November 2017, Vol. 2

Temporary Disability Leave and eligibility

by Karen Dooley

Q: What is Temporary Disability Leave (TDL) and who is eligible?

A: Texas Education Code (TEC) §21.409 provides each full-time educator employed by a school district a leave of absence for temporary disability at any time the educator’s condition interferes with the performance of regular duties. Pregnancy and conditions related to pregnancy are treated the same as any other temporary disability. The purpose of TDL is to provide a measure of job protection to full-time educators who cannot work for a continuous, extended period of time because of mental or physical disability of a temporary nature.

Eligibility

Some districts expand the eligibility beyond TEC. Unless Policy DEC (LOCAL) states otherwise, TDL is only available to individuals in a position that requires certification issued by the State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) (i.e., superintendent, principal, assistant principal, counselor, diagnostician, librarian, and instructional aide). The requirement for an individual to be certified is established by TEC, SBEC rule, or the local district.

Designation

An employee must make a request and receive approval for TDL. A physician’s statement must confirm the employee’s inability to work and provide an estimated date of return. Considerations for establishing a consistent practice for placing an employee on TDL include determining:
  • what will be considered a request (e.g., any request or need for leave of absence due to a medical condition)
  • if a specific form will be required
  • the type of medical certification and statement of probable date of return that will be required

Involuntary placement

If an educator’s medical condition interferes with the performance of his or her regular duties, the individual may be placed on an involuntary TDL without consent. Based on a superintendent’s recommendation, the board shall place an eligible employee on TDL if the board determines, in consultation with the physician who performed the medical examination, the employee’s condition interferes with the performance of regular duties.

In accordance with Policy DGBA (LOCAL), an employee may file a complaint disputing their placement on TDL. The employee may present testimony or other relevant information to the board regarding their fitness to perform regular duties.

Length of leave

TEC establishes the maximum length of TDL as 180 calendar days. Some districts may establish a longer maximum in local policy. The amount of time granted is determined by the medical need established in the medical certification. For example, a teacher requiring six to eight weeks to recover from a pregnancy would be limited to six to eight weeks of TDL.

Counting TDL

TDL is granted per incident as one continuous block of time and is not intended to be taken on an intermittent or reduced schedule basis. It’s the only leave recorded in calendar days. This means the nonwork days, such as weekends, holidays, and extended breaks (including spring, winter, and summer breaks), are counted toward the employee’s total leave entitlement. As a result, an employee’s TDL may span two school years. In addition, placement on TDL is not limited to a single leave period per school or calendar year.

Other provisions

Most districts require TDL to run concurrent with other district paid leave and Family Medical Leave (FML). This information may be found in Policy DEC (LOCAL).

TDL is an unpaid leave. If an employee is only eligible for TDL, districts are not required to contribute to the employee’s health insurance premium. Employees may continue the group health care coverage by paying the total premium themselves.

Return-to-Work

An employee must submit a request to return to work at least 30 days prior to the anticipated return-to-work, when applicable. This request must include a physician’s statement regarding the employee’s ability to perform his or her regular work duties.

Although TDL provides an educator with a guarantee to return to work the following school year, it does not guarantee the employee will be returned to the same position previously held prior to TDL. Reinstatement requirements at the end of TDL include the following:
  • The employee must be reinstated to the school he or she was previously assigned, if an appropriate assignment is available.
  • If an appropriate assignment is not available, the educator may be assigned to another campus, subject to the approval of the campus principal.
  • If a position is not available at another campus before the end of the school year, the employee must be reinstated to a comparable position at the original campus at the beginning of the next school year.
Additional information about TDL and other types of leave are available in the HR Library and The Administrator’s Guide to Managing Leaves and Absences (available in the TASB Store).