Editorial:District must nip unpaid leave nowThe Family and Medical Leave Act offers employees up to 12 weeks of excused leave every year. Their jobs are protected even when they have no vacation or sick days left.
By: Republican Eagle Editorial Board, The Republican Eagle
The Family and Medical Leave Act offers employees up to 12 weeks of excused leave every year. Their jobs are protected even when they have no vacation or sick days left. Congress enacted the 1993 law to help employees balance work and personal obligations without having to choose between the two in a crisis.
The key word is crisis.
Some Red Wing public school staff and School Board member Steve Anderson apparently define crisis differently than federal law does. The law covers sick parents, kids, medical leaves, etc. Anderson, who sounded off at Monday’s board meeting, would give school workers (such as his wife) the freedom to take more time away from work than their contract allows. They just wouldn’t be paid.
This would be bad policy.
Contracts clearly outline the days off cooks, paraprofessionals and teachers of various unions get. Unpaid leave would violate these agreements. What’s the value of a contract if the district and union members don’t adhere to it?
Granting unpaid leaves that don’t meet the FMLA threshold can get an employer into legal trouble by setting precedent. Everyone should be treated the same.
Indiscriminate unpaid leave (as opposed to FMLA) also is a management nightmare. Supervisors end up playing favorites and juggling schedules to accommodate such absences. The argument that granting unpaid leaves would boost morale is false, because the burden falls on colleagues who grow resentful.
The fact the district granted 235 days of unpaid in the 2010-11 school year tells us that Supt. Karsten Anderson inherited a mess. Principals demanded action.
Red Wing School Board Personnel Committee started addressing leave-related issues a year ago. Clearly, there’s more work to be done. The board should not back off, but hold people accountable to their contracts.
Teachers and support staff have generous paid time off, including holidays, personal days, winter break and numerous weeks in the summer. We don’t buy the argument that these professionals need additional breaks. They, like employees in the private sector, need to budget their time off when it falls outside of FMLA.
If staff members need additional time away, they should get a doctor’s note — just as students have to do.