The Contract Enforcement/Grievance (CEG) team has compiled answers to the questions they hear most often about major provisions in our contract. Click on any question below to view the answer. Contact CEG to ask other questions and discuss how to proceed on your issue (firstname.lastname@example.org for tenured and tenure-track faculty; email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org for NTTs and grad workers).
What is “closing of ranks”?
“Closed ranks” is available to faculty members who are experiencing short-term illnesses or disabilities and are unable to meet their obligations for a period of time, normally up to one semester. Unlike other types of employees, faculty do not accumulate sick-leave benefits; closed ranks simply means that the department or unit will figure out a way to cover duties due to illness. This is accomplished most frequently by asking a colleague to step in or hiring a PTL. Faculty members who are experiencing an illness and unable to meet their duties should have a conversation with their chairperson or director as soon as practical in advance of needed coverage.
What is the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA)?
The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 provides eligible employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave each year for qualified medical and family reasons. Faculty interested in applying for FMLA should have a conversation, as soon as practicable, with their chairperson or director in advance of the needed leave period. Following that conversation, an additional conversation with the union or University Human Resources may be necessary. Furthermore, you may be asked to obtain certification from your physician if the leave relates to a medical issue of yours.
What is paid parental leave, and who is eligible for it?
All full-time tenured, tenure track, and non-tenure track faculty are eligible for parental leave benefits. Also included in this category are librarians, extension faculty, and TA/GAs.
A new birth mother is entitled under our contract to six weeks of paid, recuperative leave from the date she gives birth, or earlier if there is a medical issue related to pregnancy. The six weeks of recuperative leave must be taken consecutively from the date of birth or an earlier date if there is a medical issue related to pregnancy.
All new parents, including birth mothers and all other mothers and fathers, including new parents who are adopting, are eligible under our contract to eight weeks of paid release time, so long as the release time is taken within 12 months of birth or adoption. The eight weeks do not have to be taken consecutively. They are in addition to the six-week recuperation time for birth mothers.
Arrangements for parental leave should be discussed/planned with your department chair, dean or immediate supervisor. Please contact a staff member of the Union’s Contract Enforcement/Grievance team to discuss further.
What recourse is available if a request for closed ranks or parental leave or an FMLA request is denied?
The University Liaison for Work and Family Issues, jointly appointed by the AAUP-AFT and the University, is responsible for assisting members in securing the benefits of Article 16. If your request was denied, please contact a staff member of the Union’s Contract Enforcement/Grievance team to discuss how to best approach the matter.
Is the University required to provide lactation spaces for new mothers?
The University is required by federal law to provide private and safe spaces for nursing mothers to breastfeed or express breast milk.
I’m a tenure-track faculty member who was recently granted one semester of unpaid leave. How does this impact my probationary period?
Tenure-track faculty members who take a leave for one semester are permitted, under Article 16, to request that the entire year be excluded from their probationary period. Faculty members should be clear when requesting the leave that they wish to have the entire year excluded, and they should keep a clear record of communications with the chair and dean concerning the leave and exclusion approval. Exclusions to the probationary period do not apply to faculty members in their terminal year.
I’m a tenure-track faculty member who was granted one year of unpaid leave. Is my appointment automatically extended?
A first-year’s leave of absence without pay automatically extends the term of appointment by a period equal to the time excluded from the probationary period, without the need to request it in writing. Please note that a second year’s leave of absence without pay does not automatically extend the term of appointment; this must be requested in writing. We recommend that you have a conversation with your department chair about seeking approval from the dean. We urge you to consult with union staff before submitting a leave request under Article 16.
Are other exclusions from the probationary period available under Article 16?
Tenure track faculty members who continue to fulfill the responsibilities of their position are eligible for an exclusion of one year from the probationary period when serving as a principal or coequal caregiver under one of the following conditions:
- You become a parent during the first five years of your probationary period.
- You became a parent within one year prior to your hire date.
- You provide care for a family member or same-sex domestic partner with a serious health condition.
- You personally have a serious health condition.
Requests should be submitted in writing to a department chair and dean, and a clear record of the request and approved exclusion should be retained.
Note: If you have questions related to COVID exclusions, please contact Union staff or consult this union webpage for additional information.
Are tenure-track faculty eligible for modifications of work duties?
Tenure track faculty members may request modifications of their work assignments due to parental or familial circumstances. Faculty members should discuss the matter with department chairs/directors and/or the dean. We suggest that you determine (with as much specificity as possible) what type of modification or relief is needed and propose a modification that takes into account the needs of the department wherever possible. If a request is denied, please contact union staff, and we will discuss how to best approach the matter with the Article 16 Liaison for Work and Family Issues.
What do I need to know about Statutory Leaves such as FMLA, NJFLA, and NJ SAFE Act?
A department or unit is required to notify Human Resources if a unit member has indicated need for a leave of absence because of his/her own serious health condition, to care for a family member, and/or related to the New Jersey SAFE Act (a leave available to address circumstances resulting from domestic violence or a sexually violent offense). Human Resources will then make a determination as to whether the leave shall be designated under the federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), the New Jersey Family Leave Act (NJFLA), and/or the New Jersey SAFE Act, and/or any other applicable law.
If a unit member is eligible for a leave of absence under the FMLA, NJFLA, NJ SAFE Act, and/or any other applicable law, the University shall designate the leave under the applicable law. All paid time off must be used (including, if applicable, sick time or sick leave, closed ranks, and/or vacation) simultaneously with any unpaid statutory leave.
If a unit member’s available paid time is exhausted, the remaining statutory leave time shall be unpaid.
We encourage you to bring any questions with regard to closed ranks and accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and/or the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD) to the union’s attention. Our staff can assist in finding answers related to statutory leave requirements and help navigate a very complicated landscape of laws related to federally and state-sanctioned leaves.