Payroll Tip – Time off for School Activities and “Small Necessities”

Many states require you to give employees time off to attend school functions, take family members to the doctor, and even to volunteer to be organ, bone marrow, and blood donors. Find out what these laws cover.

You are probably familiar with your obligations under federal law to grant employees time off for family, medical, or pregnancy-related leaves or military service. (These leaves are covered under the Family and Medical Leave Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, and the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act.)

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But are you aware that many states have passed “small necessities” laws that also require you to grant employees time off on a short-term basis for a variety of reasons, including time off to meet with their children’s teachers or to see their kids perform in sporting events and plays during normal work hours? In addition, other state laws allow employees to take time off to volunteer to donate bone marrow, organs, and blood. Below is a summary of some of these “small necessities” state leave laws.

* State School Activities Laws *

About fifteen states have laws requiring employers to grant time off on a short-term basis for a variety of school functions, including parent-teacher conferences and recreational school activities.

For example, California allows employees to take up to 40 hours off per year to participate in the school activities of their children and prohibits employers from discriminating against them for taking the time off. Similarly, Illinois law requires a covered employer to provide up to 8 hours of unpaid leave per school year to allow an employee to attend school conferences or classroom activities involving the employee’s children. And, North Carolina employers must provide employees up to 4 hours of unpaid leave per year for involvement in their children’s school activities.

Most states that have these laws do not require that the time off be paid; however, employees typically may be allowed to use any accrued paid leave. For example, Connecticut, Louisiana, Maine, and Minnesota allow employees to use accrued vacation time or other appropriate paid leave to participate in school activities.

And, a few states, such as Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Vermont require advance notice of the need for leave. Others, including Louisiana and Rhode Island, stipulate that employees must try to schedule school leaves so that they do not disrupt the employer’s business.

* Time Off for Family Member’s Medical Care *

A few states also allow certain employees time off to take family members to medical appointments. For example, Massachusetts requires that employers covered by the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) must allow eligible employees 24 hours of leave during any 12-month period, in addition to FMLA leave, for children’s medical or dental appointments and to accompany an elderly relative to medical, dental, or other appointments for professional care. In Vermont, employees are entitled to take off up to 4 hours in a 30-day period, not to exceed 24 hours in any 12-month period, for the medical, dental, or other professional care appointments of children, dependents, spouses, or parents. And, in Maryland, state employees may use paid sick leave for their own or an immediate family member’s medical appointment.

* Bone Marrow, Organ, and Blood Donation *

Several states also mandate or encourage employers to allow employees to take time off to donate bone marrow, organs, and blood. For example, Louisiana, Minnesota, New York, Oregon, and South Carolina require employers to grant employees time off to act as bone marrow donors.

Other states, including Arkansas, Connecticut, and Maine, require employers to provide time off to allow employees to donate organs. And, at least one state, Illinois, has a law that entitles covered employees to take one hour of paid leave every 56 days to donate blood, if approved by the employer.

(Download free Short-Term Absences model policy including HR best practices and legal background.)

* Consider Granting Leave Even if Not Covered *

Since these school, medical care, and donor leave laws vary state-to-state, you should check state law for regulations concerning coverage. Of course, even if your state does not mandate time off for these activities, you should consider allowing employees to use their vacation or other accrued paid leave. These types of leave can be very important to employees trying to balance workplace and family obligations, and any accommodation you can make shows you value your employees’ outside commitments.

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Distributed by Sunburst Software Solutions, Inc. with permission from:
HR Matters E-Tips, copyright Personnel Policy Service, Inc., Louisville, KY, all rights reserved, the HR Policy and Employment Law Compliance Experts for over 30 years, 1-800-437-3735. Personnel Policy Service markets group legal service benefits and publishes HR information products, including the free weekly electronic newsletter, HR Matters E-Tips (www.ppspublishers.com/hrmetips.htm). This article is not intended as legal advice. Readers are encouraged to seek appropriate legal or other professional advice.