Question: Now that my kids are back in school I am wondering if my employer is required to give me time off to attend school functions?
Answer: The answer depends on the reason for the requested time off, and how many employees work for your employer. The Family-School Partnership Act gives employees the right to take time off from work to participate in their children’s school or child care activities. Under this Act, leave is available to employees who work at a location with 25 or more employees and are a parent, guardian, stepparent, foster parent, or grandparent of one or more children of the age to attend kindergarten or grades 1 to 12, inclusive, or a licensed child care provider. Employees may take up to 8 hours of leave per month (maximum 40 hours per year) to participate in activities of their child’s school or licensed child care provider; to find, enroll, or reenroll their child in a school or with a licensed child care provider; or to address a child care provider or school emergency. Although the 8-hour limitation per month does not apply to emergencies, the annual entitlement remains limited to 40 hours.
A school activity may include any school-sponsored, school supervised, or school approved activity such as field trips, fundraisers, school programs or events.
To benefit from this leave, employees must give reasonable notice of the need for leave to their employer. If the employer requests, employees must provide documentation from the school or licensed child care provider as proof that they engaged in protected child related activities. Employees must utilize existing vacation, paid time off (“PTO”), or personal leave to take this leave, unless a collective bargaining agreement provides otherwise. Employees also may utilize time off without pay to the extent that the employer allows it. The law provides that if more than one parent works for the same employer at the same worksite, only the parent who first requests school activities leave is entitled to it; however, the employer can agree to give both parents the requested time off.
Any employer may not discharge, demote, suspend, or in any other manner discriminate against an employee for taking time off to engage in this leave as long as the employee has given appropriate notice and documentation when requested. An employee may be entitled to reinstatement and reimbursement for lost wages and benefits, and an employer may even be subject to a civil penalty in certain circumstances.
Another leave provision, which applies to all employers regardless of size, allows employees to take time off from work to address disciplinary issues related to their child’s suspension from class. Labor Code section 230.7 protects employees, who are the parent or guardian of a pupil that has been suspended, for taking time off when a teacher requires them to attend a portion of the school day in the classroom from which the pupil was suspended. An employer is prohibited from discharging, demoting, suspending, or in any other manner discriminating against an employee who takes time off pursuant to this law.
To ensure that employees receive their rights under these laws, and to avoid liability, employers should ensure that supervisors are aware of these leave provisions. It is also wise to clearly communicate the right to leave and proper use of these leave rights in the employer’s employee handbook.