Holidays and FMLA

by April Mabry

Q: Do holidays count toward an employee’s FML entitlement?

A: Determining whether a holiday counts toward an employee’s family and medical leave (FML) entitlement depends on if the leave is continuous or intermittent, the length of the holiday, and the employee’s established work schedule.

Leave taken intermittently on a daily basis or on a reduced-schedule is generally counted as days or hours. In these circumstances, holidays would not be counted against the employee's FML.

When FML is taken on a continuous basis and counted as workweeks, any week that includes a brief holiday break (e.g., Labor Day and Memorial Day) can be counted as a full workweek of leave. The week of Thanksgiving can be counted as a full-week of FML as long as the district is open for part of the week and the employee is scheduled to work.

Longer holidays, such as winter break, spring break, and the summer, when the district closes for one or more calendar weeks, or when the employee would not normally be scheduled to work for one or more weeks do not count against FML entitlement. Applying this principle to the week of Thanksgiving, the week is not counted as FML provided the district is closed for the entire week.

If the district closes for two full-calendar weeks for the winter break, the weeks are not counted as FML if the employee is not scheduled to work at all during those weeks, as long as the employee’s regular schedule does not require working during the break. If an employee on FML is normally scheduled to work part of the week (e.g., custodial staff), the entire week could be counted as a week of FML.

The employee’s regular work schedule dictates whether weeks during the summer are counted as FML. FML is not counted during the summer break for teachers and other ten-month employees who are not scheduled to work. Summer weeks would count as FML for 11- and 12-month employees as long as the weeks are within the regular work schedule.

Additional information on family and medical leave is available in the HR Library topic Family and Medical Leave and in the 2016 edition of The Administrator’s Guide to the Managing Leaves and Absences, which is available for purchase in the TASB Store.


Using HRIS effectively

by Karen Dooley

Managing a school district human resources department can be time-consuming and cumbersome. Have you ever wished there was a simple way to free up time to work on department strategies, save district money, and engage your department staff and employees in your district’s HR functions? Effective use of your Human Resource Information System (HRIS) can save time and money, improve tracking and managing of data and documents, processing applications, employee enrollment, and surveys; and provide employee self-service.
 
Several different HRIS systems are used across the state of Texas. Although these systems may appear to be different, many components of the systems are similar. Knowing your system’s capabilities and maximizing them for your district’s benefit will inspire greatness in your department. Reading information on your vendor’s website, contacting a sales representative from the company, or networking with other districts that currently use your system may be helpful and is often the first step to take. 

Data Management

Data can be confusing and overwhelming if not properly managed. Not only is HR consumed with data, but data frequently is requested by individuals. Using your HRIS to help organize, manage, and track your data will free up time in the department for other initiatives. In addition, it can provide a more effective and efficient method for achieving an outcome than using pencil and paper.
 
Heather Brubaker, senior HR systems analyst from Mansfield ISD, found that expanded use of the HRIS system led to improved accuracy of HR data. Use of the task manager in their HRIS has been the most helpful implementation, according to Brubaker. The task manager digitalized processes formerly completed on paper. The system allows district staff outside of HR to follow processes being completed by the system, which reduces calls and questions from principals and other staff and lessens the burden on the HR department.
 
Your HRIS can assist you by:
  • Streamlining data entry by uploading new hire information from the system’s application module or the interface with another applicant tracking system
  • Scheduling automatic uploads throughout the year with the State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) database to track required certification renewals or issuance of additional certifications
  • Tracking and managing the annual contract renewal process
  • Processing volunteer and applicant background checks through direct interface with the Texas Department of Public Safety
  • Using data mining capabilities to extract information for open records requests, comparison reports, district trends, and generating lists

Document management

Document management may also be improved through effective use of your HRIS. Typically, systems provide the ability to track processes through reports that verify whether the process has been initiated, is in process, or has been completed by the employee. Features to notify the employee a task is awaiting their attention or reminders of upcoming due dates also are available. Paper documents can be converted to online forms with electronic signature capabilities, including onboarding paperwork, employment contracts, and annual notifications, such as notice of assignment, letters of reasonable assurance, and handbook receipts.
 
Christy McWhorter, HR technology specialist from Eagle Mountain-Saginaw ISD, has implemented HRIS processes and eliminated the need to hire additional HR staff to keep up with the pains of being a fast-growth district. She effectively uses the online form capabilities of her system to reduce the amount of paper flowing through the HR office and streamlines the district’s document management process. 

Employee self-service

Typical phone calls to the HR department are from district employees needing some sort of information regarding their employment with the district. What is my leave balance? May I have a copy of my W2, I lost it? I need to give you my new address because I've moved. These are examples of just a few of the calls that can be handled through an employee self-service component of your HRIS. Giving employees access to this type of information on your system and providing proper training on the use of the system can alleviate calls to the HR department, saving time for other more strategic tasks.
 
Activities that may be handled by the employee or made available to the employee through an HRIS include:
  • Processing changes to personal information (e.g., address, phone, emergency contact)
  • Requesting time off
  • Reviewing employment information (e.g., leave balances, pay stubs, withholding information,  benefit and salary information)
  • Recording time worked 

Suggestions for implementation

As you seek to use your system more effectively, we offer the following recommendations. Brubaker suggests setting up a test database to examine the outcome of processes before implementation with live employee data. If a mistake is made or the outcome is not as expected, the process may easily be aborted, adjusted, and reiterated.
 
McWhorter recommended creating a team to collectively design a plan and get buy-in, using a team approach throughout the process. She has small test groups use the implemented processes to ensure the system is working as intended. This also provides input into the process from individuals outside the HR office. Principals are involved from the beginning and are generally excited for new initiatives using the HRIS.   
 
Building a strong, positive relationship between the HR Department and the IT Department is also key to implementation of HRIS processes. Many times, these initiatives require IT support through coding or interfacing other software systems. Some of the technology processes may also be improved through this working relationship. Automating the issuing of district usernames, passwords, and securities for the different software used by district employees may also be accomplished through the HRIS.
 
Effective use of your HRIS can result in improvement in traditional processes and can enhance strategic decision making in your department. Specifically, it improves tracking and process efficiencies, simplifies employee requirements, and reduces printing costs with the exchange of information without the exchange of paper. Delivery and mailing may become non-existent. Don’t think it’s impossible to go paperless in your HR department. 


The importance of school climate and how to improve it

by Zach DiSchiano
 
School climate doesn’t refer to the temperature of the building, but it can have the same effects on a teacher’s outlook as a sunny, 72-degree day in November.

A growing body of research indicates that positive school climate is associated with, and can be predictive of, academic achievement, effective violence prevention, students’ healthy development, and teacher retention, according to a report published in Teachers College Record.

This intangible variable that impacts so many factors critical to a school’s success is defined by SchoolClimate.org as “the quality and character of school life as it relates to norms and values, interpersonal relations and social interactions, and organizational processes and structures.” It establishes a tone for all teaching and learning done on a campus.

A study published in the Review of Educational Research suggested school climate should be a priority for both educators and communities. The review found no link between school climate and socioeconomic status, meaning school climate can be equally as positive in low-income neighborhoods as it is in wealthier areas. With teacher attrition 50 percent higher in high poverty schools, district leaders should place a strong emphasis on reviewing the current state of their school climate and find ways to improve it to support teacher retention.

There are several steps a district can take toward repairing the climate of its schools. The Inclusive Schools Network recommends attention to the following areas:

  • Safety
    • Develop and adhere to practices that support safety: positive school-wide behavior programs that set rules and provide consistent enforcement, clearly communicated rules for common areas, guidelines for adult intervention, and clearly communicated (verbally and written) rules for classroom behavior.
    • Teacher communication with students
    • Use supportive practices: accommodating individual student needs, using mistakes and incorrect answers as opportunities to learn and teach rather than for correction and shame, providing feedback, offering praise for hard work, and maintaining high expectations for every student.
    • Foster relationships with students by making an effort to interact with each student, provide students with opportunities to excel, work with students to establish goals and overcome weaknesses, and invite students to share their experiences and culture. Reach out to parents by sharing student successes.
  • Environment
    • Encourage students to participate in school activities by providing opportunities for students to decorate hallways, provide displays, greet guests, and conduct some of the business of the school such as delivering messages, working in the office, etc.
    • Ensure that the physical surroundings are appealing to students. Schools should be clean, facilities should be well-maintained, and student work should be evident in all areas of the school. The school must be inviting to students, parents, and teachers.
Additionally, the U.S. Department of Education (USDOE) released this year free resources to aid schools in creating a better climate on their campuses.  These tools focus on collecting and reviewing climate data specific to your school by surveying teachers, students, and parents, as well as providing a “Quick Guide”—a collection of tips and advice on how to foster a better environment. All of these features are available in this press release from the USDOE.

School climate impacts multiple variables in a school’s success, from retaining teachers to overall achievement. Each district should make improving their school climate a priority to reap the benefits of a quality environment for teachers and students.


Federal judge blocks December 1 FLSA changes

Late Tuesday, November 22, a federal judge in Sherman, Texas, blocked the December 1 implementation of salary threshold changes to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). In his opinion siding with plaintiffs, including a coalition of 21 states, U.S. District Judge Amos Mazzant III wrote, “The State Plaintiffs have shown a likelihood of success on the merits because the Final Rule exceeds the Department [of Labor]'s authority.”

So what does this mean for Texas school districts? More waiting. The judge’s ruling is a temporary measure designed to put implementation of the rules changes on pause while the legal challenge makes its way through the courts.

Here are three tips for dealing with the judge’s ruling:

1. Don’t undo any changes already in place. If you’ve already implemented salary increases to some exempt employees to meet the salary threshold, don’t reduce their salaries back to prior levels. This would create employee morale issues and an administrative headache. Also, if they’re employees working under a contract with the district, reducing their pay now could run contrary to the district’s contractual obligations.

2. Upcoming salary increases can be postponed, but consider the ramifications. If salary increases to comply with the proposed changes haven’t yet been implemented, the district could take a “wait and see” approach. However, if the district has shared with identified employees that they’ll be receiving a pay increase come December 1, you should consider the ramifications of “taking back” that salary increase with little notice to employees.

3. Keep time-tracking practices in place. For employees who were expected to move from exempt to nonexempt status on December 1, it’s OK to ask them to document time worked starting on December 1. This will help the employees practice good timekeeping habits and will help provide the district with more information about how much time the employees are actually working. The district can then estimate anticipated overtime costs when and if the rules changes are implemented. However, the district should make clear to the employees that they will remain exempt employees and will not earn overtime for the time being.

TASB HR Services will continue to keep our members updated as more information becomes available. Contact hrservices@tasb.org or 800.580.7782 with questions. 


HR Extras

Private employers required to provide pay data on EEO-1 report

In late September, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced that starting March 2018, it will collect summary employee pay data from private employers including federal contractors and subcontractor employers. The intent is to improve investigations of possible pay discrimination, which remains a contributing factor to persistent wage gaps. The summary pay data will be added to the annual Employer Information Report or EEO-1 report that is coordinated by the EEOC and the Department of Labor's Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP).

Private employers and federal contractors are required to submit the EEO-1 annually. In contrast, school districts are required to submit the EEO-5 report bi-annually in even years.

In the past, changes made to the EEO-1 reporting requirements are incorporated into the EEO-5 report at a later date. However, the EEOC has not indicated if school districts will be required to include pay data on the EEO-5 report in the 2018 or 2020 reporting cycle.

Editor’s note: On August 29, 2017, the Office of Management and Budget Office announced it had indefinitely suspended the pay data collection requirement. Employers are still required to file the EEO-1 by March 31, 2018. However, the report will only include race, ethnicity, and gender days.
 

District-level equity plans not due until Fall 2017 or later

In 2014, the U.S. Department of Education (USDOE) asked each state educational agency to develop and submit a plan describing the steps each agency would take to ensure that "poor and minority children are not taught at higher rates than other children by inexperienced, unqualified, or out-of-field teachers." Texas' equity plan was submitted in August 2015 and approved by the USDOE in December 2015.
 
Texas school districts will be required to develop and submit their own plans for ensuring equitable access for all students to high quality teachers to the Texas Education Agency (TEA) by next fall. TEA anticipates providing equity plan toolkits to ISDs in spring 2017, along with additional training from regional Education Service Centers. While nothing is required right away, districts should keep this on their radar for 2017. HR staff will need to be involved in development of the plan, since many of the strategies for ensuring equitable access focus on recruiting, developing, retaining, and assigning high-quality educators.