KBS Reference Desk: Employee Leave During Closures

Q:        I have a teacher who is scheduled for heart surgery next week and will be out for at least 2 weeks. Per resolution of the Board, all employees are receiving their regular pay while either working on-site, from home, or reporting remotely each day for assignments during this time of school closure and remote operations. Since all employees in the District are getting paid, regardless of their work assignment, should I just pay the teacher while he is out for surgery without the need for deduction from his leave balance?

A:        No. Because the teacher will not be available to work remotely or be available for assignments while on leave, he should be required to follow all normal procedures relating to use of medical leave under your current policies.

Your Board determined through resolution that it served a public purpose to continue compensating employees who were unable to work during the pandemic due solely to the school district’s emergency closure and no fault of their own. This public purpose would not apply to employees who are unable to work or be available for assignments because of a medical or other qualifying reason.

Your Board Policy DEC (LOCAL) outlines the various types of leave available to your employees who are unable to work either on-site or from home for non-COVID related reasons, including state and local leave, as well as medical leave (e.g., Family Medical Leave [FML], temporary disability leave, sick leave pools/banks, etc.). In this scenario, because the employee is considered not available for work assignments, he should be required to complete the necessary paperwork to establish his need for Family Medical Leave and then exhaust any available paid leave concurrently with the use of FML.

Note, the employee in this scenario would be ineligible for leave under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), which provides paid leave to certain employees directly affected by COVID-19. You can read our summary of the FFCRA, and the six qualifying reasons for paid leave, HERE. If an employee is seeking leave due to illness or another reason related to COVID-19, be sure to review your obligations under the FFCRA with your school district’s attorney to ensure compliance. Otherwise, without a COVID-19 related reason, employees who need to be “off” work or unavailable for assignments must comply with your regular local leave policies.

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