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N4T Investigators: Teacher fights for sick benefits - KVOA | KVOA.com | Tucson, Arizona

N4T Investigators: Teacher fights for sick benefits

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Earlier this year Dean Keller was told he would need surgery to remove a large tumor from his kidney.

He made the appointment, had the surgery and told Tucson Unified School District officials he would like to use some sick bank time to cover days he would be in recovery.

According to a letter sent to Keller, that request was denied. Even though Keller says his fellow teachers freely donated the time to him.

"I think the policy is wrong. It was made by people who have no idea what it's like to be a teacher," said Keller.

According to both Keller and the district's letter, Keller's request was denied because he didn't work enough hours in the previous year to qualify for the Family Medical Leave Act.

However, News 4 Tucson Investigator Nick VinZant found out the district may have calculated Keller's hours using the wrong formula.

In an email district officials say they calculated Keller's hours using a .6 formula.

Keller's pay stubs though show he was working more hours and should have been considered a .8.

"I am very angry. People can't even donate any time to me because since TUSD has said I don't qualify for the program. I'm out of luck," said Keller.

There is also some confusion over if Keller should even have to qualify for FML to have access to the sick bank program.

News Four Tucson Investigators looked through the district's sick bank policy as posted online. We did not find a section specifically saying employees must be FML approved in order to qualify.

VinZant asked TUSD officials about the sick bank policy, in response TUSD sent us the following email.

Mr. Keller was approved under the consensus agreement for the Medical 30 (described below), which is what the district is bound to per the consensus agreement. This bargaining unit agreement does not have a waiting period for eligibility for that leave.

Mr. Keller’s  start date of his Extended Medical Leave was 08/01/17.  His return date was initially scheduled for 08/18/17 but was changed to 10/23/17.  Mr. Keller returned to work on 09/05/2017.

The language in the consensus agreement provides that accruals must be exhausted and on an “off-pay Status,” which made him not eligible for sick bank donations.  At this time TEA sick donations apply to those on currently on an active pay status.

TEA Consensus Agreement Article 26:

26-3 Extended Medical Leave (Does not apply to on the job injury)

When a MBU has exhausted his/her sick leave days and is medically unable to return to work, he/she shall be allowed up to thirty (30) consecutive days on an off-pay status, with a doctor’s excuse. During this off-pay status, the District will continue to pay premiums on its portion of District-sponsored insurance plans in which the MBU was enrolled at the beginning of his/her off-duty pay status. At the end of this period, he/she must return to work (pending a medical release), or go on an unpaid leave of absence.

Keller says district officials have contacted him about setting up another meeting to talk about his application.

In the meantime though, Keller has filed a complaint with the Department of Education.

He says he doesn't want what's happening to him to happen to another teacher.

"Other people may be in a financial position where they really need that paycheck and that time to cover their bills, so I've decided to stick my heels in the sand make this a very very public fight," said Keller.

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