Leave options varied for upcoming school year
Kentucky School Advocate
By Eric Kennedy
KSBA Director of Advocacy
What happens if a district employee contracts COVID-19 or is advised by a health professional to quarantine for 14 days if they have come in close, sustained contact with a person who tests positive?
First and foremost, school leaders should look to the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which is in effect through Dec. 31, 2020. The act requires various forms of both paid and unpaid leave to be provided to any district employee, some based on if the person is sick, and some based on if they are advised to quarantine at home or to care for a relative who is sick or advised to quarantine. The amounts of pay and time required under that federal law are complex, but the U.S. Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Division, has easy-to-read posters to explain it to employees on their website, which is linked on KSBA’s Coronavirus resources website at ksba.org/coronavirus.aspx. The Kentucky Department of Education also released new guidance on this issue, including leave flow charts, all of which is linked on our website.
If an employee is sick, obviously they can use their sick time, or share sick time if their board has adopted a leave donation program. Also, remember that local boards may provide more than the state required 10 days of sick time to employees if they chose to do so. In addition, Senate Bill 177 (2020) provided special emergency leave discretion to local boards, and while that bill only applied to last school year and is no longer in effect, the state board of education on Aug. 6 adopted an emergency administrative regulation with similar provisions to be in effect for this school year.
Lastly, don’t forget that if an employee is not sick, but is advised to quarantine at home, they may still be able to work remotely from home during that time depending on the circumstances of their job function, etc., and if so they would not need to go on any form of leave.
How does the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) apply to district employees who have contracted COVID-19 or who feel that they are at heightened risk for contracting it?
The ADA is primarily enforced by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The EEOC has created a Q&A document that answers many ADA questions. Their website is linked on KSBA’s Coronavirus resources website. The information discusses when a district may require testing of employees and applicants; what accommodations a district may provide or may be required to provide to employees; and what health conditions may qualify an employee to fall under the ADA provisions. Regarding whether or not an employee is entitled to an ADA accommodation “in order to avoid exposing a family member who is at higher risk” of illness from COVID-19, the EEOC has determined the answer is “no” and that “although the ADA prohibits discrimination based on association with an individual with a disability ... ADA does not require that an employer accommodate an employee without a disability based on the disability-related needs of a family member or other person.”