnel absent from active duty are cautioned that their Harris County insurance benefits expire at the time their pay allowances (compensatory time, vacation time, and sick leave) are exhausted. Such 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).

Revision

This policy has been revised on the below listed dates:

April 21, 2009

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