Collecting employee information for emergency purposes

Q: What type of employee information can a district collect to use in the event of an emergency? 

A: Most districts ask employees to complete a form that includes the name, address, and phone number of a personal contact to use in case of an emergency. The form may also ask for the employee’s doctor’s name and telephone number, as long as it is clear that providing the information is voluntary. Should the district (or a well-intentioned nurse) request more detailed medical information from employees on a campus, that may violate the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibition on health inquiries. No district employee should request information regarding a disability, medical condition, or the medications another employee takes. 

The ADA permits employers to obtain and share medical information with first aid and safety personnel only if the disability or medical condition may require emergency medical treatment or special assistance during an evacuation or other similar medical emergency. 

To obtain information, an employer should follow the guidance provided by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC):

  • Ask all employees to voluntarily self-identify if they will require assistance because of a disability or medical condition. Ask what type of assistance is needed, and explain the purpose for requesting the information (e.g., to complete a specific form after a job offer is made or to periodically survey all current employees).
  • Explain that the information provided will be kept confidential and shared only with first aid and safety personnel.
  • Do not ask employees what prescription medications they are taking because this is not job-related or consistent with business necessity. 
  • Treat the information as a confidential medical record (i.e., keep it in a separate, locked cabinet apart from personnel files and limit access to a specific person or persons).
Additional information is available on the EEOC Website in the Fact Sheet on Obtaining & Using Employee Medical Information as Part of Emergency Evacuation Procedures

Ensuring ADA compliance for workplace requests

By Matthew Levitt

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires employers to provide a reasonable accommodation for a qualified employee with a disability. A qualified employee with a disability means an employee who meets the minimum qualifications of the position and is able to perform the essential functions of the job, with or without a reasonable accommodation.

Handling a request from an employee for a workplace accommodation is an important issue that must be handled correctly by all district staff. Following are some guidelines and reminders to help ensure legal and effective management of ADA accommodations.

The accommodation request

  • The request does not need to be written; an initial request for an accommodation can be verbal, written, or even from a third party (e.g., a note from the employee’s doctor). An employee simply needs to state that he or she needs an accommodation.
  • The employee does not need to use the words “reasonable accommodation” nor does the employee need to specifically refer to the ADA.
  • The employee’s accommodation request can be made to the employee’s supervisor, any manager in the employee’s chain of command, human resources, or other central office administrator.
  • Under limited circumstances, the district may need to initiate the accommodation process even if the employee has not requested an accommodation. The district must initiate the accommodation process if it:
    • Knows that the employee has a disability,
    • Knows, or has reason to know, that the employee is experiencing workplace problems because of the disability, and
    • Knows, or has reason to know, that the disability prevents the employee from requesting a reasonable accommodation.

Responding to a request

  • Because of potential ambiguity resulting from the bullets above, it is extremely important that all district supervisors be trained on the ADA. Specifically, they should be trained to:
    • Recognize potential ADA accommodation requests,
    • NOT unilaterally make a determination if a disability exists or if a reasonable accommodation is required, and
    • Quickly refer potential accommodation requests to the District’s ADA coordinator.
  • Once an accommodation request is received by the district’s ADA coordinator, the district should immediately engage in the “interactive process” with the employee. The interactive process entails the following steps:
    • Gather information, including a) analyze the employee’s position to accurately determine the purpose of the position and the essential job functions; and b) work with the employee to determine if he/she has a disability, and if so, identify barriers to the employee performing the essentials job function(s) due to the disability.
    • Identify various accommodation options.
    • Evaluate possible accommodation options and make a final accommodation determination.
  • While not mandatory, input from the employee’s direct supervisor is often helpful in ensuring a collaborative decision making process.

Providing an accommodation

  • Once an accommodation request is determined,
    • Make sure the accommodation is implemented promptly and thoroughly, and
    • Communicate with supervisors about the accommodation, as needed. ADA confidentiality rules, however, only let managers and supervisors know about the accommodation if necessary.
  • When providing a reasonable accommodation, the district is not required to do any of the following:
    • Remove essential job functions from the position,
    • Create a new position specifically for the employee making the accommodation request,
    • Provide personal use items needed in accomplishing daily activities both on and off the job, such as glasses, a wheel chair, or hearing aids,
    • Hire or provide an additional permanent employee specifically for supporting the employee to do the job. A temporary job coach, however, may be a reasonable accommodation,
    • Provide transportation for the employee to or from work, or
    • Provide the employee’s desired accommodation, if multiple accommodation solutions are available.
For further information, TASB HR Services has a recorded webinar entitled “Accommodating Disabilities in the Workplace” available at no charge for all HR Services members.

New initiatives in teacher prep programs

By Zach DiSchiano

The value in spending time and resources training teachers is higher than ever, thanks to a variety of initiatives, programs, and legislation forming around the country. 

In Louisiana, teacher preparation is undergoing a major change after the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) voted last week to approve a new way to train its educators.

The primary change from the vote is a rule that requires new teachers to spend a full academic year in a classroom with another experienced teacher to mentor and guide them. Districts and colleges will now share responsibility for preparing teachers for the challenge of managing a classroom and engaging students.

A recent National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) study found that most teachers aren’t prepared for the classroom and Louisiana’s new legislation provides a way to ease educators into their new professions.

Like Louisiana, Texas is a state that struggles with funding for education. In theory, a statewide change in teacher preparation requirements similar to Louisiana’s would end up as a mandate without funding in Texas—which is already something districts see all too regularly.

However, there are programs in Texas that offer solutions to assist new teachers in a variety of ways. One example is a grant for districts establishing or enhancing a beginner teacher induction and mentoring program designed to increase retention of beginning teachers, called the Beginning Teacher Induction and Mentoring (BTIM) program (Texas Education Code §21.458).

To be eligible for the grant, a teacher mentor must:

  • teach in the same school,
  • teach the same subject or grade level, as applicable, and
  • meet qualifications as determined by the Commissioner.
Mentor teachers are required to:
  • have at least three complete years of teaching experience and a superior history of improving student performance,
  • have completed a research-based mentor and induction training program approved by the commissioner, and
  • have completed a mentor training program provided by the district
Back in 2013, the 83rd Texas Legislature passed House Bill 1752 to address the state’s need to elevate the significance and professional nature of teaching. Public higher education institutions chosen for an award with the Texas Teacher Residency Program (TTRP) were required to form a partnership with area school districts to offer employment to program members.

The TTRP was designed to allow teaching residents participating in the program to earn a master's degree and to get their teacher certification. Awarded institutions also are required to provide a monetary or in-kind contribution or match to validate that the program may be continued in the absence of grant funds or state appropriations.

Other institutions are stepping in and providing extra support for new teachers, like the Dallas Teacher Residency (DTR). DTR was initially created separately from HB1752 as a standalone non-profit, but since launching in 2013, it partnered with Texas A&M University-Commerce to work collaboratively to identify funding for the program goals. The TTRP has directly assisted in supporting these efforts.

DTR and TAMU-Commerce partnered in establishing a 14-month program where graduating teachers receive:
  • a master’s degree from TAMU-Commerce,
  • a Texas Teaching License,
  • a yearlong apprenticeship under guidance of a mentor teacher in a partnering school district,
  • access to early job contracts and preferential interviews with principals in partnering school districts, and
  • continuing new teacher support from DTR through individual coaching and professional learning communities.
These programs are huge steps in improving teacher readiness and quality. Even the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) is getting involved in this cause. Last week, the DOE issued regulations on Teacher Preparation Issues to set accountability requirements for teacher preparation programs. The final regulations incorporate stakeholder and public feedback obtained throughout four years of negotiated rulemaking, public hearings, and public comment processes. The Department received nearly 5,000 comments on the draft rules proposed in 2014.

The new regulations focus on providing transparency around the effectiveness of all preparation programs (traditional, alternative routes, and distance) by requiring states to report annually—at the program level—on the following measures:
  • placement and retention rates of graduates in their first three years of teaching, including placement and retention in high-need schools;
  • feedback from graduates and their employers on the effectiveness of program preparation;
  • student learning outcomes measured by novice teachers’ student growth, teacher evaluation results, and/or another state-determined measure that is relevant to students’ outcomes, including academic performance, and meaningfully differentiates amongst teachers; and
  • other program characteristics, including assurances that the program has specialized accreditation or graduates candidates with content and pedagogical knowledge, and quality clinical preparation, who have met rigorous exit requirements.
Whether or not districts have a classroom residency requirement in place, the value of mentorship for new teachers cannot be overstated. The teacher dropout rate is about 13 percent each year in Texas. Providing new teachers with the guidance, resources, and time to succeed is integral in lowering teacher attrition and increasing their overall quality.

HR Extras

Nationwide surveys show similar projected pay increases for 2017

Base salaries for U.S. employees are expected to rise 3 percent in 2017, unchanged from actual 2016 levels, according to an annual WorldatWork survey. Job categories across the board will see similar increases in pay.
Employee Category Actual 2016
Projected 2017
Nonexempt hourly 3.0% 3.0%
Nonexempt salaried 3.0% 3.0%
Exempt salaried 3.0% 3.0%
Officers/executives 3.0% 3.0%
Source: WorldatWork 2016-17 Salary Budget Survey, preliminary findings. Published July 12, 2016.

ERI (Economic Research Institute) released its own preliminary 2017 projections in a recent report, finding that increases also will hold steady at 3 percent in the U.S. It would mark three consecutive years of 3 percent increases, according to the compensation data provider.

U.S. employers appear to be in wait-and-see mode according to many economic experts: despite decreasing unemployment, the national Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth is low (0.8 percent in the first quarter of 2016). Employers may need to see more positive signs in the health of the economy before boosting pay raise budgets any higher for 2017.

Top tweets from Texas Education Human Resources Day

Texas Education Human Resources day was October 12, and districts all over the state were celebrating their HR teams. Here are some of the top tweets from the day: