As a public school employee, you have the right to a variety of absence and leave benefits at the federal, state, and district level.
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
The Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits discrimination based on disability in all employment practices. An individual with a disability is defined by the ADA as a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities; has a record of such an impairment; or is regarded as having such an impairment.
Employers are required to make reasonable accommodations for a qualified individual with a disability. These accommodations can include:
- making existing facilities usable by persons with disabilities
- job restructuring
- modifying work schedules, unless doing so would create an undue hardship on the employer’s business
If you believe you’ve been discriminated against based on disability, you will need file a charge with the Texas Workforce Commission within 180 days from the alleged violation. You also can file a grievance with your school district — with the help of your local union or the Associate Membership Program service team — but that does not stop the clock on the 180-day deadline.
Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
FMLA provides certain employees of all public agencies with up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave per year. It also requires that their group health benefits be maintained during that leave.
Examples of FMLA eligibility include:
- pregnancy and prenatal care that leaves the employee unable to work
- birth and care for a newborn child
- adoption of a child or placement of a child with an employee for foster care
- care for an immediate family member with a serious health condition
- serious health conditions that temporarily leave an employee unable to work
To be eligible for FMLA leave, you must have been employed for at least one year and have provided at least 1,250 hours of service in the 12 months preceding your leave request.
State Personal Leave
As outlined in the Texas Education Code, the state provides five days per year of paid personal leave, with no limit on accumulation and no restrictions for employees who transfer between districts. Districts can provide additional personal leave beyond this minimum mandated by the state.
Discretionary vs. Non-Discretionary Leave
In terms of personal leave, it’s important to distinguish between non-discretionary leave and discretionary leave.
Non-discretionary leave is reserved for occasions that allow little (if any) planning advance, and the leave should be granted in every case.
- the employee’s own illness
- illness in the employee’s family
- a death in the employee’s family
- situations that prevent the employee from reporting to work
Discretionary leave may be taken at the employee’s own desire. A request for discretionary personal leave must be submitted to the principal or immediate supervisor, in writing, at least 24 hours in advance for each day of planned absence. The leave request should be considered granted unless the principal or immediate supervisor notifies you to the contrary.
Discretionary personal leave may not be taken for more than five consecutive days per semester or 10 days maximum per payroll year, except in extenuating circumstances as determined by the superintendent. Discretionary leave typically is not allowed in the following circumstances:
- the first day of instruction
- the last day of instruction
- the day before a school holiday
- the day after a school holiday
- days scheduled for end-of-semester or end-of-year exams
- days scheduled for STAAR tests or for professional or staff development
Temporary Disability Leave
Full-time educators are eligible for a leave of absence for temporary disability at any time your condition interferes with the performance of your normal duties. This leave is unpaid unless you have sick time or personal leave available to use. But your contract or employment cannot be terminated by the school district while you are on a leave of absence for temporary disability.
Districts can decide the maximum length for a leave of absence of temporary disability, but it must be provided for at least 180 days.
According to the Texas Education Code, the definition of “temporary disability” does include pregnancy.
If a school employee is physically assaulted while performing your normal duties, you are entitled to the number of leave days necessary to recover from all physical injuries sustained because of that assault.
At the request of an employee, the school district must assign that employee at once to assault leave. Upon investigation of the claim, the district can change the assault leave status and charge the time off against the employee’s accrued personal leave or against an employee’s pay if insufficient personal leave is available. The Texas Education Code outlines more information.
Leave for Religious Observances
Employees of higher education institutions have the right to leave — with proper notice given for the upcoming absence — for the observance of a religious holy day.
For K-12 employees, only those days off recognized by the school district calendar will be honored. If you need to take time off to observe a religious holiday not recognized by your district, you will need to follow usual procedures for requesting time off. Your leave request may or may not be approved.
District Personal Leave
Each school district has its own absence policy that outlines any additional personal leave available. Consult with your district handbook or admins for more information.
Leave for Court Orders
All districts are obligated to provide leave related to court orders, jury duty, and subpoenas. While this leave is job-protected leave, neither federal nor state law requires an employer to pay you.
That said, most district policies will compensate employees fully to comply with a valid subpoena or jury duty; absences for court appearances related to employee’s personal business will be deducted from personal leave balances — or be taken without pay.
Consult your district handbook to find your local policy.
- Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
- Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
- Texas Education Code Sec. 22.003 Minimum Personal Leave Program
- Texas Education Code Sec. 21.409 Leave of Absence for Temporary Disability
- Texas Education Code Sec. 51.925 Religious Holy Days
If you have questions about absences and leave, please contact your local union. If you’re a member of the Associate Membership Program, please contact the AMP service department.
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