The possible return to working in person, whether in the classroom or a district office, has increased concerns about what leave options exist if a person either becomes ill or is required to quarantine because of a possible exposure.
At the time of this writing, there are additional leave options beyond the normal state and local sick leave days; however, there is no guarantee that all absences will be paid.
State Personal Leave
The Texas Education Code requires that districts provide five days of paid personal leave per year. The state-required personal leave is characterized as either discretionary (voluntary) or non-discretionary (involuntary) leave. Districts can place restrictions on the use of voluntary leave, but generally, if the absence is not under the control of the staff member, a district must allow the use of available personal leave.
Local Sick Leave
Many districts provide sick leave in addition to the five state personal leave days. Most districts provide five local sick days, but the number provided is determined locally by the district’s board of trustees. Most districts treat local sick leave days in a way that they would be usable for a staff member who was ill or likely required to quarantine. But, as these days are locally provided, each district determines the terms of eligibility.
Leave Specific to COVID-19
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) went into effect April 1 and remains in effect through December 31, 2020. Two provisions are most important to teachers and other district staff members:
- The Emergency Family and Medical Leave Act expands the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to cover some situations specific to the novel coronavirus, such as a parent’s need to care for their children who would normally be in school or childcare.
- The Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act provides a legal entitlement to paid sick leave for some employees who are absent for work due to certain coronavirus-related reasons.
To learn more about the leave options provided, read ATPE’s analysis of these two new laws.
Paid Administrative Leave During Required Quarantine
In addition to the leave options described above, many districts have adopted Policy DBB, which provides that the district may require a medical examination when the district is notified an employee has a physical impairment that could be a health or safety threat to others. The policy may provide that the district may place the employee on paid administrative leave while waiting for the examination results. Many factors could dictate whether a district would place a particular employee on paid administrative leave, so it is not possible to guarantee that every staff member required by a district to quarantine will be placed on paid administrative leave.