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Catastrophic Leave program Needs to Change!

The Catastrophic Leave program in TVUSD that governs how donated Catastrophic Leave days are implemented, needs to change! The TVUSD Board Policy 4361.9 references State Education code below:

Ed. Code 44043.5

When a catastrophic illness or injury incapacitates an employee or a member of his/her family for an extended period of time and the employee has exhausted all paid leaves of absence, other employees may donate accrued vacation and/or sick leave credits to that employee under the specific requirements of the district's catastrophic leave program.

In my discussions with Human Resources and Fiscal, TVUSD takes a unique approach to apply donated Catastrophic Leave days to employees in their most vulnerable time. According to TVUSD implementation, when an employee has a major medical condition that makes them unable to work, an employee will exhaust their accrued leave. At this time an employee is placed on a 5-month medical leave, exclusive of long holidays, where an employee is paid minus the sub differential for each instructional day. At the same time, an employee may apply for Catastrophic Leave. This allows employees at large to donate a sick leave day to the applicant. TVUSD then applies the donated day to the differential pay, so the employee does not lose out on the sub differential for the day. The employee is then placed on the 39-month rehire list, separating from the District, and losing pay and benefits, and endangering their treatment plan. Once on the 39 month rehire list, employees must pay Cobra for an individual policy to continue their treatment.

While there is nothing wrong legally with this implementation, most employees now carry disability insurance. The employees that donate days believe they are helping a colleague; in fact they are losing a leave day to lower the payout of the insurance provider. TVUSD reports to the insurance company how many days were donated. In the Catastrophic Leave program for TVUSD, the only beneficiary is the insurance company that has a lower payout to the employee.

In my understanding of catastrophic leave programs, donated days to the applicant are used to delay the onset of an employee placed on the 39 month rehire list. Donated days can be used before or after the subdifferential pay term of an employee. This allows an employee to retain benefits as long as possible to make a full recovery for treatment. This acutely affects employees treated for cancer, who take an 18–22-week treatment plan along with a 4 week recovery period. Another subgroup is women who have minimized accrued leave due to pregnancy and child bonding leave. An even more acute group are women who carry medical policies for their family.

As I researched the I-15 corridor, I found that San Diego Educators Association, Murrieta Unified School District, Lake Elsinore Unified School District, Corona- Norco Unified School District, Riverside, and San Bernardino all implement Catastrophic Leave programs that are compassionate and value their team of employees at their most vulnerable moment in their lives. These districts through bargaining, or most through their own implementation, use donated Catastrophic leave days to assist an employee to delay placement on the 39 month rehire list instead of supplanting the loss of sub pay during the 5 month medical leave period.

The above practice is based on the TVUSD past practice under the Board Policy and Administrative Regulation. There are no details in the relevant BP or AR to dictate implementation. The TVUSD can make an immediate change to how donated Catastrophic Leave days are applied to an employee on Medical Leave. The TVUSD can choose to make a positive difference without bargaining or implementing a new BP or AR. The TVUSD can choose caring, community and compassion.

The Temecula Valley Educators Association demands a change to the implementation of donated Catastrophic Leave Days.

In solidarity of colleagues and friends,

Edgar Díaz

TVEA President


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