Educators are afraid they will be forced to use their sick leave—or not get paid if their leave is exhausted—when being forced to quarantine with a Covid-19 infection or close contact with someone infected.
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) passed by Congress last spring offered some protection for employees by requiring most employers to provide up to 80 hours paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave to use in those situations. However, the act—which funded the additional leave—expired on December 31, and Congress did not renew these provisions in the Consolidated Appropriations Act (the new stimulus package). The new law does provide some added leave provisions through March for private employers, but none for public employers like school districts.
Where does that leave you? And what if you face a situation with multiple required quarantines? Texas AFT believes districts need to step up and pass local policies that provide at least 80 hours (two regular weeks) of pay if employees are required to quarantine and can’t work remotely. If our country, state, and local districts are going to force school employees back on campuses—in many instances when it’s not safe to be there—then the public employer needs to be responsible for at least making sure they are paid when quarantining.
Many districts have already passed local policies extending the 80 hours of leave, and our local unions in other districts like Cy-Fair have successfully pushed for the passage of policies. (Other policies in districts with our local unions are on board agendas for this month.)
But not all districts are taking this step for a local policy. That’s why we’re equipping you with a simple template policy and letter to send to your administration and school board members urging them to do the right thing. Please note that, yes, districts will have to find funds to pay for leave. However, although not guaranteed, there are indications that the new Biden administration may push through local funding for these provisions.