Chapter 2: Leaves of Absence
A: Scholarly Leaves of Absence
Scholarly leaves of absence may be granted at the discretion of the Provost upon the recommendation of the appropriate dean or, in the case of faculty in the School of Medicine Clinical Departments, granted at the discretion of the Dean of the School of Medicine. Such leaves are for the purpose of advancing scholarship to the benefit of the faculty member and the University. They are granted in recognition of the productivity of the faculty member and are not an entitlement such as may exist in other institutions that have sabbatical leaves. A paid leave of absence may be granted to a faculty member-by the Provost, or the Dean of the School of Medicine for faculty in the School of Medicine Clinical Departments, for research or other academic pursuits by the faculty member. Such research can consist of special projects, including out-of-town research, study, writing for publication, or some other activity consistent with a scholarly purpose.
Each college and school should provide a statement of principles and procedures regarding its leave policy. The granting of leaves is determined after taking into consideration department and school staffing requirements, availability of funds from all sources, and other factors, such as scholarly productivity (including publications) and the outcome of previous research leaves.
In some cases, leave may be granted to pursue appropriate scholarly activities that may benefit the faculty member and a third party, such as collaboration in a research project with a colleague at another institution or appointment to service for a governmental agency for a defined period. Such leaves may be paid or unpaid, depending on the specific activity and on whether outside funds are available to support the faculty member. When granted, such leave does not normally affect eligibility for salary raises or promotion.
As a matter of University policy, requests for scholarly leaves of absences are generally not granted more frequently than once every four years, and a longer minimum interval may apply in individual schools and programs. Leaves will not be provided to tenure-track faculty members if the leave would be taken in the terminal year. The period between leaves begins with the first full academic year after the leave.
Generally, a faculty member on a scholarly leave is granted half-salary and full benefits for a full year or full salary and full benefits for a half-year. All faculty members returning from research leaves are expected to submit to the dean a report of their scholarly activities and accomplishments. Unless waived in writing by the provost or, for the clinical department in the School of Medicine, the Dean of the School of Medicine, a faculty member who is granted a scholarly leave is obligated to return to active status for at least an equivalent period immediately following such leave.
Scholarly leaves are not cumulative. If more than four years have passed between leaves of absence, that fact will not shorten the required interval between subsequent leaves or allow a full year’s paid leave instead of one semester.
Procedures for Requesting Scholarly Leave
Requests for leaves of absence are acted upon by the department chair or division director. Any recommendation to grant the leave request will be reviewed by the appropriate dean and, if they/she/he concurs, by the Provost or, in the case of faculty in the School of Medicine Clinical Departments, only by the Dean of the School of Medicine. The decision of the Provost or the Dean of the School of Medicine is final.
B: Parental Leave
When Vanderbilt University-employed full-time faculty member (or see VUMC policy in number 11 below) who is tenured or tenure-track, or a full-time faculty member who is non-tenure track and on a renewable, multi-year appointment, or that faculty member’s spouse, becomes the parent of a child, either by childbirth or by adoption of a pre-school-aged child, the faculty member shall, upon written request to their/her/his department chair or dean or in the School of Nursing, the program director and appropriate senior associate dean, be entitled to a parental leave of one semester at full pay for purposes of serving as the child’s primary caregiver. If a faculty member and their/her/his spouse would otherwise both be eligible for parental leave under this policy, either one, but not both, make this parental leave.
The benefits afforded faculty under this policy are intended to be consistent with and not in conflict with rights afforded under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the Tennessee Maternity Leave Act (TMLA). Any leave taken under this policy, to the extent that it also qualifies for FMLA or TMLA leave, will count as FMLA or TMLA leave, will run concurrently with that leave, and the written agreement should clearly state that intention. Faculty should visit the HR website for the faculty member’s employer for further information on FMLA and TMLA.)
In order to minimize the administrative burden of ensuring adequate coverage of responsibilities, an eligible faculty member must give her or his department chair or dean at least three (3) months’ written notice of her or his intention to take parental leave, the anticipated date of departure and the expected date of return to full-time work. Medical emergencies or the uncertainties of adoption that prevent the giving of three months’ notice will not disqualify an eligible faculty member from obtaining parental leave.
Any agreement for a parental leave under this policy shall be in writing. The agreement shall include each of the following:
a. certification by the faculty member that the purpose of the leave will be to serve as the primary caregiver for that child during the period of leave or for faculty on nine-month appointments to recapture time spent as the primary caregiver during the preceding summer;
b. certification that the leave period will not be used to actively pursue other employment opportunities or to work full- or part time for another employer;
c. the anticipated start and end of the leave period;
d. a commitment to return to active status for at least an equivalent period immediately following the paid parental leave; and
e. for tenure-track faculty, the revised schedule of intermediate and major promotion and tenure reviews.
4. Salary, Benefits, and Responsibilities During Leave
A faculty member who takes parental leave under this policy shall receive the same salary and benefits that they/she/he would have received that semester if not on leave, and shall be relieved of their normal duties and responsibilities during the period of leave as follows:
The faculty member shall be relieved of the obligation to teach during the semester in which the leave is taken. If the semester during which leave is taken is one in which the faculty member would otherwise have taught more than half of their/her/his normal annual teaching load, the faculty member may be required to teach one additional course in another semester to be agreed upon by the faculty member and their department chair or dean.
b. Research and Scholarship
The faculty member shall be relieved of research and scholarship expectations for one semester.
The faculty member shall be relieved of all faculty service responsibilities, including committee work and student advising, for one semester.
5. When Taken
At the option of the faculty member, the parental leave provided by this policy may be taken during the semester in which the child is born or placed for adoption, or during any subsequent semester that begins no later than six months after the birth or adoption placement. For purposes of this policy, each semester shall run from the first day of classes to the last day of examinations. Unless waived in writing by the provost, or by the Dean for faculty members in the clinical departments of the School of Medicine, a faculty member who takes a parental leave is obligated to return to active status for at least an equivalent period immediately following such leave in order to retain the benefits of the leave including salary paid.
6. Effect on Probationary Period
For the effect of parental leave on the tenure probationary period, please refer to Part II, Chapter 3, Section B of the Faculty Manual.
7. Additional Leave
This policy is intended to describe the minimum level of benefits available for faculty members to whom it applies. This policy is not intended to constrain the faculty member and department chair or dean from developing other arrangements that meet the spirit of this policy and its minimum level of benefits and that fulfill the needs of all involved in some other manner. The dean of a school or college may establish policies extending these benefits to other categories of faculty. Any parental leave taken under this policy shall be in addition to any leave granted because of medical incapacitation (as described in Section D below). As noted above, these leaves run concurrent to any leave approved under FMLA or TMLA.
The parental leave benefit may be used once per child and no more than three times during a faculty member’s employment at Vanderbilt.
9. Multiple Births/Adoptions
For purposes of this policy, parental leave in the case of multiple birth (twins, triplets, etc.) or simultaneous adoption of multiple children shall count as one leave event, resulting automatically in the availability of one semester of paid leave. Thus, the birth of triplets would not use up the faculty member’s eligibility for parental leave for future births or adoptions nor would it necessarily entitle the faculty member to three consecutive semesters of paid leave. In such unusual circumstances, the faculty member and their/her/his chair or dean are encouraged to devise an arrangement suitable to the unique needs of such a situation and consistent with the spirit of this policy.
10. Benefits Beyond Three Children
If, after obtaining this benefit three times, a faculty member gives birth to or adopts an additional child(ren), that faculty member shall only be entitled to FMLA or TMLA leave (both unpaid and subject to the eligibility requirements for those leaves) unless the leave is for short-term illness or other incapacities, in which case it may qualify as a paid leave (see Section D, below). The medical condition of the faculty member, as evidenced by the written statement of the faculty member’s physician, will establish the length of leave for short-term illness. Normally, unless unusual medical complications exist, the leave for short-term illness related to child birth does not exceed six weeks. Additional personal leave (unpaid) may be requested. The duration of personal leave must be negotiated between the faculty member and their/her/his dean and must be consistent with the FMLA and the TMLA.
11. Faculty Employed by VUMC
A VUMC-employed full-time faculty member who becomes the parent of a child, or whose spouse becomes the parent of a child, either by childbirth or through adoption of a minor child, shall be entitled to a leave of up to twelve weeks. If a faculty member and their/her/his spouse would otherwise both be eligible for parental leave under this policy, both may take this parental leave, but not simultaneously and not for more than a combined total of twelve (12) weeks.
The request for this leave should be in writing to their/her/his department chair in the Clinical Departments of the School of Medicine. A copy of the agreement shall be submitted to the dean of the school. The agreement shall include a letter from the faculty member indicating that the purpose of the leave will be to serve as a primary caregiver for that child during the period of leave. The request should be made as soon as reasonably possible after the need for a leave becomes known in order to minimize the administrative burden of ensuring adequate coverage. The parental leave will ordinarily be taken in the perinatal period or near the time the child is placed for adoption. Special circumstances may be agreed upon with the approval of the department chair in the Clinical Departments of the School of Medicine. Such special circumstances must also receive endorsement from the dean of the school. The faculty member will be relieved of their/her/his normal duties and responsibilities during the period of leave. A faculty member who takes a parental leave is expected to return to active status.
The benefits afforded faculty under this policy are intended to be consistent and not in conflict with the rights afforded under the Federal Family and Medical Act (FMLA) and Tennessee Maternity Leave Act (TMLA). Any leave taken under this policy is intended to count as an run concurrent with FMLA and TMLA leave.
A VUMC-employed faculty member who takes parental leave under this policy shall receive salary and benefits for up to six (6) weeks. For faculty on variable or performance salaries, the salary to be paid will be the average of the salary paid during the four months prior to the effective date of the leave. If additional weeks of leave are requested, full benefits but not salary will be maintained for up to a maximum of an additional ten weeks.
For purposes of this policy, parental leave in the case of multiple birth or simultaneous placement for adoption of multiple children counts as one leave event.
For the effect of parental leave on the tenure probationary period, please refer to Part II, Chapter 3, Section B of the Faculty Manual.
C: Family Leave (FMLA and TMLA)
Eligible faculty receive job protected leave in accordance with federal and state laws, including the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the Tennessee Maternity Leave Act (TMLA). In certain cases, FMLA may be taken on an intermittent basis rather than all at once, or the faculty member may be entitled to work a part-time schedule. Except to the extent that a faculty member is entitled to pay on account of the faculty member’s employer’s parental leave policy (see section B) or under short-term medical leave policy (see section D), FMLA and/or TMLA leave is unpaid. More information on eligibility and leaves under FMLA and TMLA may be found on the Human Resources websites for Vanderbilt University and Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
For Vanderbilt University-employed faculty members on academic-year appointments, if the expiration of the period of FMLA or TMLA leave occurs between the spring and fall semesters, the faculty member will not be required to return to work until the start of the fall semester.
D: Other Nonacademic Leave with Pay
1. Illness or Other Incapacities of Short Duration (Medical Leave)
When a faculty member must be absent from their/her/his duties because of their own illness or incapacity of short duration (six months or less), other members of the faculty, with knowledge of the department chair or division director and the dean, customarily assume their duties on a temporary basis. If the illness becomes extended so that this is no longer feasible, other arrangements are made by the department chair in consultation with the Dean and the Provost or the Dean of the School of Medicine in the case of faculty in the School of Medicine Clinical Departments. The period of illness or incapacity runs concurrently with leave under FMLA and/or TMLA. However, this leave status provides for paid status up to the maximum of six months.
In the case of pregnancy and childbirth, the medical condition of the faculty member will establish the length of leave for short-term illness/medical leave. Normally, unless the faculty member’s physician advises that additional time is required, the leave for short term illness due to childbirth does not exceed six weeks.
A faculty member is asked to notify the department chair (or dean, in schools without departments) as soon as they/she/he is called by a court of law for jury duty to determine whether arrangements can be made to handle academic responsibilities during this absence.
E: Nonacademic Leave Without Pay
1. Personal Reasons
Requests for leave for personal reasons (including family-related matters) are considered on an individual basis and should be submitted to the department chair (or dean, in schools without departments) as far in advance of the proposed absence as possible, so that neither instruction nor research programs will be unnecessarily interrupted. Specific dates for the leave should be stated in the request. Such leaves usually do not extend beyond one year. If approved by the Dean, the request for leave for personal reasons is handled in the same way as academic leave, going to the Provost for review and approval. The Dean of the School of Medicine will consider and approve such leaves for VUMC-employed faculty.
2. Military Duty
Certain faculty members may have rights under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (“USERRA”). USERRA protects the job rights of individuals who voluntarily or involuntarily leave employment to undertake military service or certain types of service in the National Disaster Medical System. USERRA prohibits employers from discriminating against past and present members of the uniformed services and applicants to the uniformed services. If a faculty member has questions about their/her/his rights relating to military obligations, they should communicate with the dean of their school.