215 – Return to Duty After Extended Absence

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Policy

The Harris County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) allows employees to take an extended leave of absence from active duty for any reason or combination of reasons (e.g., sick leave, workers’ compensation, leave of absence, legislative leave, family leave, military leave, etc.).  The Return to Duty after Extended Absence shall be coordinated by the Harris County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) Human Resources Division in conjunction with the employee’s bureau commander.

Definitions

Extended Absence:  Absence from duty for any reason for more than fifteen (15) workweeks (as a workweek is defined in Harris County Personnel Policies & Procedures, Section 1.15) or six hundred (600) working hours.

Military Leave of Absence:  Time off certain types of active or inactive duty in the Armed Forces, Reserves, National Guard or other “uniformed services”.

Procedure

Types of Leaves of Absence

Extended Leave of Absence

Absence beyond fifteen (15) consecutive workweeks or six hundred (600) working hours:

Absence Beyond One (1) Year

Any employee who is absent from active duty for any reason or combination of reasons (e.g., sick leave, workers’ compensation, leave of absence, legislative leave, family leave, transitional duty, etc.) for a period exceeding one (1) year or twelve (12) consecutive months shall be required to apply for reinstatement by a request letter to Human Resources. The process will include a complete criminal history review, validation of licensure, and medical review. The employee will be exempt from taking the physical abilities test and Police Officer Selection Test (POST) if he or she had successfully completed this testing when originally employed with the HCSO.

Military Leave of Absence

A return to duty from a military leave of absence will be governed by provisions of the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA), state law, and county and HCSO regulations.

Return to Duty Notice

Any employee seeking return to active duty after an extended absence shall be required to provide documentation that he or she is physically and mentally capable to discharge the duties of the position to which he or she is returning.

Such documentation is required regardless of the reasons for the leave. If the reasons for the leave were medical in nature (e.g., sickness or injury), the documentation must be signed by an attending physician.

If the reasons were not medical, the documentation may be signed by any physician.

Employees shall give a minimum of two (2) weeks written notice to Human Resources of their intention to return to active duty. Failure to do so may delay an employee’s return to duty.

Documentation must be provided before the employee will be allowed to return to duty.

The forms to be signed by a physician are available from Human Resources. No other release forms will be accepted.

Employees shall obtain appropriate release forms from Human Resources. The employee shall take the release forms to the physician who will review the employee’s job description and document whether the employee can perform the essential functions of the job or whether the employee will require an accommodation.

The employee shall be responsible for ensuring that the release forms are promptly completed by the physician and returned to Human Resources as soon as practicable.

Employees are cautioned that positions will not be held open indefinitely pending receipt of completed forms.

Process for Returning to Duty

Upon receipt of a written request to return to duty, Human Resources staff will contact the employee’s bureau commander for authorization to process the employee for return to duty and determination of any specific additional testing that may be required.

When the bureau commander returns the signed letter, Human Resources will prepare a letter directing the employee to review with his or her physician the appropriate job description and testing requirements for the position into which the employee will be returned. If the physician is able to release the employee to return to duty, he or she shall provide Human Resources with a detailed release.

If the employee has been absent for a period beyond one year, Human Resources will refer the employee’s file to the Recruiting and Backgrounds Sections for application review and validation of qualifications.

The information provided by the employee’s physician will determine the terms and conditions of the employee’s return to duty. If, in the physician’s opinion, the employee can undergo required testing, such testing will be scheduled by Human Resources. A deputy who cannot demonstrate firearm proficiency when required will not be allowed to return to duty as a deputy until such proficiency can be successfully achieved.

If an accommodation is required by law, Human Resources will work with legal counsel and the employee’s bureau commander to determine if the employee can be returned to duty and, if so, in what capacity.

Human Resources will provide the examining physician or the employee with the employee’s job description, an explanation of the required testing, and instructions.

The bureau commander may, at his or her discretion, require a review of the employee’s job description by the attending physician in those instances where an employee has been absent due to illness or injury for less than fifteen (15) workweeks or 600 working hours.

Requirement for Testing and Proficiency

An employee who seeks a return to active duty after an extended absence must submit to:

  1. Substance abuse testing regardless of the position previously held.
  2. Firearm qualifications will be required of sworn personnel who have either:
    • Not qualified within the current year and who have missed annual HCSO qualification for which they would have normally been scheduled; or
    • Who are returning from leave due to a condition, illness, or injury which could affect the deputy’s ability to demonstrate firearms proficiency

An employee who seeks a return to active duty on a transitional duty status due to medical restrictions after an extended absence must submit to:

  1. Substance abuse testing regardless of the position previously held.
  2. Firearm qualifications for sworn personnel will not be required while on transitional duty, as employees on Transitional Duty do not wear any portion of the HCSO’s uniform nor display a badge or weapon.  Once the employee is release from his or her medical provider to full duty, the employee must submit to firearms qualification as indicated above on Section III.B.5.a

Additional Testing

In some cases, additional specialized testing for a position may be required to determine fitness for duty and proficiency. The employee’s bureau commander will, in conjunction with Human Resources, determine any additional testing which may be required of the employee.

Revision

This policy has been revised on the below listed dates:

April 21, 2009

May 20, 2010

February 15, 2019

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