Chapter 18: Disability Management
Every supervisor will be faced with many challenges regardless the size of the work unit. Among the most complex of management's responsibilities is addressing absenteeism. Disability due to illness or injury is probably the most common reason given by employees who are absent from work. Although it is reasonable for employees to be excused for occasional absences due to illness or injury, the challenge is to manage absenteeism so that the departmental goals are still achieved. The goal is to create a work environment where employees are motivated to return to work as soon as medically possible because they feel supported and they know their work is valued.
In recent years, laws and University policies have evolved into a complex labyrinth of rules and regulations that influence how absences are managed. Some of this legislation includes:
- Americans with Disability Act of 1990 (ADA)
- Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA)
- Rehabilitation Act of 1973
- California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA)
- California Family Rights Act (CFRA)
- California Pregnancy Disability Leave Act (PDLA)
- California Workers' Compensation Act
Additionally, there are collective bargaining agreements and Personnel Policies with varying language that pertains to absence provisions such as Leave of Absence, Sick Leave, Extended Sick Leave, and Pregnancy Disability Leave.
As a manager, you play a critical role in the University's success. Your effectiveness and the effectiveness of your group is determined, in part, by how well you meet the responsibilities of your position. Part of your responsibility involves providing a safe and supportive work environment for employees who are ill, injured, or disabled.
Most people understand that absenteeism has a serious impact in the workplace. This chapter on Disability Management is presented to give you a better understanding of how to approach the management of absenteeism. It will provide you the tools, background, and policy references to enable you to become an effective manager of absence and disability within your group.
- Guiding Principles
- Your Role
- Work-Related Disability
- Non-Work-Related Disability
- Stay-at-Work/Return-to-Work Program (Administered by Liberty Mutual)
- Transitional Work
- Reasonable Accommodation
- Return to Work Review
- Priority Reassignment
- Other Resources
- Disability and absenteeism not only results in human and financial costs to the employee, but also to the department and University.
- Management of disability and absenteeism is required by Federal/State laws, University policies, and collective bargaining agreements.
- Injuries can be prevented throught safety, awareness, and training.
- Importance of creating a work environment where employees are motivated to return to work as soon as medically possible.
- Disability and absenteeism can be prevented/minimalized through the provision of Transitional Work and Reasonable Accommodation.
As a supervisor, you play a vital role in managing disability and absenteeism by:
- Preventing injuries (See Chapter 17: Health and Safety )
- Reporting work-related injuries timely (See Chapter 20: Workers' Compensation )
- Providing temporary Transitional Work
- Providing Reasonable Accommodation
- Requesting Return-to-Work Reviews
An employee with a work-related disability may be eligible for Workers' Compensation benefits, as well as UC benefits that supplement Workers' Compensation.
An employee with a non-work related disability may be eligible for benefits if the employee is unable to work. The two disability plans available are the Short-term Disability Plan (formerly the University Paid Disability Plan) and the Supplemental Disability Plan (formerly the Employee Paid Disability Plan). Both plans are administered by Liberty Mutual.
All employees are automatically enrolled in the Short-term Disability Plan when they become eligible. There is no cost to the employee. However, an employee must enroll in the Supplemental Disability Plan if the employee wants coverage. In addition, the employee must pay the full cost of monthly premiums for Supplemental Disability.
Both the Short-term and Supplemental Disability Plans are designed to protect an employee against a total or partial disability which may adversely affect earning power. Both plans provide a partial income replacement benefit if the employee is unable to work due to a disability covered by the plan. The Supplemental Disability Plan supplements the disability coverage available to the employee through the Short-term Disability Plan and provides coverage for disabilities that may have a long duration. While the Short-term Disability Plan is only for non-work related disabilities, the Supplemental Disability Plan can be used to supplement work-related injuries/illness.
For specific procedures, please review the following documents:
- If an employee is eligible for either of these two disability plans, please refer the employee to the Benefits & Financial Planning (B&FP) office in Human Resources for a claim packet. B&FP can assist the employee in applying for these benefits.
- The supervisor should also consider whether or not the employee is eligible for benefits under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Please see the FMLA section for further details.
Stay-at-Work/Return-to-Work Program (Administered by Liberty Mutual)
Note: The following only applies to employees whose disability began January 1, 2000 or later.
The University's Short-term and Supplemental Disability plans, administered by Liberty Mutual, provide for a Stay-at-Work/Return-to-Work (SAW/RTW) provision. This program allows an employee to stay at work or return to work on a part-time basis while still receiving partial disability benefits. Benefits will be payable if the amount the employee earns from working is less than or equal to 80% of the employee's original salary.
Under SAW/RTW the employee may:
- Stay at work part time during the initial phases of a disability. This will help an employee who has not yet become totally disabled and can work part time;
- Return to work part time after a period of time off due to total disability, with the goal of increasing the employee's work hours to his/her previous work schedule;
- Work full time, but at a job with a lower salary that better matches the employee's capabilities while partially disabled;
- Earn more money from working, benefits and other income than the employee would be entitled to if the employee was on total disability.
To be eligible for SAW/RTW, an employee must be working no more than 80% of the employee's regular schedule, or receiving no more than 80% of his/her pre-disability earnings. The employee's benefits under the disability plan and from all other sources of income may not exceed 100% of eligible earnings prior to the employee's disability.
- Eligibility for SAW/RTW is dependent on:
- The department's ability to accommodate a reduced work schedule;
- The employee's ability to safely work; and
- Liberty Mutual's acceptance of the employee's request for SAW/RTW.
- If you believe you have an employee who can benefit from this program, please refer the employee to Benefits & Financial Planning in Human Resources.
- As the supervisor, you should also contact Disability Management Services to concurrently formalize this SAW/RTW into a Transitional Work plan.
Transitional work allows an employee with temporary restrictions to work in a modified, alternative, or reduced-hours capacity, for a defined period of time, while recuperating from an illness or injury.
The University strives to return an injured/disabled employee to work as soon as the employee's condition permits. Allowing an employee with a disability to perform transitional work enables the employee to return to maximum health and productivity much faster than if required to stay off work.
Transitional work includes the following:
- Modified Work - Changing or eliminating specific job duties within the employee's regular job to meet the temporary work restrictions;
- Alternative Work - Offering the employee a position other than his/her regular job to meet the temporary work restrictions;
- Reduced-Hours Work - Less than full-time work to meet the temporary restrictions.
It is important for the employee and supervisor to develop a formalized Transitional Work Plan document that details the specifics of the return-to-work arrangements. This document is important because it will inform each party of the specific work assignments, temporary work modifications, and defined start and end dates to lessen the possibility of any misunderstanding that may occur while an employee is working in a reduced capacity while healing from an injury or illness.
- Consult the Transitional Work Tool Kit for guidance and a template for a Transitional Work Plan.
- Meet with the employee to determine the agreed-upon temporary modifications and/or reduced work schedule.
- If the situation is particularly complex or if the period of transitional work must exceed 60 to 90 days, contact Disability Management Services for assistance.
- To be proactive, it would prove beneficial for each
department to create a task force to deal with Transitional Work issues. The
task force could:
- Analyze each position to determine which job functions could be accommodated, if necessary, in the future;
- Examine the possibility of cross-training employees so that, if necessary, others could assume those duties if the primary employee is unable to temporarily perform those tasks;
- Disability Management Services is available to assist the department with this matter.
If an employee has prolonged or permanent disabilities that impair the
employee's ability to perform his/her job, an effort must be made to provide
accommodation to enable the employee to work in a modified capacity or change to
a more suitable position. In this way, the University can keep valued,
experienced and trained employees, while complying with our obligations under
the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Fair Employment and Housing
Act. For further details, please see UCSF's ADA and Reasonable Accommodation
The department should engage an employee in an interactive process to evaluate whether job modifications can be made which enable the employee to continue to perform the essential functions of the job when:
- An employee is out for a prolonged disability leave;
- An employee discloses that s/he has a disability impacting his/her job;
- An employee provides medical information describing prolonged or permanent impairments.
In addressing a Reasonable Accommodation request, it is imperative that an interactive process and exchange take place between the supervisor and employee. During this interactive process, the parties will discuss whether or not accommodations are necessary for the employee to be able to perform the essential functions of the job. Accommodations must be made on a case-by-case basis, but could include job restructuring, initiating part-time or modified work schedules, and providing assistive devices.
When a Reasonable Accommodation is needed, please contact Disability Management Services to facilitate this interactive process.
It is important to note that accommodations are based on the unique needs of the employee's disability and the necessity to perform the essential functions of the job and not necessarily on the employee's preferences. On the other hand, if reasonable, primary consideration should be given to the employee's preferences. The department does have the discretion to select between equally effective accommodations in terms of cost and ease of implementation.
If the interactive process is thorough and complete, yet concludes that the employee cannot be reasonably accommodated within the department, the employee can then participate in the Priority Reassignment process. Please see the Priority Reassignment section for further details.
- Please contact Disability Management Services or Labor and Employee
Relations to request Reasonable Accommodation assistance if an employee
provides notice of the following:
- Permanent or prolonged impairments that may impact the employee's ability to do his/her job;
- The need for medical leave extending beyond 4 to 6 months;
- A request for accommodation.
- As a supervisor, in order to fully engage the interactive process to
evaluate reasonable accommodations, you will be asked to:
- Identify and/or validate the essential functions of the job;
- Engage in open consideration of potential modifications or re-assignment to more suitable open positions.
Return to Work Review
A supervisor can request a Return-to-Work Review in order to determine whether or not an employee with a disability is able to return to work.
A supervisor should request a Return-to-Work Review through Labor and Employee Relations. If appropriate, the Labor and Employee Relations analyst will then contact Disability Management Services to conduct this review.
Typically, Disability Management Services' Return-to-Work Review will involve the following:
- Meet with the employee to learn the history of the case and discuss options;
- Obtain written permission from the employee to communicate with the medical provider;
- Communicate with the medical provider to ascertain return-to-work information;
- Communicate with the department to determine if accommodations can be made for any work restrictions;
- Communicate with the department to determine if alternative work, based on the work restrictions, is available within the department;
- Assist the employee to search for alternative work within the entire University, if the employee's department is unable to accommodate the work restrictions. Please see the Priority Reassignment section (below) for further details.
Once the Return-to-Work Review has been completed, Disability Management Services will provide a written report to Labor and Employee Relations detailing the services provided to the employee during this process. Labor and Employee Relations will then issue a report offering final recommendations and options to the employee's department.
- If a supervisor is interested in requesting a Return-to-Work Review, the supervisor should contact Labor and Employee Relations to determine the appropriateness of such a request.
- If appropriate, Disability Management Services will become involved and
will coordinate with the department.
Priority Reassignment is a preferential employment process whereby an employee with a disability may be selected for another position at the University without the requirement that the position be publicized. This Priority Reassignment process does not provide a right to guaranteed re-employment.
Eligibility for Priority Reassignment is based on medical information from the employee's treatment provider documenting that the employee is precluded from returning to work in his/her regular position, but is able to participate in a search for alternative work.
During Priority Reassignment, the employee will work closely with Disability Management Services (DMS), who will assist the employee with a transferable skills analysis; resume preparation, job seeking skills training, and the identification of appropriate job openings. The DMS analyst will also instruct the employee on how to search and apply for open positions with the on-line applicant tracking system. To be considered under Priority Reassignment, the employee must apply for a position within two (2) weeks of the date the job is posted. Priority Reassignment typically lasts 90 days.
When appropriate positions are identified, the DMS analyst will inform the appropriate Staffing and Compensation (S&C) analyst of the Priority Reassignment candidate. The S&C analyst reviews the candidate's qualifications and, if appropriate, forwards the candidate's resume to the hiring manager for consideration. A Priority Reassignment candidate must be hired into any position for which he/she is qualified. A hiring manager can only reject a priority reassignment candidate if the candidate is not qualified or if no reasonable accommodation can be provided to enable the employee to perform the essential functions of the position. Prior to making this decision, the hiring manager may engage in a noncompetitive interview and/or meet with the employee and Disability Management Services to engage in the interactive process. No other non-preferential applicants may be referred to this open position until the qualifications of the Priority Reassignment candidate are evaluated.
- When submitting an Employment Requisition Form to post a new position, the hiring manager needs to state, as accurately as possible, the skills, knowledge, and abilities required for that position.
- If a hiring manager receives a Priority Reassignment candidate referral, the manager must attend to it in a timely manner. If the candidate is disqualified for the position, the hiring manager must complete and return the Priority Reassignment Candidate Disposition Form and/or the Reasonable Accommodation form, describing why the Priority Reassignment candidate is not qualified. This form will be reviewed by Staffing and Compensation, Disability Management, Labor and Employee Relations and/or Legal Affairs.