Staff Council calls for change in medical leave bank eligibility

Staff Regent Tamela Smith addresses the WKU Staff Council about her desire for the university to change the eligibility requirements of its medical leave bank during the council’s meeting on June 6.

Nicole Ziege

Staff Regent Tamela Smith pushed for a plan to change the eligibility requirements for WKU’s medical leave bank during the WKU Staff Council meeting on June 6.

The eligibility requirements she advocated for the university to change included the number of consecutive work days required before the employee would be eligible to apply for medical leave from the bank.

“This is something that for many, many years, I have wanted to see change,” Smith said in her final report as staff regent.

According to the university’s medical leave policy, WKU employees can donate part or all of their paid medical leave time to the bank. That donated time can be given to another WKU employee who already used all of his or her medical leave time and who is, as Smith said, “catastrophically ill.”

In order to be eligible for the bank, a WKU employee must be employed at the university and must be absent from illness for 30 consecutive work days, according to the university’s policy.

“Very few people have been eligible for it,” Smith said. “If you’ve got an illness and you try to work and come in and out, you’re not eligible.”

Smith said that when she was diagnosed with breast cancer, she worked relatively every other week, despite her going through chemotherapy radiation treatment. Although she used up her medical leave time, she would not have been eligible to apply for the medical leave bank because she had not been absent due to her illness for at least 30 consecutive days.

“There are plenty of people that work,” Smith said, referring to people who come in and work through illnesses and treatments like she did. “We care and we want to be here so you are actually penalizing the people who care the most about the university.”

During her report, she presented the council with two current policies for medical leave banks at other universities. She said that she and Staff Council Chair Greg Hackbarth reviewed the two policies, and she wanted the council to review and choose one of them. With one of the policies, she would use it to speak to the administration and “push for change” in the bank’s eligibility requirements at WKU.

“I want to do something that would be very beneficial for the staff on my way out,” Smith said, referring to the end of her role as staff regent on June 30.

The motion for Smith to use one of the policies and speak to the administration about the medical leave bank was unanimously approved.

Support for the nomination of Bill Edwards to receive an emeritus position was also approved by the council.

Edwards, former associate athletic director for athletic training and sports medicine, was inducted into WKU’s Hall of Distinguished Alumni in 2016. Prior to being associate athletic director, he was named head athletic trainer at WKU in 1983 after six years as an assistant. Edwards retired on June 30, 2017, after 47 years at WKU.

“He is more than deserving of this title,” Staff Council Technology Officer Kaliegh Averdick said.

Smith also addressed the council at the end of her report. She will be retiring in September 2018 after serving WKU for 25 years as WKU’s current manager of AV services, among other previous positions.

“You’re a great body of people to work with,” Smith said, beginning to cry. “We’re doing great things here that really impact and benefit the university.”

Correction: A previous version of the story referred to “Communications Officer Kaleigh Averdick.” Her name and title is “Technology Officer Kaliegh Averdick.” The Herald regrets the error.

Nicole Ziege can be reached at 270-745-6011 and [email protected]. Follow Nicole Ziege on Twitter at @NicoleZiege.