Educational entities that closed for the recent winter storm have asked questions on how to handle employee pay and leave benefits during this time.
HR Services has been fielding calls from members impacted by the recent winter storm that caused districts, colleges, and ESCs in multiple regions to cancel school and suspend operations. Below are some common questions we’ve received, along with answers and guidance from our consultants.
Q: How do we handle paying employees for the time we were closed?
A: There are several issues that need to be considered, such as the length of the closing, the employee’s exemption status under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), and Policy DEA(LOCAL). A complete discussion of the issues is available in the Texas School Law eSource Personnel Issues during Epidemics and School Closings. This paper provides guidance on steps to take if you plan on paying employees during the closing, premium pay for employees required to work, and considerations for adjusting the work and instructional calendar.
Q: We have employees who were on leave when the storm hit. Do the days we were closed count toward family and medical leave (FML) and temporary disability leave?
A: The length of time your organization is closed impacts whether the time may be counted as FML. If the organization was closed for less than a week, the time missed would still count as FML for any employee taking leave in increments of one week or more. If the closure was for a full workweek and employees were not expected to report to work, the time does not count against FML entitlement. If the employee is using FML in increments of less than one week, the closure will not count against the employee’s FML unless the employee was otherwise scheduled and expected to work on the day you were closed.
Because temporary disability leave is counted as calendar days, all missed time would count towards the employee’s temporary disability leave. This type of leave only applies to school districts.
Q: We’re open but have employees who were impacted by the storm and are unable to come to work. Can they use leave?
A: You’ll need to follow your local leave policy for employees who miss work because of the weather. Most policies allow employees to use nondiscretionary personal leave for a family emergency. The definition of “family emergency” in policy typically is disasters or life-threatening situations involving the employee or a member of the employee’s immediate family. As a result, employees may use accumulated sick and personal leave without limit to deal with emergencies resulting from weather and other disasters that prevent them from working (e.g., roads are impassable, dealing with personal matters, lost housing, dealing with insurance claims).
Use of leave because their children’s schools or daycare facilities are closed is more complicated. A discussion of this issue is addressed in Personnel Issues during Epidemics and School Closings.
April Mabry oversees HR Services training services, member library products, and the HRX newsletter. She has provided HR training and guidance to Texas public schools since 1991. Mabry was a classroom teacher for 11 years in Texas and Michigan.
Mabry has a bachelor’s degree in education from the University of Michigan and certification as a professional in human resources (PHR) and is a SHRM-CP.