New categories of paid leave for employees engaged in military service and peace officers are required as the result of 87th Regular Session of the Texas Legislature.
This is the first of a series of posts summarizing new legislation effective immediately or by September 1, 2021. Topics of future posts include the following:
- Teacher Retirement System
- Certification and licensing
- Training and staff development
- Sexual assault, abuse and neglect, misconduct, and harassment
- General personnel issues
Leave for Public Employees Engaged in Military Service (HB 1589)
The leave required by this bill is similar to the existing 15 days of paid military leave that political subdivisions (e.g., districts, colleges, education service centers) are required to provide for training or call to active duty (Tex. Gov’t Code §437.202). This bill provides up to seven workdays of paid leave in a fiscal year for officers and employees of the state of Texas, a municipality, a county, or another political subdivision who are members of the Texas military forces, a reserve component of the armed forces, or a member of a state or federally authorized urban search and rescue team if called to state active duty by the governor or another appropriate authority in response to a disaster. For purposes of this leave, a disaster is defined in Texas Government Code § 418.004. While on such leave, an employer may not deduct sick leave, personal time, or vacation time, nor may the employee be subject to loss of time or efficiency rating. (Effective 9/1/2021)
Mental Health Leave for Peace Officers (SB 1359)
A new type of leave for peace officers is created by this bill. A law enforcement agency is required to develop and adopt a policy allowing use of paid mental health leave by peace officers employed by the agency who experience a traumatic event in the scope of employment. For purposes of this bill “law enforcement agency” includes a political subdivision authorized to employ peace officers, including colleges and school districts.
The leave policy must be implemented as soon as practicable after September 1, 2021 and must provide clear and objective guidelines for granting and use of mental health leave, make the leave available without a deduction in compensation, state the number of leave days available, and detail the limit of anonymity for a peace officer taking such leave. The policy may, but is not required to, list mental health services available to peace officers in the area. (Effective 9/1/2021)
Quarantine Leave for Peace Officers (HB 2073)
The governing body of a political subdivision must develop and implement a paid quarantine leave policy for peace officers employed by the political subdivision. Fire fighters, detention officers, and emergency medical technicians are also entitled to the leave, although educational entities typically don’t employ these types of employees. The leave applies if a covered employee is ordered to isolate or quarantine because of a possible or known exposure to a communicable disease while on duty.
The policy must require that the person’s supervisor or the political subdivision’s health authority order the leave and must provide that a person receiving leave under this provision receive all employment benefits and compensation for the duration of the leave and reimbursement for the cost of the quarantine such as lodging, medical treatment, and transportation.
Because this law restricts a political subdivision from reducing the person’s sick leave, vacation leave, holiday leave, or other paid leave balance in connection with paid quarantine leave under this statute, this leave is in addition to existing leave. (Effective 6/15/2021)
Descriptions of the new leave benefits will be included in the July legislative update to the district and community college model employee handbooks. Updates will be made to the following HR Library (TASB login required) topics and forms as soon as practicable:
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.
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