My child was recently suspended from school for fighting. Both my husband and I work and neither of our employers was willing to give us time off to attend to this problem. We had to have another family member handle the matter. I work for a very small business so can understand why my employer could not let me leave on short notice. However, my husband works for a very large employer and it would have been easy for them to cover his absence. One of the counselors at the school told us that it was against the law for our employers to refuse to let us have time off in this situation. Is that true?


Many California schools have adopted policies that require the parents of suspended students to complete a school visit and a meeting with a school administrator (such as a principal) before their child is permitted to return to school. If your child’s school has such a policy in place, your employer must provide you with sufficient time off from work to visit the school and meet with the principal regarding your child’s suspension.

The California Labor Code provides that an employer may not discharge or discriminate against an employee who is the parent (or guardian) of a child who has been suspended from school, and who has been asked to visit the school and meet with the child’s principal. All that is required of the employee is that he or she provide the employer with reasonable notice that he or she has been requested to appear at the child’s school. The employer is then obligated to provide the employee with sufficient unpaid leave time in which to attend to his or her child’s disciplinary issues.

Any employee who is discharged, threatened with discharge, demoted, suspended, or discriminated against in any way by his or her employer because the employee has taken time off to appear at his or her child’s school is entitled to reinstatement, as well as reimbursement for lost wages and work benefits.

This provision of the Labor Code applies to all California employers, regardless of their size or number of employees. Therefore, both your employer and your husband’s employer would be responsible for providing each of you with the time necessary to handle the issues surrounding your child’s suspension.

On a related issue, California employers are also prohibited from discharging or discriminating against an employee who takes time off to participate in school or licensed child day care facility activities for his or her children (or grandchildren), as long as the employee first provides the employer with reasonable notice of his or her planned absence. The employee can use existing vacation, personal leave, compensatory time off, or unpaid leave time in order to attend school activities for a maximum of 40 hours each year, but not exceeding eight hours in any calendar month.

Unlike the law regarding school suspensions, however, the provision for attendance of school activities only applies to employers with 25 or more employees working at the same location. Therefore, this provision would likely apply to your husband’s large employer, but not to the small business where you are employed.

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