Maternity, Medical, and Adoption Leave for Faculty

Published: July 1, 2003
To: Deans, Directors, Chairs
From: Evelyn Jacobson, Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs
Subject: Maternity Medical and Adoption Leave for Faculty

This memo is intended to clarify some questions that have been raised concerning the University's policy on medical maternity and adoption leave for faculty members. The Board of Regents approved policy can be found in the University Employee Policy Manual under Parental Leave.

Please be informed that the University is subject to the Family Medical Leave Act of 1993, including its implications for the tenure probationary period, and UNL practice must conform to the requirements of this law. The Act was intended to balance the demands of the workplace with the needs of families, as well as to minimize the potential for employment discrimination on the basis of sex. One of the stipulations of the federal act is that, . . . on return from FMLA leave, an employee is entitled to be returned to the same position the employee held when leave commenced, or to an equivalent position with equivalent benefits, pay, and other terms and conditions of employment.

Specifically with respect to leave associated with the birth of a child, we interpret FMLA as meaning that any untenured but tenure-line female faculty member who has been granted a paid or unpaid leave of absence related to giving birth, and that the primary caregiver of a newly adopted child who has been granted a paid or unpaid leave of absence related to the adoption, has the option of requesting an extension of the tenure probationary period and that this request ordinarily must be granted. This FMLA requirement is, in fact, consistent with our current tenure interruption policy which allows for an extension of the probationary period in cases where an individual may be able to meet fully and competently the usual demands of job, but may not have the concentration or creativity required to achieve tenure while experiencing high demands in other aspects of life. In practice, this policy provides any woman with the option of delaying the tenure clock due to the birth of her child and provides a primary caregiver of a newly adopted child the same option. Ordinarily, we would assume that such a request will result in deferral of the required tenure review by one full year, although in every case a specific plan for extension must be formally proposed and officially approved, as per the guidelines already in place. The request for an extension of the probationary period must be made not later than one year after the birth of the child.

A second part of the Act guarantees every employee up to twelve weeks of unpaid leave for one of the qualifying events identified in the Act. UNL, therefore, also guarantees under the terms of FMLA that up to twelve weeks of unpaid family/medical leave of absence is available to all regular employees with an FTE of .50 or greater, as well as other employees (including graduate students and temporary employees) who have worked for at least 1,250 hours during the year preceding the start of the requested leave. All relevant provisions of FMLA apply to these employees. Questions on the FMLA policy as it applies to all UNL employees can be answered by individuals in the Benefits Office, 472-2600.

In 2000, the Board of Regents approved parental leave policies, which can be found in the University Employee Policy Manual under Parental Leave.

Under this policy, the employee will not be required to pay back the University to cover the cost of a substitute during the leave.

We ask you to support and work cooperatively with any faculty member who is pregnant or adopting to arrange for appropriate leave. We hope, as well, that you would not find it necessary to invoke the option permitted under the present policy that the employee may be required to pay for a substitute instructor. (Chairs have typically been able to cover instructional costs in various ways that do not place an undue burden on the employee, among them: using temporary instruction funds, arranging trade-offs with other faculty members, assigning team teaching duties to the faculty member, scheduling shorter more intense courses, or assigning the female faculty member to service tasks such as the preparation of program review and accreditation self study documents.) Thank you for informing your faculty of these policies.