The Employee Assembly discussed revising the University’s funeral leave policy to better accommodate different family situations at a Wednesday Zoom meeting.
Brian Goodell, representative at-large, proposed a revision of the University’s Funeral Leave Policy, which would extend the definition of immediate family to include surrogates and incorporate additional consideration for employees to take a “reasonable” number of days off to travel for funeral services.
Goodell explained that the current policy is not inclusive of many family structures including polyamory or religions and cultures that have longer mourning periods, and it does not take into consideration family obligations during a time of loss.
The University’s current Funeral Leave policy gives employees up to three days off with pay when a death occurs in their immediate family: spouse, domestic partner, child, stepchild, sibling, parent, stepparent, grandparent, grandchild, father-in-law, mother-in-law, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, brother-in-law or sister-in-law.
Josh Cooley, representative at-large, opposed the proposal, citing potential abuse of the policy.
“[The current paid time off benefits package] offers itself up to more misuse by expanding definitions,” Cooley said. “I can see times where people have new family members that come out of the blue when they need a few days off.”
Karen LoParco, Graduate School, Law School and Johnson School representative and parliamentarian, pointed out that the policy should be inclusive, “leveling the playing field for employees.”
“There’s always going to be the risk of abuse of any kind of policy and if you live by that, why change anything?” LoParco said. “I feel very strongly that we need to set a precedent that we are an inclusive institution and that if you identify a family member who may not be a blood relative, then we should respect that.”
Carrie Sanzone, representative-at-large and vice chair for communications, said the proposal allows for employees not to solely depend on a supervisor’s decision on whether they can go on paid leave.
“[The new policy] empowers the staff to say, ‘This is my situation and it falls, it’s acceptable,’ versus relying on a supervisor to make that determination,” Sanzone said.
After extensive debate, the E.A. tabled the issue. A vote is scheduled to take place at the assembly’s May 6 meeting.
The Employee Assembly also discussed the re-accreditation of the University, holding more COVID-19 staff forums online and passed the resolution to postpone spring 2020 elections until fall with no objections, while extending the end date of expiring seats.