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Is School Visitation Leave Required

September 17, 1999
Issue: An employee comes to you after being turned down by his supervisor for leave to go to his son’s junior high school orientation meeting. The employee insists that the law requires that your company allow him time off to participate in his children’s school activities and that he has not used any school activity leave in the past 12 months. He states that just as he’s entitled to leave under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), he is entitled to school visitation leave. Is the employee correct?

Answer: Although there is legislation pending in both the House of Representatives and the Senate, no federal law currently requires that employers grant employees leave to participate in the school activities of their children. However, a growing number of states do provide some type of leave for employees to attend school functions.

Note that in one Senate bill addressing leave for school activities, the leave would come out of the time allowed for Family and Medical Leave, rather than being in addition to FMLA leave. The bill would permit employees 24 hours of unpaid leave per year to participate in their children's educational activities—to attend parent-teacher conferences, participate in classroom activities and research new schools. The 24-hour period for these activities would be deducted from the 12 weeks already available under the FMLA.

In those states that have enacted school visitation provisions (Arkansas, California, Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, Texas and Vermont), the number of hours that may be taken and the leave requirements vary.

The following summaries outline the current state school visitation leave requirements [note that Arkansas’ program has expired and Oklahoma and Oregon’s programs are not mandatory]:

Arkansas:
In Arkansas, a pilot school visitation leave program was established for the 1997-1998 school year for state employees. Under the pilot program, all state agencies had to provide their full-time employees who are parents and have children enrolled in Arkansas public schools unpaid leave to attend parent/teacher conferences or school performances of their children.

School visitation leave could only be taken twice during the 1997-1998 school year and each of the two leave periods could not exceed three hours. However, the requirements of the pilot program did not prevent an agency from allowing employees to use annual leave for parent/teacher conferences or school performances of their children.

No state agency could retaliate against an employee who used school visitation leave (Ark SB 673, Laws 1997).

California:
No one employing 25 or more workers at the same location may discriminate against an employee who is a parent, guardian or custodial grandparent of one or more children who are in kindergarten, in grades one through 12 or attending a licensed child day care facility for taking up to 40 hours each school year (but not exceeding eight hours in any calendar month of the school year) to participate in the school activities of the employee's child, ward or custodial grandchild. Before taking time off, the employee must give reasonable notice to the employer of the planned absence.

If both parents are employed by the same employer at the same work site, only the parent that gives notice to the employer first is entitled to school visitation leave. In most cases, an employee must use existing vacation, personal leave or compensatory time off for school visitation leave. An employee may also use time off without pay, to the extent made available by the employer. Different rules apply if there is a collective bargaining agreement.

If requested by an employer, an employee must provide documentation from the school as proof that the employee participated in school activities on a specified date and at a particular time.

No employer may discriminate against an employee who is the parent or guardian of a pupil for taking time off to go to school when the pupil has been suspended; however, the employee must give reasonable notice to the employer before taking the time off (Cal LaborCode, Secs 230.7 and 230.8).

Illinois:
An employer must grant an employee up to eight hours total leave during any school year (no more than four of which may be taken on any given day) to attend school conferences or classroom activities related to the employee's child, if the conference or classroom activities cannot be scheduled during non-work hours.

No school visitation leave may be taken unless the employee has exhausted all accrued vacation leave, personal leave, compensatory leave and any other leave that may be granted to the employee, except for sick leave and disability leave. School visitation leave must be scheduled so as not to unduly disrupt the employer's operations.

An employee who uses school visitation leave may make up the time taken on a different day or shift as directed by the employer. An employee who takes school visitation leave must not be required to make up the time taken, but if the employee does not make up the time, the employee will not be compensated for the leave. Employees who do make up the time taken for school visitation leave must be paid at the same rate as they are paid for normal working time. Employers must make a good faith effort to permit employees to make up the time taken for school visitation.

No employer is required to grant school visitation leave to an employee if granting leave would result in more than 5% of the employer's work force or of a particular shift taking school visitation leave at the same time (820 ILCS 147/10, /15, /20, /30, /40 and /49).

Louisiana:
An employer may grant employees leave from work of up to a total of 16 hours during any 12-month period to attend, observe or participate in conferences or classroom activities at a school or day care center related to the employee's dependent children for whom the employee is the legal guardian. This applies only if the conferences or classroom activities cannot reasonably be scheduled during the employee's non-work hours. An employee who requests school visitation leave must provide reasonable notice to the employer prior to the leave and make a reasonable effort to schedule the leave so as not to unduly disrupt the employer's operations.

An employer is not required to pay an employee for any time taken as school visitation leave, but an employee may substitute any accrued vacation time or other appropriate paid leave for school visitation leave (La RevStatAnn, Sec 23:1015.2).

Massachusetts:
Eligible employees in Massachusetts are entitled to a total of 24 hours of family obligation leave during any 12-month period, in addition to leave available under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA).

Family obligation leave is available, among other reasons, to participate in school activities directly related to the educational advancement of a son or daughter of the employee, such as parent-teacher conferences or interviewing for a new school (public or private elementary or secondary schools, Head Start programs assisted under the Head Start Act and licensed children's day care facilities).

The terms of the FMLA apply to state family obligation leave. If the need for family obligation leave is foreseeable, the employee must provide the employer with not less than seven days' notice before the date the leave is to begin. If the need for family obligation leave is not foreseeable, the employee must provide as much notice as is practical.

An employer may require that a request for family obligation leave be supported by a certification of the need for leave (Mass GenL, Ch 149, Sec 52).

Minnesota:
An employer must grant an employee leave of up to a total of 16 hours during any 12-month period to attend school conferences or school activities related to the employee's child (regardless of the employee's time on the job), if the conferences or school-related activities cannot be scheduled during non-work hours.

If the employee's child is in day care or attends a pre-kindergarten, regular or special education program, the employee may use school conference and activities leave time to attend a conference or activity related to the employee's child, or to observe and monitor the services or program, if the conference, activity or observation cannot be scheduled during non-work hours. When leave cannot be scheduled during non-work hours and the need for leave is foreseeable, the employee must provide reasonable prior notice of the leave and make a reasonable effort to schedule leave so as not to unduly disrupt the employer's operations.

School conference and activities leave need not be paid leave, but an employee may substitute any accrued paid vacation leave or other appropriate paid leave for any part of school conference and activities leave (Minn Stat, Sec 181.9412).

Nevada:
It is unlawful for an employer to:

  1. terminate the employment of a person who, as the parent, guardian or custodian of a child, appears at a conference requested by the administrator of the school the child attends, or is notified during the person's work by a school employee of an emergency regarding the child; or
  2. assert to the person that the person's appearance or prospective appearance at a conference or receiving notification during work will result in termination of employment (Nev RevStat, Sec 392.490).

North Carolina:
Employers must grant four hours leave per year to any employee who is a parent, guardian or person standing in the place of a parent of a school-aged child so that the employee may attend or otherwise be involved at that child's school. The leave must be at a mutually agreed-upon time between the employer and the employee. The employer may require that the employee provide a written request for leave at least 48 hours in advance, and may require that the employee furnish written verification from the school that the employee attended or was otherwise involved at the school during the leave time. Leave need not be paid (NC GenStat, Sec 95-28.3).

Oklahoma:
The Oklahoma Board of Education will establish a program for encouraging private employers to give employees who have children in preschool programs, kindergarten or school programs time off to visit the schools for parent-teacher conferences at least once each semester (Okla Stat, Sec 10-105.2).

Oregon:
It is recommended, but not required, that employers recognize the need for parents, guardians and members of the community to participate in the education process not only for their own children but for the educational system. Employers are encouraged to extend appropriate leave to parents and guardians to allow greater participation in the education process of their children and wards during school hours (Ore RevStat, Sec 329.125).

Rhode Island:
Rhode Island provides for School Involvement Leave for employees. An employee who has been employed by the same employer for 12 consecutive months is entitled to a total of 10 hours of leave during any 12-month period to attend school conferences or other school-related activities for the employee's child, foster child or a child for whom the employee is the guardian. Employees must provide notice 24 hours prior to the leave time and make reasonable efforts to schedule leave so as not to unduly disrupt the employer's operations. Leave need not be paid leave, but an employee may substitute any accrued paid leave or other appropriate paid leave for any part of School Involvement Leave (RI GenLaws, Sec 28-48-12).

Texas:
State employees who are the parents of a child who is a student in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade, may use up to eight hours of sick leave each calendar year to attend parent-teacher conferences for their children. Before taking leave, an employee must give reasonable advance notice of the intention to use sick leave to attend parent-teacher conferences. Parents include persons standing in a parental relation to a child (Ted GovtCode, Sec 661.151).

Vermont:
In addition to family leave, employees are entitled to take unpaid leave not to exceed four hours in any 30-day period and not to exceed 24 hours in any 12-month period. An employer may require that leave be taken in a minimum of two-hour segments. This additional short-term family leave may be taken, among other reasons, to participate in preschool or school activities directly related to the academic educational advancement of the employee's child, stepchild, foster child or ward who lives with the employee, such as a parent-teacher conference.

Employees must make reasonable attempts to schedule appointments for which short-term family leave may be taken outside of regular work hours.

In order to take short-term family leave, employees must provide the employer with the earliest possible notice, but in no case less than seven days before leave is to be taken, except in the case of an emergency—circumstances where the required seven-day notice could have a significant adverse impact on the family member of the employee and the employee had no way of knowing in advance. At an employee's discretion, accrued paid leave, including vacation and personal leave, may be used during short-term family leave (21 VSA 471, 472 and 472a).

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The information contained in this article is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion.