Like many workers, teachers are afforded certain rights related to the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). These rights are accompanied by responsibilities; teachers must meet requirements before qualifying for FMLA time off and during periods away from traditional employment. Learning a teacher’s requirements while on FMLA can help you prepare for time to spend caring for family members.
The Family and Medical Leave Act is designed to help workers accommodate family needs and responsibilities without threatening or penalizing their professional work situation. Teachers -- and other types of employees -- may take unpaid time away from work commitments for up to 12 weeks to accommodate the birth of a child, care for a newborn baby within the first year of birth, or care for a newly placed adoptive or foster child within one year of placement, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Other situations covered under the FMLA include caring for a spouse, child or adult parent with serious medical conditions, a serious personal medical condition or challenges related to a family member going on active military duty.
Not all teachers automatically qualify for FMLA leave. School employees must work at a work site employing at least 50 workers living within a 75-mile radius, be employed for 12 months -- although this doesn’t have to be consecutive -- and have worked 1,250 hours in the 12 months prior to the leave. Teachers may count hours worked before and after school toward their 1,250 hours. Typically, teachers working 35 hours per week for nine months of the year will meet this requirement.
Documentation and Notification
While on FMLA leave, teachers must meet appropriate documentation requirements. Schools may request notification of a baby’s birth date for FMLA situations arising from a newborn's arrival. Teachers may also be required to submit continuing reports from doctors regarding medical leave to confirm time spent away from work due to medical illness. Teachers are responsible for notification should changes occur that alters their intended return date, whether this is to delay their return or alert school district representatives that they intend to return early.
School districts may temporarily replace teachers on FMLA leave with long-term substitutes or temporary teachers. In this case, teachers will have no additional requirements to fill their position while on FMLA. However, school districts may instead rely on daily or short-term substitute teachers to fill positions. In this instance, teachers may be required to phone the district’s substitute system or log onto online substitute registries to enter vacancies for time periods when they will be absent.