3.1.10 Short Term Disability

Policy Section: Leaves of Absence

Policy Number and Title: 3.1.10 Short Term Disability
Applicable to: All Employees
Effective Date: January 1, 2012

Returning To Work With Limitations

Transitional Reduced Duty Time
In some circumstances, an employee’s medical provider may recommend that the employee’s ability to return to work and assume all of the essential functions of the job will be facilitated by having a graduated duty time schedule and/or altered work assignment over the first few weeks. In these cases, the Office of Employee Health verifies the information with the medical provider and confers with the employee's supervisor and Human Resources regarding these restrictions.
 
During this transitional period, which normally does not exceed four weeks, if the employee works less than 80% of the normal work schedule, the employee's time is counted as short term disability towards the 26 week limit. The employee’s earnings, however, are divided proportionally between short term disability pay and regular earnings. Vacation time during this transitional period is accrued proportionally to the regular earnings distribution. A scheduled vacation day or sporadic absence during this transitional period must be charged to paid time off, and the paid time off will not extend the period of short term or long term disability eligibility.
 
If the employee returns to 80% or more of the normal work schedule, the time is no longer counted as short term disability. The supervisor must have the employee charge the time not worked to unused paid time off or leave without pay.
 
If the employee has exhausted short term disability benefits, the supervisor must have the employee charge the time not worked to unused paid time off available or leave without pay.
Transitional Temporary Work Restrictions
In other circumstances, an employee’s medical provider may suggest that the employee’s ability to return to work to assume all of the essential functions of the job will require transitional work restrictions4. In these situations, which will be handled on a case-by-case basis and will be reviewed by the Office of Employee Health in consultation with the supervisor, the health care provider must indicate that employee’s medical status is expected to improve within a predictable and/or relatively short period of time so that the employee is able to perform all the essential functions of the job.
Permanent Work Restrictions (accommodations for handicaps & disabilities)
If an employee requires work restrictions of an extended duration or modification of the job functions, the situation will be treated as an accommodation request under state and federal disability law. Human Resources, the supervisor, and the Office of Employee Health, in consultation with the Office of the Provost and the Office of General Counsel, as necessary, will enter into a good faith interactive discussion with the employee to assess and determine whether:
  1. the employee can fulfill the essential job requirements with or without modifications and
  2. there are reasonable accommodations that would permit the employee to perform the essential functions of the job.
If the request cannot be accommodated, the employee either may be assigned to other duties within the department or remain on short term disability up to the maximum of 26 weeks in a 12-month period. These accommodations may be reviewed by the Office of Employee Health as needed.

Other Considerations

Unused Disability Leave
Unused short term disability leave may not be accumulated or carried forward in any way.
Regular part time or full time 9-, 10-, 11-month employees
If an approved disability occurs during scheduled nonworking periods, i.e., summer months, for regular 9-, 10-, or 11-month pay cycle employees, the disability benefit is paid by Princeton University's Short Term Disability Plan.
 
The benefit paid from the Princeton plan will follow the New Jersey State benefit formula in effect at time of the disability.

Use of Accrued Vacation during Disability Leave

An employee may, with supervisory approval, elect to be paid for unused accrued vacation time to offset any disability period in which employee is receiving less than 100% pay. The vacation time paid out (up to a maximum of 17.5 days) cannot exceed the unpaid portion of the disability leave. If an employee returns to work sooner than originally anticipated, the vacation time cannot be paid back to the University.
Vacation Accrual
Vacation time is not accrued during a short term disability leave of absence nor credited upon employees’ return to work.
 
Holding Employees’ Positions
In accordance with the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the New Jersey Family Leave Act (NJFLA), the University provides a family and medical leave of protected absence for up to 12 weeks in any 12-month period to any eligible regular full-time or part-time employee. The University guarantees that, at the end of a protected absence, the employee can return to the same position or to one that is equivalent in rank, salary and benefits, and other terms and conditions of employment.
 
It is the University’s policy to run FMLA leave concurrent with an approved short term disability leave, if appropriate. If, after a protected absence is exhausted, a regular employee remains absent from the workplace on short term disability, the University will make an effort to hold a position while the employee is receiving short term disability benefits.
 
Positions are not held for probationary or temporary employees.
 
While an employee is absent from the workplace due to a short term disability, supervisors may employ a variety of strategies, such as the hiring of temporary replacements or casual employees and temporary reassignment of duties to other staff members, to ensure that the department can continue to operate effectively while the employee is absent.
 
Supervisors must consult with Human Resources prior to posting the position. With approval of Human Resources, supervisors may post a position where an employee has been absent from the workplace and any protected absence is exhausted, if:
  1. the medical prognosis, by an authorizing health care provider, indicates that the employee's condition will not improve sufficiently within a reasonable period of time to allow the person to return to work and to be able to perform the essential duties of the position and/or
  2. the supervisor can clearly demonstrate, to the satisfaction of Human Resources, that the continuing absence interferes with the effective operation of the workplace.
Disability Beyond 26 Weeks
When an employee is disabled beyond 26 weeks, i.e., the health care provider and/or the Office of Employee Health cannot certify that the employee is able to return to normal duty within 26 weeks, the short term disability leave ends and the employee may become eligible to receive long term disability. 
Long Term Disability
If, after three months, the employee’s health care provider indicates that the employee’s short term disability leave may extend beyond 26 weeks, the Office of Human Resources will send information regarding the University's Long Term Disability Plan to the employee.
 
Employees who cannot return to the workplace after 26 weeks and are waiting for determination of their LTD application are placed on a transitional unpaid leave of absence, normally 30 days, pending possible approval under the University's long term disability plan.
 
Employees who are not approved for long term disability and who cannot perform the essential functions of their job, will have their employment terminated. These individuals are not eligible for severance pay (see 4.0.4 Benefits at Termination for additional information).
Multiple Disability Periods in excess of 26 weeks in a 12-month period
There are rare instances when an individual may experience a relapse of disability or a new disability within a 12-month period. This is defined by an approved return to work period that is greater than 14 days followed by a subsequent newly approved disability period.
 
In these instances, the state formula in effect at the time of the disability is paid for any approved disability period in excess of 26 weeks in any 12-month period. Pay received during a new disability period within a 12-month period is limited to a total of two-thirds of the employee’s pay received in the immediate 12 months prior to the start of the new disability period.
Poor Attendance Due to Multiple Short Term Disabilities
When an employee has a record of poor attendance because of multiple short term disabilities, the employee may be replaced based on the business needs of the office. Such instances are reviewed on a case-by-case basis and supervisors must consult with Human Resources before replacing the employee (see 5.1.6 Absence from the Workplace). 
Determination of Eligibility
The University has responsibility for determining employee eligibility for short term disability.
Termination of Employment
If employees become disabled within 14 days following resignation or termination of employment, they may apply to receive the short term disability income benefits from the University. The benefit paid from the Princeton plan will follow the New Jersey State benefit formula in effect at time of the disability.
 
The eligibility for 26 weeks of benefits will include any time used while employed by Princeton University within a 12-month period of the approved disability. Approval to receive short term disability income does not constitute a promise of employment or rights to any other benefits provided by the University to its employees.
Right of Appeal
If the Office of Employee Health denies an employee's claim for short term disability, the employee has the right to appeal the decision in accordance with New Jersey Temporary Disability Law. The Office of Employee Health will provide the employee at the time the decision is made a written notice and the procedure for filing an appeal of the denial.


4 Temporary transition restrictions typically end within 60 days or less; 30 days for reduced schedule.