As a new school year begins, districts are asking how to handle extended and intermittent absences.
Q: Can an employee be required to provide recertification at the beginning of a new Family and Medical Leave (FML) year?
A: Yes, if a serious health condition lasts beyond a single FML year, the employer can require new medical certification in each subsequent year. At the beginning of the new FML year the employee is entitled to an additional 12 weeks of leave, no matter how much time was used in the previous year.
Q: When can recertification of intermittent leave be required?
A: For intermittent leave, an employer can’t require the employee to validate the need for leave each time leave is taken. In most situations, an employer can’t ask for recertification more often than every 30 days. If the original certification indicates the condition will continue for a period of more than 30 days, the employer must wait until the time elapses to require another certification. In all cases, the employer may request recertification of a medical condition every six months.
Recertification can be requested if the employee is out more time than the original certification warranted, the condition changes significantly, an extension of leave is requested, or the employer has information that casts doubt upon the employee’s stated reason for the leave. A request for recertification should be made in writing and allow 15 calendar days for it to be returned.
Q: Does Temporary Disability Leave (TDL) start over at the beginning of the year if the employee ended the year on TDL and still can’t return?
A: No, TDL does not start over at the beginning of a school year as it is granted per incident and may span two school years. TDL is the only leave that is recorded in calendar days. This means that nonwork days such as weekends, holidays, and extended breaks including spring, winter, and summer breaks, are counted toward the employee’s total leave entitlement. Also, since it is granted per incident for a continued leave of absence, it is not extended beyond the maximum number of TDL days designated in Policy DEC (LOCAL) (e.g., 180 calendar days).
Keep in mind TDL is unpaid leave for personal illness or disability including pregnancy. Placement on TDL is not limited to a single leave period per school or calendar year, and districts are not required to continue to contribute to an employee’s health insurance premium if they are out under TDL unless the TDL runs concurrently with FMLA or paid leave.
Q: Are new employees entitled to TDL at the beginning of the year?
A: While new employees do not meet the eligibility requirements for FML, they may be eligible for TDL as of the first day of employment. Texas Education Code (TEC) §21.409 entitles full-time educators to at least 180 calendar days of unpaid leave for personal illness or disability, including pregnancy. Educator is defined as a person required to have certification from the State Board for Educator Certification (TEC §5.001).
Some districts provide leave for a temporary disability to employees other than educators. TDL for employees other than educators must be adopted by the board and defined in local policy.
Additional leave information about leave can be searched for in the HR Library (member login required).
Cheryl Hoover joined HR Services in 2018. She assists with staffing and HR reviews, training, and other HR projects. During Hoover’s public school career, she served as an executive director of curriculum and principal leadership, executive director of human resources, principal, assistant principal, teacher, and coach.
Hoover earned her bachelor’s degree from The University of Texas at Austin and obtained her master’s degree from Texas State University. She is a certified PHR.
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