Travia Leave

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There are many questions about Travia Leave. Who is eligible? When does one file? How many days am I entitled to? This article addresses these questions – and more.

Travia is not an acronym. Rather it is the name of an individual – Anthony Travia who was former Speaker of the NYS Assembly and the author of Section 3107 of the NYS Education Law. It specifies that permanent instructional staff who are members of a retirement system “…shall upon application be granted a retirement leave with full pay consisting of one half of their accumulated unused sick leave up to a maximum of one semester.”

The maximum number of sick days a full time employee can accumulate is 160 days. The maximum amount of retirement leave you can have is 80 days, which equals one semester for retirement leave purposes. If you have less than 160 days of sick leave, you are still entitled to Travia; and it will equal one-half of your bank. However, it will no longer be equivalent to a semester. Rather, each day is counted. If you have 150 days of sick leave you will get 75 days of retirement leave. This is approximately 3.75 months of retirement leave.

As a result of an arbitration won by the PSC, all full-time members of the instructional staff who are at least 55 years of age with at least 5 years of pensionable, credited service at CUNY are eligible to get Travia Leave. Forms are available at your human resources office. You have to fill out your portion and then have it signed by your supervisor or the chairperson of your department. Travia is a right, not a privilege. Supervisors do not approve Travia; they sign off that they are aware that you will be taking your retirement leave. We recommend that you give sufficient notice to both your supervisor and human resources of your intention to take Travia. A good rule of thumb is if you intend to take a fall Travia, go to HR by spring break. If you intend to take a spring Travia, go to HR by Thanksgiving.

Some people want to know whether it is better to take Travia in the fall or spring. Non- teaching instructional staff, i.e. HEOs or CLTs, are required to use their vacation first followed immediately and seamlessly by their Travia leave. They do not earn sick and/or annual leave during this period. So, for our non-teaching instructional staff, there is no real difference. Teaching faculty only receive vacation pay if they take a spring Travia; and then they receive compensation through August 31. Faculty taking a fall Travia do not receive annual compensation and their leave ends at the beginning of the spring semester.

If you are over age 62 and on Travia Leave, you should be eligible to apply for Social Security benefits. Those members who take advantage of this, but haven’t yet met Social Security’s requirement of reaching the current full retirement age of 66, will be subject to Social Security earnings limitations. What’s interesting is that while your pay is still taxable and FICA (employee and employer deductions withheld for Social Security and Medicare purposes) continues, your salary received while on Travia is not considered income for Social Security earning limitation purposes. If you believe you are entitled to Social Security, but have not yet met the current full retirement age, we suggest making an appointment to see a Social Security representative to learn more about your benefits.

You will also notice that your Travia checks look the same as when you were employed. The same pension and tax deferred annuity deductions, taxes, Social Security and Medicare taxes, union dues, and VOTE-COPE are all being deducted. Yet, you may wonder why, if you are collecting Social Security, you also have deductions being made for Social Security. Federal law requires that Social Security and Medicare be deducted from all “earned” income. It may mean that your own Social Security payments will increase in the following calendar year because you made additional payments to Social Security. Again, this should be checked with your Social Security representative.

Employees on Travia leave are allowed to work. As a result of a settlement agreement with the university, employees can teach or perform non- teaching functions to the limits of one course or 75 non-teaching hours subject to the approval of CUNY. Outside of CUNY, it is the union’s position that there are no limits to an individual’s employment.

One of the most interesting aspects of Travia is the “right to return.” Again, the law states: “A retirement leave of absence shall be cancelled when a member on such leave files an application for reinstatement to active service.” However, the law also states that such a member forfeits their right to future retirement leaves. In other words, you get only one Travia in your career. When you exercise your right to return, you will have used all your sick leave as well. You will begin to reaccumulate sick leave, but if you become ill, and you do not have enough sick leave in your bank to cover your absences, advancing you sick leave is at the college’s discretion.

For further information, call 212-354-1252. We would be happy to go over your individual situation. The PSC also hosts semi-annual pre-retirement conferences usually held in late September/early October and in April of every academic year. If you are contemplating retirement in the near future, you should think about attending one of these conferences.

--This piece was adapted from an article that originally appeared in Clarion.