The update below, written by UFF-UCF President Scott Launier and treasurer Yovanna Pineda was published in News and Views, the UFF internal quarterly magazine.

UFF-UCF changes Compulsory Leave to Recovery Leave

By Yovanna Pineda and Scott Launier

Two years ago, a faculty member was facing termination for failing at their duties while lecturing to a class. But unfortunately, it was the faculty member who was failing.

When the faculty member came to our union for help, we became immediately concerned with their health. We encouraged and assisted in setting up a medical appointment.

Our faculty member had been displaying signs of mental deterioration. It was astounding to us, but their chair had begun a disciplinary process, seeking a just cause termination as the way to be rid of this faculty member.

Our union stepped in. While it was not easy, we won an early retirement package for our faculty member, with all reprimands removed from their record.

This one case helped us rethink how someone with a serious illness should be treated. We changed the language from compulsory leave to recovery leave because it shows compassion. The tone changes from “you’re no longer useful to this university” to language that asks, “what can we do to help you?” In practical terms, the goal is on recovery and being able to return to work, as opposed to being reprimanded for being ill. Under the old compulsory leave article, the administration determined when it might be used. Under recovery leave, faculty have more agency to decide when they need this option.

This language came at an auspicious time as COVID19 is in our midst. Everyone is vulnerable, and some of us, especially those with pre-existing conditions, can become chronically ill. Recovery leave is a benefit for everyone. It’s peace of mind to know that if we get sick, we won’t be reprimanded or fired because of it.