The purpose of this Article is to state the principal requirements of law, regulation, DOC/NOAA/NWS policy and this Agreement relating to the absences of bargaining unit employees and to the administration of leave. This article will in no manner substitute for legal or regulatory authorities nor diminish any right or responsibility of management. The content of applicable laws and regulations are not grievable under this Agreement. Premium pay (e.g., overtime pay, night or Sunday differential pay) for a time period covered by approved annual or sick leave may only be paid as stated in law or regulation.
A. SCHEDULED ANNUAL LEAVE is a period of approved absence with pay from official duties. Employees are encouraged to take at least one vacation per year, as dictated by their own needs and the status of their leave account. Supervisors should consult employees about their vacation plans and prepare a vacation schedule which accommodates the employee’s preferences consistent with the needs of the organization.
Supervisors have the discretion to decide if annual leave may be taken. This decision will generally be made in the light of the needs of the Service, rather than solely on the desires of the employee. However, reasonable efforts will be made to grant two (2) consecutive weeks of annual leave with two (2) scheduled days off at the beginning and end of the leave period. Employees earning eight (8) hours of annual leave per pay period-may be granted three (3) consecutive weeks of annual leave during the leave year, including peak leave periods, at the discretion of the supervisor. At the beginning of October, Management will notify employees of their need to schedule annual leave or lose entitlement to all leave in excess of the authorized limit.
B. For the purposes of this article, UNSCHEDULED LEAVE means annual leave which is approved after the schedule becomes fixed. Unscheduled leave may be granted by the supervisor, or designee, after considering the need, expressed by the employee for requesting unscheduled leave and the needs of the work unit. Unscheduled leave may be granted by supervisors or their designee when: extra personnel are available and the shift can be filled by qualified unit employees, a local workload adjustment can be made, a swap can be arranged, a management employee may fill in, or a portion/all of the shift may be left unfilled. In all instances the supervisor's decision is binding. If the supervisor determines that the needs of the work unit preclude a grant of leave, or if the reasons expressed by the employee for absence are not acceptable to the supervisor, the supervisor may order the employee to report for duty. In such instances, the supervisor at his/her discretion may grant sufficient time on approved leave to reach the work site or, as circumstances warrant, charge all or part of the absence to absence without leave (AWOL). Unscheduled annual leave may be approved-in increments of one-half hour or more.
C. There are two types of unscheduled leave: emergency and non-emergency.
1. Emergency annual leave may be used for a variety of personal emergency reasons. Some of many reasons for emergency leave include emergency treatment of a member of the family, staying home with a member of the family who is ill, a death or funeral in the family. In such an emergency situation overtime may be used to ensure coverage. SF-71 Application for Leave may be submitted after the leave is approved and used.
2. Non-emergency leave is unscheduled leave requested for the employee's convenience. Overtime will not be incurred in order to grant an employee non-emergency unscheduled annual leave. Normally, an SF-71 Application for Leave form will be submitted before leave is used.
SECTION 2. SCHEDULING AND GRANTING ANNUAL LEAVE - The following procedures apply to all bargaining unit employees:
A. All employees must personally request and obtain approval for leave.
B. All requests, except for emergency annual leave, shall be submitted on a SF-71 to the immediate supervisor, or designee. Annual leave will normally be requested no more than six (6) months in advance. Approval or disapproval will be indicated on the form within fourteen (14) days, or as expeditiously as possible. Requests for annual leave within the fixed schedule will be either approved or disapproved at the time of the request, or within 24 hours.
C. Management may implement peak period leave procedures when requested by the designated NWSEO Steward. The steward will identify any peak periods at least six (6) months in advance. These periods will be specified in terms of pay periods. Requests for scheduled leave over a peak period will be submitted to the appropriate supervisor at least sixty (60) days in advance of the peak period. The requests will either be approved or disapproved no later than thirty (30) days prior to the beginning of the peak period, after consultation with the steward. Leave requests in a peak period will be treated as having all been submitted at the same time, and will not be independently approved or disapproved prior to the deadline.
D. All requests must be submitted in advance. For scheduled annual leave outside the peak periods, requests must be submitted at least fifteen (15) days prior to the fixed schedule; and normally, at least two (2) days prior to the fixed schedule for unscheduled annual leave requests.
E. All requests for emergency annual leave must, normally, be made no later than two (2) hours prior to the start of the employee's tour of duty.
F. Employees whose written requests are denied may request written reasons for the denial from the supervisor.
G. The supervisor at his/her discretion, may approve or disapprove the leave subject to staffing, workload requirements, other leave requests, budget implications, weather conditions or other valid reasons not listed herein. Conflicts in annual leave requests will be resolved by the supervisor, in consultation with the local steward.
H. In order to receive payment for scheduled overtime, a employee must have completed eight (8) hours of work in a day, or forty (40), hours in a week. Annual leave cannot be substituted for work for overtime purposes.
SECTION 3. SICK LEAVE
The NWSEO joins Management in recognizing the insurance value of sick leave and agrees to encourage employees to conserve sick leave in case of long term illness. Sick leave which is not used during the year in which it accrues shall accumulate without limitation on the amount and be available for use in succeeding years.
It is agreed that employees are responsible for notifying their immediate supervisors or designees when they are prevented from reporting for work because of an incapacitating illness or injury. Such requests for sick leave shall be made as soon as possible and normally for operational shift workers not later than two (2) hours prior to the start of the employee's regular shift.
The parties recognize that government-wide entitlement to and restrictions on the use of sick leave apply to bargaining unit employees, including the following:
PURPOSE: Sick leave is a period of approved absence with pay from official duty, authorized only:
A. When an employee personally is unfit for official duties because of sickness, injury, or confinement due to pregnancy;
B. For personal medical, dental, or optical examination or treatment;
C. In certain circumstances involving a contagious disease (one that is determined by appropriate medical authority, to be potentially contagious and requires isolation, quarantine or restriction of movement of the patient); and
EVIDENCE OF ENTITLEMENT: For purposes of leave under this section:
A. When absence from duty exceeds three workdays, such leave is to be granted only when supported by a statement by medical authority or other administratively-acceptable evidence. Administratively-acceptable evidence must be documentary, and include a signed statement from the employee which in the supervisor's judgment provides adequate information to support granting sick leave, or in an emergency a statement by the supervisor to the record as to the evidence relied upon in granting leave (e.g., personal observation of the employee, hospital admission documents, or similar evidence acceptable to the supervisor).
B. Supervisors may require supporting documents for absences of three days or less when an employee is a chronic user of short periods of sick leave, or has no sick leave balance, or there is a reasonable doubt as to the validity of the claim to such leave, or in other special circumstances. If a physician was not consulted, a signed statement from the employee giving the facts about the absence, the treatment used and the reasons for not having a physician's statement may be accepted as supportive evidence by the supervisor.
C. In all instances, it is incumbent upon supervisors responsible for approving such leave to determine that the circumstances of the absence justify approval of such leave. A statement by a medical authority does not necessarily constitute conclusive evidence of entitlement to such leave, but is merely a factor to be considered by a responsible management official in determining whether such leave is justified under the circumstances involved.
D. When documentation is required, Management shall specify the date such submission is due. Management may request additional documents, if deemed necessary.
INAPPROPRIATE USE OF SICK LEAVE: An employee shall not use sick leave:
A. When illness or other circumstances do not render the employee personally unfit for duty;
B. For minor indispositions;
C. To supplement annual leave; or
D. For rest, unless recommended by appropriate medical personnel.
APPROVAL AUTHORITY: Supervisors have the authority and responsibility to determine that the nature of an employee's illness is, or was, such as to incapacitate the employee for his/her job and that the other reasons for which sick leave is requested are true. This determination will be made based on a review of submitted justification and/or documentation. Consequently, the employee requesting the leave should give sufficient information to justify the request. If the supervisor is not reasonably satisfied that the request is justified in accordance with established guidelines, the request will be disapproved. Should a request for sick leave be refused by a supervisor, even though accompanied by a medical certificate, the denial will be issued in writing with the reasons to the affected employee.
SECTION 4. PARENTAL AND FAMILY LEAVE
A. As provided by law, an employee is entitled to a total of 12 administrative weeks of unpaid parental and family leave during any 12-month period.
B. In accordance with applicable statutes, regulation, and federal guidelines, a female employee may be absent on leave for maternity purposes. The length of such absence shall be determined by the supervisor and employee in consultation with the employee's physician. She may use sick leave (with adequate medical certification), annual leave, or leave without pay to the extent that she has leave (including "donated" leave) available, and meets the requirements for use of such leave.
C. The employee shall make known her intent to request leave for maternity reasons, indicating the type of leave and approximate dates, at least 30 calendar days in advance of the leave date, to allow the office to prepare for any staffing adjustments that may be necessary.
D. No arbitrary date requiring a pregnant employee to cease work or prevent her from returning to work after childbirth will be established unless there are related physical requirements of the job. Normally these decisions will be made by the employee in consultation with her physician.
E. A male employee may be absent on annual leave or leave without pay for up to 14 days for purposes of aiding, assisting, or caring of the mother of his child or minor children while the mother is incapacitated for maternity reasons. A male employee may also request additional annual leave or leave without pay. Sick leave, for purposes of meeting family responsibilities, may also be used consistent with applicable law and guidelines.
F. Employees may request leave for periods of absence for certain family and medical reasons as provided in applicable law including the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, the Federal Employees Family Friendly Leave Act, and the Treasury, Postal Service and General Government Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 1995. If the necessity of such leave is foreseeable, employees shall provide Management with no less than 30 days notice. If the necessity is not foreseeable, employees shall provide notice as soon as practicable. To be eligible for leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, an employee must have completed at least one year of civilian service with the government. Copies of the above listed "family friendly" leave acts, as well as applicable NOAA guidelines, will be maintained on the NOAA homepage.
1. Leave for parental and family responsibilities consists of appropriate combinations of annual leave, sick leave, or leave without pay. Sick and annual leave may also be advanced to employees, in accordance with applicable regulations. Leave without pay may be requested and granted without exhausting all other leave categories. Leave for adoption may be annual leave, leave without pay, or sick leave. Management agrees to administer all such leave requests equitably and reasonably, taking into consideration both the needs of the employees and the organization.
2. Management will assure continued employment for an employee for whom extended leave has been approved who wishes to return to work, unless termination is otherwise required by expiration of appointment, by RIF, for cause, or for other reasons unrelated to the absence. The employee will be returned to the position formerly occupied, or, to the maximum extent practicable, to a position within the same commuting area of like status and pay.
3. An employee returning from leave related to parental and family responsibility has all the entitlements provided under applicable laws.
4. Management may request certification from the health care provider pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 6383, when an employee requests leave:
a. In order to care for a spouse, son, daughter, or parent of the employee who has a serious health problem; or
b. Because of a serious health condition that renders the employee unable to perform his or her job responsibilities.
G. When a pregnant employee, after consultation with her physician, requests a temporary modification of her job duties, or a temporary assignment to other available work for which she is qualified, Management shall make a reasonable, good faith effort, consistent with staffing needs, to accommodate her request. The employee must present an acceptable medical certificate supporting her request.
SECTION 5. LEAVE FOR BEREAVEMENT
In accordance with this Agreement, applicable law including the Federal Employees Family Friendly Leave Act, and applicable regulations, an emp1oyee may be granted any combination of annual, sick, or leave without pay, when there has been a death in the employee's family. The definition of family includes the
following: a spouse, children (including adopted and foster), parents, brothers and sisters, grandparents, in-laws (mother, father, sister, brother), and any individual related by blood or affinity whose close association with the employee is the equivalent of a family relationship.
SECTION 6. TEMPORARY NON-WORK ABSENCES FROM THE WORKSTATION
A. Employees must request permission from their supervisor if they will be absent from their workstation for a period in excess of ten minutes. Long or frequent absences from the workstation without prior notification or valid justification will be charged as AWOL.
B. Employees are expected to work in accordance with their tour of duty schedules. An employee may not on his own, come to work early in order to leave early. Consequently, an absence under these conditions during an employee's tour, if not approved, will be charged to AWOL. However, upon specific request and approval of the unit supervisor, on an individual case basis, shift hours may be changed.
C. Partial absences, such as tardiness and leaving work early, can create problems on a par with whole day absences. Employees who are excessively and/or substantially tardy will have such absences charged to an appropriate category of leave or AWOL, as appropriate. Continued failure to observe hours of duty may lead to disciplinary action.
SECTION 7. HAZARDOUS WEATHER CONDITIONS
A. NWS operations must continue around the clock, 7 days a week despite adverse weather conditions. The NWS has decided all employees scheduled for operational work, or otherwise identified as operational by the station supervisor due to exigency of the situation, are "emergency employees." In accordance with Federal regulations, all emergency personnel are required to report for work as scheduled or to continue to perform their duties regardless of action taken to excuse other employees from duty.
During hazardous weather emergencies (example: blizzard, ice storm, etc.), the following procedure will be followed:
1. The facility head or designee will assess the hazardous weather event and the effects on the surrounding community to determine if all employees must report to/remain at work. Facility heads are encouraged to confer with the local Federal Executive Board or other coordinating entity as part of this assessment. Where multiple NWS facilities are within the same metropolitan area, only one NWS official is delegated responsibility to make determinations for all facilities in the area. In the Washington, DC metropolitan area, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management usually makes this assessment.
2. All NWS operational employees have been designated as emergency employees, however, it may not be necessary for all NWS emergency employees to report for duty in every hazardous weather event. Based on his/her assessment, the facility head will determine which employees who are scheduled for work will be required to report to work as emergency employees for that event. Based on the nature and duration of the event, the facility head may also determine other employees are needed to meet the needs of the agency during the event.
3. Within his/her delegation of authority, the facility head will determine if the situation warrants granting of any administrative leave or whether the use of a liberal leave policy is appropriate for any employees of the facility.
4. Should administrative leave be granted to employees who are not emergency employees (or who are not determined as emergency employees for the particular event), the facility head or designee will call (or otherwise notify in another mutually acceptable method) the employees scheduled for that day to inform them of their administrative leave status.
5. If the facility head determines a liberal leave policy will be in effect during the event, no calls will be made to employees. Emergency employees who are scheduled to work are expected to report for duty. Non-emergency employees are encouraged to call the facility to determine if a liberal leave policy is in effect. Emergency employees interested in requesting unscheduled leave during an event where a liberal leave policy is in effect must call the facility head or designee to determine if their leave can be approved in accordance with Article 19.
6. Management may decide to grant an appropriate amount of administrative leave to emergency employees who are required to report for duty and who demonstrate they have made a diligent effort to get to work on time but are prevented from doing so because of hazardous weather or other emergency conditions.
7. Whether administrative leave is granted or a liberal leave policy is put into effect, the same policy will be applied to all non—emergency employees of the facility during the emergency event.
SECTION 8. When an employee appears to be abusing any type of leave, the employee may be subject to disciplinary action or may be required to comply with special procedures more stringent than those, applied to other employees. The necessity for any leave requirements letter will be reviewed every six (6) months. Should a determination be made that an employee's leave record has improved to the extent that the restrictions or requirements placed on him/her are no longer necessary, the employee will be so notified in writing. In this case, the leave requirements letter will be removed from the employee's temporary personnel records.
SECTION 9. ASSIGNMENT OF WORK
The use of any type of leave may initiate use of overtime, filling shifts, shift changes, the use of management to fill shifts, or other workload adjustments. In all instances, the determination of the methods, means, or numbers or types shall be at the sole discretion of management, in accordance with Article 4.
SECTION 10. Union representatives may be excused without charge to leave in conjunction with attendance at a training session sponsored by the Union, provided the subject matter of such training is of mutual benefit to the employer and the representative in his/her Union representational capacity and the NWS's interest will be served by such attendance. Such administrative excusal will cover only those portions of a training session as meet the aforementioned criteria and will not normally exceed eight (8) hours for any individual within a twelve (12) month period of this Agreement or an aggregate total of two hundred, forty-eight (248) hours for all requests within a twelve (12) month period of this Agreement. This excused absence will be considered with respect to work schedules and on a case by case basis. No travel or per diem or other expenses will be paid by management. A written request for this excused absence will be submitted at least four (4) weeks in advance only by the Union President to the Assistant Administrator or designee. The request will cite this section of the contract, and will contain all the information about the location, duration, purpose and nature, of the training and, benefit to management.
SECTION 11. Court leave will be granted in accordance with applicable laws and regulations. An employee eligible for court leave shall be granted court leave to serve on a jury for the entire period of service, extending from the date on which he/she is required to report to the time of discharge by the court. If an employee is on annual leave when called for jury duty, court leave should be substituted. A rotating shift worker who performs jury service during the day is eligible for court leave for his/her regularly scheduled tour of duty.
Employees granted Court leave for jury service are entitled to the same compensation they would otherwise have received, including premium pay, overtime and night differential. Employees whose regular tour of duty includes Saturdays, Sundays or both, and who serve on a jury for five weekdays, may be granted court leave and be paid premium pay for the weekend days which are a part of their regular tour of duty.
SECTION 12. Military leave will be granted in accordance with applicable laws and regulations. Employees absent on military leave are entitled to receive both their regular civilian pay, and military pay and allowances, to which they may be entitled, during a period of active duty as a member of a reserve component of the Armed Forces or the National Guard. This includes night differential and Sunday premium pay. An employee absent on military leave during a day on which he/she is regularly scheduled to work overtime is entitled to overtime compensation for that day, provided he/she has been in pay status for forty (40) hours of the basic workweek. An employee will be excused from duty, without charge to leave, for the purpose of taking a physical examination incidental to entry into the armed services.
SECTION 13. An excused absence is an absence from duty without loss of pay and without charge to the employee's leave account. It is synonymous with the term "administrative leave" and is distinct from absence for officially sanctioned purposes from the employee s usual work site or regular duties.
Examples of excused absences include, but are not limited to, voting in local, state or national elections, donating blood, etc. Each excused absence must be requested in advance, and approved by the employee's immediate supervisor or designee.
SECTION 14. Whenever early dismissal of employees is granted by the President or Secretary of Commerce in conjunction with a federal holiday, emergency employees in a duty status on that day shall receive an equal amount of administrative leave as granted to be used within the following 30 calendar days. The amount of leave will be granted under the same terms and conditions as declared by the President or Secretary. "Duty status" means half or more of an employee’s shift must fall within the designated calendar day that early dismissal was granted.