This issue’s article will go over how Catastrophic (CAT) Leave works. The LVPPA administers CAT Leave to commissioned employees, and I take the lead on CAT Leave within the PPA. Myron Hamm also often assists with CCDC requests for CAT Leave. CAT Leave is a benefit that members may qualify for, but it is not an “automatic” benefit of hours that every member receives.
CAT Leave is designed to bridge the gap between a member running out of time (completely — all time) and going on leave without pay due to a medical issue, or having some leave to bridge the gap to be returned to health and ultimately back to work on the job. It is not designed to give an employee separating permanently from the Department an extra 160 hours before ultimately separating. An employee who utilizes CAT Leave commits to paying back in full all hours taken from the CAT Leave Bank, and if an employee ultimately separates prior to paying borrowed hours back, payroll will seek to recover the owed balances/money out of the separating employee’s check. If you accept CAT Leave Bank hours, you are committing to paying all of those hours back. Once the employee comes back to work, payroll deducts a portion of the new hours the employee accrues until ultimately the hours are paid back in full.
If an employee receives donated hours through the CAT Leave process, they do not have to pay those hours back. These would be hours donated in the employee’s name specifically through payroll. If an employee receives more donated hours than they use, any excess hours after they go back to work full time go to the CAT Leave Bank.
A few key points relating to CAT Leave:
- CAT Leave cannot be utilized at all on workers’ compensation claims. If you run out of time fighting a workers’ comp claim or your injury is work-related with a claim (even one being appealed), you cannot use CAT Leave. This is not a PPA requirement; this is a contractual requirement.
- CAT Leave, if approved, has a complete benefit of 160 hours total for your whole career. You can go on CAT Leave more than once in your career, but you cannot exceed the 160 hours. If you borrow CAT Leave hours and pay back what you have borrowed, you do not get additional hours. Hours directly donated to an employee do not have to be paid back. When they return to work, any additional donated hours in the employee’s name are put back into the CAT Leave Bank.
- CAT Leave can be used for an employee’s personal illness or for the employee to care for a family member.
- Remember: CAT Leave is designed to bridge the gap between an employee dealing with an illness or injury not related to workers’ comp, and the employee is returning to full service. Borrowed hours must be paid back.
There are two key requirements for receiving CAT Leave:
- We need a doctor’s note that states the employee needs to be off work for health reasons, and the note must have a start and end date; e.g., January 20, 2024, to July 20, 2024. The CAT Leave request cannot be open-ended. The dates can be general and can be adjusted if the employee returns prior to it ending, or they can be extended if the illness persists. We would just need a new doctor’s note to extend the active dates with a new start date and end date. Doctor’s notes can overlap or be backdated to make sure coverage exists for the employee.
- We need an email permission from the employee’s captain to authorize the employee to receive CAT Leave. This note can be short and simply state that Captain So-and-So authorizes Employee So-and-So to utilize CAT Leave. This is a simple email and does not require a specific LVMPD form.
Both the doctor’s note and the captain’s email for permission should be emailed to me or Myron at our PPA emails. Any Executive Board representative you may know can be reached out to, but ultimately I administer the program currently.
This article helps explain the administrative process for CAT Leave and addresses some common questions we get regarding CAT Leave. Our hearts and prayers go out to our members when we hear some of the horrible conditions they and their families fight at times. I hope this article can help you at least have some familiarity with the process and benefit if hard times hit you and your family. I pray that you may go your entire career without encountering issues that would cause you to use this benefit.