September 2017, Vol. 1

School districts and military deployments

by Karen Dooley

School districts may have employees who were deployed as a result of Governor Greg Abbott's activation of the National Guard in response to Hurricane Harvey on August 28, 2017. 

Districts with deployed employees should be prepared to provide leave benefits and reinstatement rights appropriately.

Employees may be required to provide the district with a copy of the military duty orders or other documentation to verify benefit entitlement.

Covered duty

Benefits apply to a deployed employee who is a member of the Texas National Guard, Texas State Guard, a reserve component of the US Armed Forces, or a state or federally authorized Urban Search and Rescue Team.

Texas Task Force 1 (TX-TF1) is one of the 28 federal teams under the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) National Urban Search and Rescue System. It also serves as a statewide urban search and rescue team under direction of the Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM). TX-TF1 coordinates the state's swiftwater rescue program and the helicopter search and rescue team that works in conjunction with the Texas Military Department.

Sponsored by the Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service (TEEX) and headquartered in College Station, Texas, TX-TF1 has more than 600 members from 60 organizations throughout Texas. Members consist of firefighters, doctors, nurses, structural engineers, canine handlers, professors, police officers, and many other professionals throughout different fields.

Leave benefits

An employee who is deployed is entitled to receive up to 15 days of paid leave per fiscal year for duty ordered or authorized by proper authority without loss of any accumulated leave with the district. In addition, the employee may elect to use any vacation or state and local sick or personal leave they have accrued prior to military services (TEC §22.0039(d)). Use of this leave cannot be required by the district.

Employees that volunteer on their own accord or with other relief organizations are not entitled to the 15 days of paid leave for military service. Any absences would be classified as discretionary personal leave and subject to rules outlined in Policy DEC (LOCAL).

Reemployment and benefits continuation rights

An employee who leaves a position with a district to enter active military service as outlined above, is entitled to be reemployed by the district in the same position held at the time of the order or to a position similar in seniority, status, and pay. An employee who is unable to perform the duties of the position because of disability sustained during military service is entitled to reemployment in a position that the employee can perform and that has like seniority, status, and pay as their former position or the nearest possible seniority, status, and pay.

Employees are permitted to continue health care coverage for themselves and their families for up to 24 months or until the employee is discharged from the military, whichever is less. If the military service lasts for 30 or fewer days, the district must pay the insurance premium at the same level prior to the beginning of leave. If military service is longer than 30 days, the district is not required to continue its contribution to the premium after the first 30 days. Employees wishing to continue coverage after 30 days can be required to pay up to 100 percent of the full premium plus a 2 percent administrative fee.

Additional information is available in the HR Services HR Library in the topic, “Leave for Military Service.” A form for documenting the need for a military leave of absence is also provided.