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Suffolk AME Wins New Medical Monitoring Policy, Ending Years of Inequality in our Sick Leave Rules

Friday, May 25, 2018
As you know, for many years, the County's Sick Leave Abuse policy negatively impacted our ability to perform our jobs and to take care of our personal needs during an illness. Even worse, it inadvertently created a rise in our EMHP prices at a time when we can least afford it. Recognizing this problem,  the Executive Board and I immediately began discussions with the County to end this antiquated and inequitable policy.
 
After months of challenging negotiations, we are proud to present to all of our members the removal of the Sick Leave Abuse policy, effective immediately.  The new policy, called "Medical Monitoring" maintains the best language of the old system. Family sick time is not impacted. The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is not changed. 
 
Here's a quick breakdown of the new policy: an occurrence is no longer any full or partial day, but instead is an equivalent of an entire shift.  Additionally, an employee who has eight non-consecutive full sick days or twelve total sick days consisting of full and partial sick days during any twelve-month period may qualify for Medical Monitoring. Qualifying for Medical Monitoring is at the discretion of the Department Head.
 
Under the old sick leave management policy, imagine a scenario in which you had to use three hours of sick time because you had an upset stomach before going to work. That would be an occurrence. The following week, if you have a headache in the morning which cleared up, and you decided to work the last three hours of your shift, that was also considered an occurrence. Five more of those random occurrences over a twelve-month period and you could be labeled a sick leave abuser and lose the eligibility to work overtime, switch shifts (if permissible), or to receive night differential pay while on sick leave. 
 
Under the new Medical Monitoring policy, using a seven-hour work-shift as an example with the scenario listed above, if you used three hours of sick time during one week, then four hours of sick time during another week, that would count as one occurrence based on the use of seven total hours of sick time (one full work day). 
 
For those who work seven and a half hour shifts, that's still one-half hour away from one occurrence in the Medical Monitoring policy. Under the previous Sick Leave Management Policy, an occurrence was ANY sick time used without providing medical documentation, even if you used as little as half an hour.  Five occurrences of half an hour each made you a sick time abuser.  Could you imagine being labeled a "sick time abuser" for using less than seven hours of sick time?  
 
The significance of what this accomplishment means for us and the county can't be overstated. The collaborative efforts by this Executive Board and the County committed to delivering a fair and reasonable sick leave policy in our contract should be considered a victory for both sides.  AME members will no longer be penalized for attempting to fight through illness, nor will we be punished if illness strikes mid-shift. Our members will no longer need to visit a walk-in medical center for minor issues that require rest, thus saving money on co-pays.  The County will realize immediate savings on EMHP, as AME members will now see physicians when needed, not when a note is required.
 
Should you have any questions regarding the new policy in our contract, please do not hesitate to contact any member of the Executive Board or your unit board. We will continue to keep you updated with our progress in achieving better benefits and employment conditions.
 
Finally, with the Memorial Day holiday weekend upon us, I would like to wish you and your families a safe and enjoyable weekend. And on Memorial Day, let us honor and pay tribute to the men and women who paid the ultimate sacrifice in service to our country. Suffolk Works Because We Do!