Restricted Sick Leave & “Deems Desirable”



Have you ever heard of “Restricted Sick Leave”? If so, it’s probably been a very long time. Have you ever heard of anyone actually on Restricted Sick Leave? Probably not! Why? Primarily because it requires supervisors to have to create Restricted Sick Leave files and monitor whether the employee’s sick leave absences have improved. And if they show improvement it would be difficult to discipline the employee. What a hassle! No, Postal management would rather transfer the hassle to the employees.

ELM 513.361 is the provision that regulates when management can require an employee to provide documentation.

“For periods of absence of 3 days or less, supervisors may accept the employee’s statement explaining the absence. Medical documentation or other acceptable evidence of incapacity for work or need to care for a family member is required only when the employee is on restricted sick leave (see 513.39) or when the supervisor deems documentation desirable for the protection of the interests of the Postal Service. Substantiation of the family relationship must be provided if requested.”

Too often employees believe that when a supervisor tells them to bring in documentation, they assume the supervisor meant ‘medical documentation’. No. If you tell the supervisor that you were sick that should explain the absence. You can also put it in writing that you were sick, sign and date it. Medical documentation is only required when the employee is on Restricted Sick Leave. But since hardly anyone is on Restricted Sick Leave these days, supervisors tell employee that they are on a “Deems Desirable” list.

That’s because ELM 513.361 also states that an employee has to provide documentation, “when the supervisor deems documentation desirable for the protection of the interests of the Postal Service.” If the supervisor can deem anyone desirable to provide documentation at their discretion, then what’s the point of having a Restricted Sick Leave process? What were the unions thinking when they permitted the Postal Service to abuse the “deems desirable” intent?

Actually, management does not have as much discretion as the unions have permitted. ELM 865.1 addresses requirements to clear an employee to return to duty after a medical absence.

In pertinent part it states: “In making the decision whether to require documentation in order to clear the employee’s return to work, management must consider the essential functions of the employee’s job, the nature of the medical condition or procedure involved, and any other reliable and objective information (emphasis added) in order to make an individualized assessment whether there is a reason to require the return-to-work documentation.”

In other words, supervisors cannot ask an employee, not on Restricted Sick Leave, to produce documentation to substantiate their sick leave absence of three days or less. If the supervisor does not have some type of reliable and objective information to support a request for documentation under the pretext of “deems desirable”, then the employee should file a grievance. Make the supervisor produce the objective evidence.

This is the only way the unions will be able to put a stop to this abuse by supervisors towards employees who use their sick leave.

What’s the point of strictly an informative article without a little bit of a rant? So here goes.

Why are employees being disciplined for using their sick leave at all? Sick leave is part of your employment compensation, just like your paycheck is. The Postal Service agreed to give each employee a certain number of sick leave hours in exchange for a fair days work. But then they tell you they don’t want you to use it. In fact, if you do use more than they think you should, you could be subjected to discipline. Everybody knows that! Do you know how ridiculous of a concept that is? Does the Postal Service tell you where and how you spend your paycheck? And that if you don’t spend it in just a certain way you could be subjected to discipline? Of course not! Then why do the unions permit the Postal Service to discipline employees for using their sick leave?

If the unions, through their constituents, feel that having a Restricted Sick Leave policy is in the best interest of all employees, then fine. But there currently is no Restricted Sick Leave policy being implemented. There is only management’s freedom to make “deems desirable” demands of employees without fully following their own regulations by producing reliable and objective evidence supporting the reason for requiring an employee to produce documentation. It’s well past time for the unions to at least enter into a Memorandum of Understanding with the Postal Service that compels supervisors to provide objective evidence to prove that “deems desirable” documentation is in the interests of the Postal Service.

By J.R. Pritchett, Employee Advocate

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