UPE met with representatives from DHA and DPS on November 8, 2021, to discuss changes to the administration of leaves of absence and FMLA. DHA is changing its practice to come in line with Countywide policy and practice. In particular, the Department plans to require workers to use all leave balances prior to placing them on LWOP status. Previously, the Department would mark workers as LWOP if they were out sick but did not have sick leave balances unless they were on a protected leave like FMLA. The Department would not allow workers to use their vacation balances, holiday in lieu, or CTO to replace sick leave. This is now changing. Workers who are out of sick leave will be required to use their other balances before recording LWOP. This is already the practice in every other Department in the County. UPE sees this as a positive change for our members as many workers have low sick leave balances due to the ongoing pandemic. Allowing workers to use vacation will help workers avoid LWOP.
The Department also presented a second change to align with County policy. Currently, if employees are on SDI or Paid Family Leave (PFL), the Department does not require them to use their leave balances before being placed on LOA. Under the new policy, already practiced by other Departments, workers are required to exhaust or integrate their leave balances before being placed on LOA. Workers on protected FMLA/CFRA leave are not required to use their leave balances if they do not wish to.
Finally, the Department made changes to FMLA administration in DHA to standardize the practice across the Department. In particular, supervisors will no longer issue preliminary designation FMLA/CFRA letters and will no longer record time as FMLA before submitting their medical certification. While this policy change will bring DHA in line with other Departments, it contains potentially negative impacts for our members. First, DHA supervisors are notorious for giving workers out sick a hard time about using their leave. The FMLA redesignation provided workers with some protection against supervisors. UPE is concerned that without supervisors providing these letters and being altered to the worker’s need for FMLA, they will take it as an invitation to harass our workers. UPE made these concerns very clear to the Department. DHA does not treat its employees well enough for UPE to give the Department any benefit of the doubt. UPE asked for a second meeting so we can continue to question the Department and search for ways to protect our workers.