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Leave, Disability, FMLA, and Your Rights

It is best to have information about the types of leaves available to you, including any restrictions, before you need to use them.

Questions regarding the use of sick leave or personal leave always arise. It is best to have information about the types of leaves available to you, including any restrictions, before you need to use them.

State Personal Leave

The state guarantees 5 personal leave days for every full-time employee of a public school district. State personal leave is for either discretionary leave (days needed and known in advance) or non-discretionary leave (personal illness, illness of an immediate family member, family emergency, death in the immediate family, or military leave). A school board may adopt a policy governing the use of state personal leave. For example, most school districts do not allow the use of discretionary leave the day before or after a holiday. Also, most school districts place a limitation on the number of days that can be taken consecutively. An employee could be docked for any days beyond that limit. Always be mindful of the time a school district requires you to submit requests for use of discretionary leave. By law, they cannot ask the reason why you need the leave, but they could deny it if you do not submit it in a timely manner or if too many people have already asked to take discretionary leave on that day. It is best to request the time off as far in advance as possible when using discretionary leave.

Local Leave

A school board may grant additional days beyond the 5 state-mandated personal leave days. Treat these days as you would for non-discretionary (sick leave) leave. Make sure you follow the guidelines your school or your district has for reporting the use of sick leave. Since most of the time these days are used when you or your family members are unexpectedly ill, it is always best for teachers to prepare “emergency” lesson plans for substitutes in advance and update these plans regularly.

Each district is a little different on their regulations regarding state or local leave. Check your employee handbook or school board policy to get the most up-to-date information that pertains to you and your district.

Texas School Employee Leave of Absence Policies

Each school district offers its employees (except substitutes and temporaries) various types of paid and unpaid leave. The employees’ circumstances determine the type of leave that applies. Most individuals know about personal leave and how it works. However, the other types of leave may be a mystery.

Below are general criteria for leaves available to employees:

Personal Leave

      • All school district employees are eligible.
      • Can be used for any purpose.
      • However, the district can impose policy governing employees’ use of the leave (e.g. Can’t use the leave during STAAR testing).
      • Up to five days per school year, but districts may provide additional personal leave beyond the minimum.
      • Leave is paid.
      • There is no limit on accumulation.
      • It is transferable among districts.

Any sick leave accumulated before 3/30/1995 may only be used for employee’s illness, illness of family member, family emergency, or death in the immediate family.

Assault Leave

      • All school district employees are eligible.
      • Available to all employees injured as the result of an assault during the performance of the employee’s duties (Assault as defined by the Texas Penal Code).
      • Lasts up to the number of days required to recuperate from physical injuries, not to exceed two years from the date of assault. Absences are not deducted from employees’ available personal leave.
      • Paid (School district coordinates with Worker’s Compensation to ensure 100% pay).

Employee must request Assault Leave and the District must immediately assign employees to assault leave. If it is later determined that there was no assault, then the district may change the leave status and charge the leave against the employee’s accrued leave or pay.

Family and Medical Leave (FMLA)

      • Available to all employees in districts with 50 or more employees & within a 75-mile radius. Employee must have worked for the district for at least 12 months. Employee must have worked 1250 hours during the 12 months immediately preceding.
      • Leave can be taken for a serious health condition of an employee; to care for an immediate family member (spouse, child, parent or other individual who stood “in loco parentis” for the employee as a child or who the employee is currently standing “in loco parentis” for) with a serious condition; for the birth of a child or care of newborn; and to care for a newly placed child for adoption or foster care.
      • A biological or legal relationship is not necessary as long as an “in loco parentis” status exists.
      • 12 work weeks in a 12-month period available; leave can be used intermittently, or on a reduced leave schedule in certain circumstances.
      • Leave is Unpaid; District may adopt a policy for concurrent use of FMLA with other leaves available to employee.
      • District must continue to pay for its share of the employee’s health care benefits.
      • Employee entitled to return to the same or equivalent position.

Temporary Disability Leave

      • Available to all full-time educators.
      • Available when an educator’s condition (including pregnancy) interferes with the performance of regular duties. Applies to physical, mental and emotional conditions.
      • A request must be made to the superintendent (although submitting a request through the normal HR process will also get you a response). The request must be accompanied by Superintendent determines length. Most school districts have adopted 180 days. The board is allowed to consider a request for an extension.Medical certification of inability to work and dates of leave being requested and probable date of return from leave.
        A 30-day notice must be given prior to return and accompany a fit for duty certification from a doctor.
      • Leave is unpaid.
      • The educator is entitled to return to the same position, subject to availability. If another principal wishes to appoint the educator on his campus, he may do that. In any event, the district is required to be placed on active duty at the school at which the educator formerly taught no later than the beginning of the next term.

As always, we recommend you contact your human resources department if you have any questions or to find out more specific information concerning what leave applies in your situation and how your pay status and other benefits may be affected.

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inClass News is the weekly newsletter of United Educators Association. If you have ideas or requests for content that you would like to see, please email
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