Several PSC members have contacted the union about provisions in the law, the contract and the CUNY bylaws allowing faculty and professional staff to take full or partial leaves of absence. We provide summaries below of short-term alternatives to returning to full-time work or to on-site work. Some are restricted to use for childcare; some for accommodating disabilities; some for those who have plans to retire; and some for scholarly projects.
The PSC has been fighting to protect members’ safety and health since February, demanding that the CUNY administration comply with state, federal and contractual requirements for safety and provide accommodations for members who are at high risk if they contract COVID-19. The union will continue to be vigilant as long as the public health emergency continues, and beyond.
But there are many reasons that faculty and staff may still wish to consider their options for leaves. Please act quickly if you want to apply for one of the options; the deadlines are approaching fast, and all except the Families First Coronavirus Response Act leaves require application and approval.
FFCRA (Families First Coronavirus Response Act)
Leave under FFCRA is available to qualifying full- and part-time employees, providing up to 12 weeks leave to care for a child who is home due to COVID-related closures. The time available for this leave is reduced by previous use of FMLA. Partial pay begins after the first 10 days at a 2/3 rate of pay not to exceed $200 per day or $10K aggregate.
ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act)
Under the ADA, all employees may request reasonable accommodation for a disability. A request is considered “reasonable” under the law if it does not cause undue hardship to the employer, meaning that it would not pose significant difficulty or expense. Someone with a disability that puts them at high risk for COVID-19, such as being immunocompromised, can request an accommodation to be assigned only remote work in the fall if they can reasonably continue to perform their duties. Age does not constitute a basis for ADA accommodation requests. Also, “an employee without a disability is not entitled under the ADA to telework as an accommodation in order to protect a family member with a disability from potential COVID-19 exposure.”
FMLA (Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993)
FMLA leave is unpaid, but it provides for your health insurance and other benefits, except pension contributions, to be maintained. It is available to qualifying employees who worked at least 1,250 hours over the past 12 months and provides up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for your own serious health condition or to care for a spouse, child, or parent with a serious health condition. For your own serious health condition, you would first use your available paid sick leave. “For the purpose of this policy, a serious health condition is an illness, injury, impairment, or physical or mental condition that involves incapacity or treatment connected with: inpatient care in a hospital, hospice or residential medical facility; pregnancy or prenatal care; or continuing treatment by a health care provider.”
Partial Leave with Partial Pay
Partial leaves with partial pay are granted for special projects, such as writing a book, when the leave would be to the mutual benefit of the faculty member and the college. CUNY management documents indicate that partial leaves of absence with partial pay will be granted in rare and unusual circumstances. Most full-time teaching faculty are eligible to apply. The application is submitted to the Department P&B committee and approved by the College-wide P&B and the President. The leave will constitute a break in service towards tenure and CCE, resetting your clock. https://www.cuny.edu/wp-content/uploads/sites/4/page-assets/about/admini...
Other Professional Leaves
In addition to the leaves outlined above, the PSC and CUNY have negotiated other leaves for professional purposes designated for certain members of the instructional staff. These include Reassigned Time for Untenured Faculty, Professional Reassignment Leaves in the libraries, and Scholar Incentive Awards. Interested members should consult the PSC/CUNY Contract (https://psc-cuny.org/contract/article-25-research-fellowship-and-scholar...) and CUNY management’s Code of Practice (https://www.cuny.edu/wp-content/uploads/sites/4/page-assets/about/admini...).
Under Article 13.3 of the CUNY Bylaws, “On the recommendation of the relevant departmental committee concerned with appointments, the relevant college committee and the president, the board may grant to members of the instructional staff special leaves of absence without pay for purposes such as study, writing, research, the carrying out of a creative project or public service of reasonable duration. Where a special leave without pay is for one year or longer, it shall not be credited for purposes of increment, except that increment credit may be granted when the president certifies that the leave is being taken for a project of academic, scholarly or public importance that brings honor and recognition to the college.” https://policy.cuny.edu/bylaws/article-xiii/#section_13.3.
Travia (Retirement Leave)
All full-time members of the instructional staff who are at least 55 years of age with at least 5 years of pensionable, credited service at CUNY, and who have a bona fide intent to retire, are eligible for Travia Leave. The length of Travia leave is equal to one half of accumulated sick days. The maximum number of sick days a full-time employee can accumulate is 160 days, so 80 days is the maximum number for retirement leave, which equals one semester for retirement purposes. If you have 150 days of sick leave you will get 75 days, or approximately 3.75 months of retirement leave. You can choose to return to work after Travia, but there are no future Travia rights and you return with a zero sick leave balance.
Contact your college HR office for information about application processes and deadlines. Travia is a right, not a privilege. Supervisors do not approve Travia; they sign off that they are aware that you will be taking your retirement leave. We recommend that you give sufficient notice to both your supervisor and human resources of your intention to take Travia. https://www.psc-cuny.org/benefits/travia-leave
Phased Retirement Leave
Full-time faculty who are 65 and older, have at least 15 years of pensionable service and are members of TIAA-CREF or other Optional Retirement Programs (TRS members are not eligible) may apply to “phase” for up to three years. Faculty can apply to receive 50 percent of their salary during that time in exchange for continuing 50 percent of their workload, but must irrevocably commit to retiring at the end of the phasing period. During the phasing period, faculty receive full health coverage and pension contributions based on their reduced pay. Faculty with accrued sick leave are eligible for Travia leave at full pay during their final semester, but do not have the option to return to full-time CUNY employment.
HEOs and CLTs are eligible to phase for up to one year with a 20 percent workload reduction (one day per week) for 80 percent pay, if they meet the same eligibility criteria as a faculty member. They also receive Travia leave at full pay at the end of the phasing period, full health coverage and prorated pension contributions.
Agreement between the instructional staff member and his/her department chair/supervisor about what constitutes the 50 percent workload and how to schedule it over the period is very important. Read about phased retirement in the PSC-CUNY Contract.