Many public agencies are familiar with the well-known reasons why an employee can take time off of work, such as for paid sick leave, family and medical leave, disability or industrial injury leave, and jury duty leave. However, in California, there are a few “lesser known” leaves that often get overlooked. These leaves include School Activities Leave; Leave for Victims of Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault and Stalking; and Leave to Perform Emergency Duties or Attend Related Training. While these types of leaves may be less famous compared to others, they nonetheless apply to public agencies and provide employees with important job-protection rights.
When a leave provides job protection, an employer cannot discharge, threaten to discharge, demote, suspend, or in any other manner discriminate or retaliate against an employee for taking time off for the purposes of the leave. Employers who do not abide by the required terms and conditions of the leave may be required to reinstate the employee and reimburse the employee for lost wages and work benefits. Employers could also be subject to a civil penalty or found guilty of a misdemeanor.
Below is a refresher course on these lesser known leaves. The next time one of these situations arises, your public agency should be able to identify the need for leave and the employee’s rights under the law.
School Activities Leave (Labor Code section 230.8)
Employers with 25 or more employees working in the same location are required to provide School Activities Leave. School Activities Leave gives an employee with up to 40 hours of job-protected leave each year if the employee is a parent of one or more children in kindergarten through grade 12 or attending a licensed child care provider and the employee requests leave for a qualifying reason. For purposes of this leave, a “parent” means a parent, guardian, stepparent, foster parent, or grandparent of, or a person who stands in loco parentis to, a child.
An employee may take up to eight hours of School Activities Leave in any calendar month (out of the 40 hours allotted each year) for one of the following reasons: (1) to find, enroll, or reenroll a child in a school or licensed child care provider; or (2) to participate in activities of his/her child’s school or licensed child care provider. An employee may also use School Activities Leave, without a use limit per month, to address a school or child care provider emergency. Emergencies include behavioral or disciplinary problems, school closure, the school making a qualifying request for the child to be picked up, or a natural disaster.
Employees are required to provide reasonable notice to an employer for planned absences. Employers are allowed to request documentation from the employee of school-related activities. The documentation must come from the school or child care provider.
When an employee takes School Activities Leave for a planned absence, the employee is required to simultaneously use existing vacation, personal leave, or compensatory time off to cover time away. An employer also has the discretion to allow employees to take School Activities Leave on an unpaid basis.
If more than one parent of a child works for the same agency at the same worksite and both want to use School Activities Leave for a planned absence, only one parent may use School Activities Leave at a time. The first parent to give notice to the employer gets to use School Activities Leave.
Leave for Victims of Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault, and Stalking (Labor Code sections 230 & 230.1)
Employers with 25 or more employees are required to provide job-protected leave for employees who are victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking for the following purposes:
- To seek medical attention for injuries caused by domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking;
- To obtain services from a domestic violence shelter, program, or rape crisis center;
- To obtain psychological counseling related to an experience of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking; or
- To participate in safety planning and take other actions to increase safety from future domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking, including temporary or permanent relocation.
To use this leave, the employee must give the employer reasonable advance notice of the intention to take time off, unless such notice is not possible. If an employee does not provide advance notice, the employee has the opportunity to provide certification to the employer of the reason for the absence. Certification could be a police report, a court order, evidence of a court appearance, or documentation from a licensed medical professional or domestic violence counselor.
When an employee takes this leave, the employer has a duty to maintain the confidentiality of the employee’s request and reasons for the leave. The leave required by the statute does not need to be paid by the employer, but the employee may use existing vacation, personal leave, or compensatory time off to cover time away, unless otherwise provided by a collective bargaining agreement (the statute provides that a collective bargaining agreement cannot diminish rights the statute provides).
On or before July 1, 2017, the Labor Commissioner is expected to create a notice to inform employees of their rights to use victim’s leave. Once the Labor Commissioner’s Office posts this notice on its website, employers will be required to provide notice of this leave to new employees upon hire and to other employees upon request.
In addition to providing leave for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking, employers are also required to provide reasonable accommodations for the safety of the victims while at work, if the victims make a request for such accommodations.
Leave to Perform Emergency Duties or to Attend Related Training (Labor Code section 230.3)
Employees are allowed to take time off to perform emergency duties as a volunteer firefighter, a reserve police officer, or emergency rescue personnel. However, public safety agencies do not have to provide this leave if the employee’s absence would hinder the agency’s availability to provide public safety or emergency medical services.
An employee who performs duties as a volunteer firefighter, a reserve peace officer, or as emergency rescue personnel, and who works for an employer with 50 or more employees, shall be permitted to take temporary leaves of absence, not to exceed an aggregate of 14 days per calendar year, for the purpose of engaging in fire, law enforcement, or emergency rescue training.
For purposes of this leave, the term “emergency rescue personnel” means any person who is an officer, employee, or member of a fire department or fire protection agency of the federal government, the state, a city, county, district, or other public or municipal corporation, or of a sheriff’s department, a police department, or a private fire department, whether that person is a volunteer or partly paid or fully paid, while he or she is actually engaged in providing emergency services.
If you have any questions about these leaves, please contact our Los Angeles, San Francisco, Fresno, San Diego, or Sacramento office.