Union Represenatives’ Column

We can help guide you through leave of absence

When a member has to consider taking a leave of absence, there are many mistakes that can be made, and these mistakes can be costly.

It’s important to remember your union is here to advise and guide you through a confusing and complicated process that often happens during times of stress.

Don’t always rely on your employer for the information you need. Remember, your store manager gets paid to run the store, not know your contract. Your union, on the other hand, exists only to serve you.

Members of UFCW Local 1428 have much better protections than other workers who don’t have union-negotiated contracts. For example, your contract can guarantee as much as six months of job-protected leave — twice as much as required under federal law with FMLA only.

Local 1428 provides a check list to help our members get through the process and take advantage of the benefits they have earned. Call our Benefits Department at (909) 626-6800 for a copy.

Going through the process

First, provide your doctor’s note to your manager immediately. We also recommend keeping a copy of the note and writing the name of the person the note was given to on the copy, as well as its date and time of delivery. If the doctor extends the required time away from work, a new doctor’s note needs to be provided to the manager to protect your job.

You then need to complete all of the required leave of absence paperwork and submit it to your company’s leave department.

Again, keep copies for your own file!

The next step is to file a claim with the State of California Employment Development Department (EDD) so you can get paid from the state while you are out of work. This can be done at edd.ca.gov.

If you don’t start the process immediately, it could delay payment. Please send copies of disability paperwork and pay stubs to the union office.

Some members don’t have access to a computer at home, so they are welcome to come to the union’s office and use our computers. We also have paper EDD claim forms to complete and submit.

Many of our members have medical coverage through the union, so they need to call our union’s Benefits Department to be sure they stay current with insurance premium payments.  Also, please contact the Membership Department to make them aware of your leave of absence.

When you are not working, you are not getting paid from your employer, and therefore your insurance premiums are not being deducted and paid to the Trust Fund on your behalf. By contacting our Benefits Department at (909) 626-6800, you can arrange to make premium payments by check, credit card or be provided the website to make a payment.

Returning to work

A union rep can confirm the maximum leave of absence provisions in your union contract to ensure you won’t overstay your leave. The company also may send a letter confirming a leave of absence with a required “return to work” date. We advise strongly to not go past this date without your employer’s permission in writing or your employment could be terminated.

When you’re ready to return to work, you’ll need to get a “release to work” letter from your doctor to provide to management prior to the posting of your next week’s work schedule so you are put back on the schedule. This means you might have to get your release letter to your employer two weeks prior to the week you are to return to work.

It’s a complicated process that needs to be done right. Fortunately, your union is here to help!