Sunday, March 07, 2010

Getting Docked Pay For Going To A Family Reunion

In California, teachers are entitled to at least 10 days of sick leave each year; districts and local teacher unions determine how much of that can be used for "personal necessity", which in my district means not for recreation or for other employment. "Recreation" is an amorphous term, and many of us take it to mean "don't go to Vegas, and don't take Friday off just to have a 3-day weekend to go camping".

In a nearby district, though, a teacher took a week off to go to a family reunion. Would that be "recreation" in my district? Is it "personal necessity"? Keep in mind, her "sick leave account" would be docked even for personal necessity. Is this legitimate?

Her district said no, and docked her 5 days' pay instead.

The Folsom Cordova Unified teachers union wants a judge to force the school district to pay an elementary school teacher for five days she spent at a family reunion.

The Folsom Cordova Education Association filed a suit in Sacramento Superior Court last month claiming Edith Hiatt legitimately used "personal necessity leave" for the September 2008 trip. They asked the court to set aside a school board decision to dock her pay...

She filed a grievance over the pay cut, and Nichols said the district paid her for at least three of the five days. She received $981.91.

The district hired an arbitrator who decided in Hiatt's favor in August, according to the suit. The arbitration wasn't binding, however, and the district threw out the decision three months later.

My guess is the district has spent more money fighting this than they would on giving her the pay.

Plenty of commenters at the link above wanted to complain about the teacher's local union. However, one extremely wise and good-looking commenter said the following:

There are plenty of reasons to be against teachers unions--believe me, I'm against them, too--but this isn't one of them.
The district, by paying her for 3 of the days, has already admitted she's 60% correct. The arbiter decided in her favor. I may be biased here, but I think she should be paid.


Anonymous said...

Something that some/many companies have adopted is "Personal Time Off" (PTO). It is a mix of sick and vacation days. The nice thing about them is that since you don't draw a distinction, in cases like this you don't need to argue about whether the use of the time is justified.

[The downside is that the PTO days usually are less than "sick + vacation" days were.]

On balance, I prefer PTO ...

-Mark Roulo

Darren said...

That's what I had when I worked in industry. I understand that we only work 185 days a year as opposed to the 250 days most workers do, so school districts want us to take as little time off as possible when we're not sick. On the other hand, most teachers probably don't want to take too many days off, as preparing for and then recovering from a day with a substitute is a ton of work on its own! And in high school, it's hard to get subs for our specific subjects, so often our students get babysat and not taught when we're not there--and most teachers don't want to fall behind.

Anonymous said...

I shouldn't have to pay tax money for a teacher to go on vacation. Teachers only work 180 days a year.

CastoCreations said...

I'm not a fan of unions, but if it is her "time" off then she can use it any way she wants. If she gets a cold and runs out of days, that's her problem.

Ellen K said...

Our sick days can accumulate over time to add to our accrued work time. One of the older teachers who never missed a day in 30 years had an additional year and a half added onto her service years allowing her to retire earlier at full benefits. I have taken days to chaperone a trip with my son's choir, my daughter's drill team and my other son's state band competition. To think that people stop being family members because of their jobs is ridiculous. Surely a reasonable employee and administration could make arrangments in advance. Heck, one teacher in my knowledge took a second honeymoon to Hawaii in the middle of the fall semester. But because she was a valued employee who didn't disappear every Friday or Monday, it was a reasonable request. In the real world outside of education, people do take vacations during all twelve months of the year. While it would be professionally dumb to schedule such a trip regularly or during exams, to do so once, it's not a big deal. I think there's more to the story.