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University Policy 89

Serious Illness and Disability Leave for Faculty

Initially Approved: October 2005
Posted: December 9, 2005
Revised: February 22, 2016

Policy Topic: Personnel

Administering Offices: Provost's Office; Human Resources and Payroll


It is the policy of Western Carolina University (“WCU” or the “University”) to provide its faculty with job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons in accordance with University of North Carolina (“UNC”) policies 300.2.11 and 300.2.11[G], the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (“FMLA”), and the North Carolina Family Illness Leave Policy (“OSHR Policy”) .


This policy shall apply to all faculty who are exempt from the North Carolina Human Resources Act, subject to the eligibility requirements set forth in Section III of this policy. This policy is to be interpreted and administered in accordance with applicable provisions of UNC policy, the FMLA, and the OSHR Policy, as amended from time to time.


Faculty members are eligible for leave under this policy if they: (1) do not accrue sick leave and are eligible to participate in the N.C. Teachers’ and State Employees’ Retirement System or the UNC Optional Retirement Program (i.e., continuing faculty who are employed at least 75% of full-time); and (2) are eligible for family and medical leave under the provisions of FMLA (i.e., who have been employed at least 1 year and have worked at least 1,040 hours within the last 12 months).


An eligible faculty member may request leave with full pay and benefits for up to 1 semester, or 12 weeks over 2 consecutive semesters, exclusive of academic breaks, for any of the following conditions:

  1. The birth of a child and/or to exercise primary responsibility for the care of the newborn child within 1 year of birth (an expectant mother may take leave before the birth of the child for prenatal care or if her condition makes her unable to work or requires a reduced work schedule);
  2. To exercise primary responsibility for care of a child under the age of 5 who is placed with the faculty member for adoption or foster care, provided that the leave is taken immediately following placement (leave may be granted before the actual placement or adoption of a child if an absence from work is required for the placement for adoption or foster care to proceed);
  3. To exercise primary responsibility for the care of the faculty member’s child, spouse or domestic partner or parent who has a serious health condition;
  4. A serious health condition that makes the faculty member unable to perform the essential functions of his or her job; or
  5. Any qualifying exigency arising out of the fact that the faculty member’s spouse, child or parent is a covered military member on covered active duty or has been notified of an impending call to active duty (or 26 workweeks of leave during a single 12-month period to care for a covered military member with a serious injury or illness if the eligible employee is the military member’s spouse, son, daughter, parent or next of kin)


A. Submission of Leave Request to Department Head

When a faculty member finds it necessary to take such leave, a request in writing must be submitted to the department head, or immediate supervisor if the faculty member’s unit does not have a department head, stating (i) the reason for the leave of absence; (ii) the requested start date and anticipated end date; and (iii) if applicable, the requested intermittent leave or reduced workload. Requests should be submitted at least 60 days in advance of the leave start date or as soon as practicable after the need for the lease is foreseeable. Certification of the faculty member’s serious health condition, including a physician’s statement about the probable length of absence from normal duties, will be required by the Benefits Manager in the Office of Human Resources and Payroll. If the leave request is for the purpose of caring for a family member or dependent, the Benefits Manager may request medical certification of that person’s serious health condition as well as other applicable information.

B. Approval of Leave

Following review of the faculty member’s request and related documentation and consultation with the Benefits Manager, the department head or immediate supervisor will make his/her recommendation to the dean concerning whether to grant the faculty member’s leave request. The dean is responsible for either approving or denying the leave request. The dean must provide his/her written decision to the faculty member, with a copy to the Benefits Manager, within 14 calendar days from receipt of the leave request. If the dean denies the faculty member’s request, the written decision must include the grounds for denial.

C. Appeal of Dean’s Decision

A faculty member may appeal the dean’s denial of a leave request by submitting a written appeal to the provost within 7 calendar days from receipt of the denial. The appeal should include the grounds for appeal. Following review of the relevant documents and consultation with the department head/immediate supervisor, dean, and Benefits Manager, the provost must meet with the faculty member to discuss the appeal. The provost must provide his/her written decision to the faculty member, with a copy to the Benefits Manager, within 7 calendar days of the meeting.

D. Extension of Leave

Upon extraordinary circumstances, a faculty member may request an extension of leave provided under this policy. Requests should be made in accordance with the procedures set forth in this Section V. An extension of leave in excess of 1 semester or 12 weeks over 2 consecutive semesters, if approved, will be leave without pay. Additionally, a faculty member may consult with the Benefits Manager to determine eligibility for short-term disability benefits.


The department head is responsible for securing, to the extent possible, substitute personnel/coverage for the duration of the faculty member’s leave. The faculty member is not responsible for arranging for coverage. If the department head/immediate supervisor recommends approval of the leave request, he/she must provide a coverage plan to the dean prior to the commencement of the leave. Any adjustments in work schedules within the department are at the discretion of the department head with the approval of the dean and are subject to departmental and institutional needs and resources.

Funding for substitute personnel shall be determined by the dean, upon consultation with the provost.

The faculty member must provide written notice of his/her expected date of return at least 30 days in advance of the beginning of the next regular academic term.


At the time a request for leave is granted, the faculty member, department head, and dean will agree in writing whether time spent on leave will count as probationary service; a 1-year extension of the tenure clock will be the default condition of leave. A maximum of 2 automatic 1-year extensions of the tenure clock will be granted to a faculty member under this policy. Notwithstanding the foregoing, a faculty member may opt out of the automatic 1-year extension to the tenure clock by giving written notice of such decision to the dean, with a copy to the department head.

Tenured faculty members granted leave under this policy may have his/her 5-year post-tenure review delayed by a period agreed upon by the faculty member, department head, and dean.

Faculty will not be penalized in their condition of employment because they require time away from work caused by or related to conditions that necessitated the leave. The faculty member shall be reinstated to the same position held when the leave began or one of like pay, benefits, and other conditions of employment.


A. Coordination of Benefits


All periods of paid leave under this policy will be construed as family and medical leave under the FMLA. The FMLA entitlement of up to 12 weeks of leave without pay will run concurrently with any period of paid leave under this policy.

The OSHR Policy allows for an extension of up to 52 weeks of leave without pay during a 5-year period in cases of serious illness of a child, spouse, or parent.

Employees are eligible for short-term disability benefits under the North Carolina Disability Income Plan if they have at least one year of contributing membership service in the North Carolina Teachers' and State Employees' Retirement System or the UNC Optional Retirement Program earned within the 36 calendar months preceding the disability. Benefits become payable following a 60-day waiting period from the date of disability onset. In addition to their eligibility for the North Carolina Disability Income Plan, faculty should consider enrolling in one of the supplemental disability income plans available to UNC employees.

B. Miscellaneous Provisions

Unused leave under this policy shall not be accumulated or carried over to another academic year, allowable as terminal leave payment when the faculty member leaves the University, or used to extend years of creditable state service for state retirement benefit purposes.

Employees with a balance of accrued leave from a previous 12-month appointment must exhaust that leave before receiving leave under this policy.

The Benefits Manager is responsible for maintaining official University leave records and related medical documentation.

Communications concerning leave requested or granted under this policy are subject to the same confidentiality requirements as other personnel records.

Paid leave provided for under this policy has no negative impact on the faculty member’s other employment benefits; the faculty member’s health insurance coverage is maintained during the period of leave.


This policy will be reviewed and revised as necessary every 4 years.

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