The new school year is upon us and with the return to school in Massachusetts comes the predictable rise in employees’ school-related leave requests. In addition to helping employees manage work and family responsibilities, employers find themselves preparing for school-related needs – sharpening their policies and polishing practices to address the host of leave-related issues that accompany the return to school.
In order to allow employees to attend to school-related needs, Massachusetts has laws that allow employees to take leave for reasons such as school enrollment, parent-teacher meetings, addressing behavioral or disciplinary problems, classroom activities and even attending school sporting events, performances and plays.
In Massachusetts an employer that is subject to the federal Federal Medical Leave Act (FMLA) must grant FMLA-eligible employees a total of 24 hours of unpaid leave during any 12-month period to allow such employees to participate in school activities directly related to the educational advancement of their son or daughter, such as parent-teacher conferences and interviewing for a new school.
Beyond family and medical leave or mandated sick and safe leave, an employer also needs to be sure that caregivers are treated fairly. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD) has made it clear that discrimination against employees with caregiving responsibilities might constitute discrimination based on sex, disability or other characteristics protected by federal and state employment discrimination laws.
For employees with school-age children, consider the following best practices from the EEOC:
(1) Ensure that managers at all levels are aware of, and comply with, the organization’s work-life policies and are supportive of employees who take advantage of available programs.
(2) Respond to complaints of caregiver discrimination efficiently and effectively. Investigate complaints promptly and thoroughly and take corrective action as necessary.
(3) Provide clear and credible assurances that if employees request protected leave or make complaints about unfair treatment, the employer will protect them from retaliation.
(4) Encourage employees to request flexible work arrangements that allow them to balance work and personal responsibilities. Work with employees to create customized flexible work arrangements that meet the specific needs of the employee and employer.
So before the school year starts, check for state law compliance leave policies and have a great year!
As a parent should you be faced with an employer who is violating your rights, contact the Law Offices of Renee Lazar at 978-844-4095 to schedule a FREE one hour no obligation consultation.