Employment Law

Back to School: A Refresher Course on California Laws Accommodating School Involvement

Photo of Mother Enrolling Child in School

By: Nadia P. Bermudez

With children returning to school and working parents rejoicing, this article is a quick summary of some California employment laws that are designed to accommodate the parent-student relationship.

Scenario #1: Your employee tells you that he needs to leave work immediately because Junior has been suspended for disciplinary reasons, again.

Labor Code section 230.7 provides for the leave of employees who have been asked to appear at a school due to a child’s school suspension as set forth in the Education Code.  Specifically, section 48900.1 of the Education Code allows school districts to adopt a policy to request that a parent attend a portion of a school day in the classroom from which the child was suspended.  If such a uniform policy exists and the request is made, attendance by the parents is mandatory.

Photo of Nadia P. Bermudez
Nadia P. Bermudez

Even if the call from the school is not specifically pursuant to section 48900.1 of the Education Code, such employee leave may nonetheless be protected.  Labor Code section 230.8, which became effective last year, requires employers with 25 or more employees at the same location to “not discharge or in any way discriminate against an employee who is a parent of one or more children of the age to attend kindergarten or grades 1 to 12, inclusive, or a licensed child care provider, for taking off up to 40 hours each year” for the purpose of this type of child-related school activities.  Specifically, Labor Code 230.8(a)(1) permits employees to address a “child care provider or school emergency,” which includes that the employee’s child cannot remain in a school or with a child care provider due to “behavioral or discipline problems.”

Under the same statute, leave is also covered for the following situations: (1) the school or child care provider has requested that the child be picked up, or has an attendance policy, excluding planned holidays, that prohibits the child from attending or requires the child to be picked up from the school or child care provider; (2) closure or unexpected unavailability of the school or child care provider, excluding planned holidays; and (3) a natural disaster, including, but not limited to, fire, earthquake, or flood.

So yes, under the law, this kind of leave may need to be protected for eligible employees.  There are limits and other rules that apply, which are discussed more fully below.

Scenario #2: Your employee tells you that she needs to take next Friday off to attend the fall assembly, because her twins will receive awards in Drama.

Labor Code section 230.8 also provides for this type of leave where the purpose is to “[t]o find, enroll, or reenroll his or her child in a school or with a licensed child care provider, or to participate in activities of the school or licensed child care provider of his or her child, if the employee, prior to taking the time off, gives reasonable notice to the employer of the planned absence of the employee.”  Under this law, attending school activities is given similar protection as taking time off to enroll a child in school.  Time off pursuant to this type of leave for a planned absence is limited to no more than 8 hours in any calendar month of the year.

Scenario 3: The employees discussed above are a married couple and both want to each attend the awards assembly next week.  

Under Labor Code section 230.8, if more than one parent of a child is employed by the same employer at the same worksite, the entitlement for a planned absence as to that child applies, at any one time, only to the parent who first gives notice to the employer.  The other parent may take a planned absence simultaneously as to that same child for such a planned absence only if he or she obtains the employer’s approval for the requested time off.

Other rules apply.  For example, Labor Code section 230.8 state that employers can require that employees use existing vacation, personal leave, or compensatory time off for purposes of the planned absence.  Also, an employer is entitled to request reasonable documentation as evidence of the employee’s attendance in these specific types of child-related activities.

For terminations in violation of Labor Code sections 230.7 and 230.8, an employee may be entitled to reinstatement and reimbursement for lost wages and work benefits caused by the acts of the employer.   In certain situations, the employer could also be subject to a penalty of three times the amount of the employee’s lost wages and benefits if there has been a legal finding that the employee was eligible for rehiring or promotion.

The more you know…

Allowing employees to take reasonable time off to be good parents is not only required by law under some scenarios, it is also good for employee morale, productivity and retention.

HR professionals and business owners know that they are need to continuously educate themselves about California’s complex employment rules.  As the kids return to class, the learning process doesn’t end for the rest of us.  It is important for employers to be cognizant and understand these lesser known leave laws.

For more information on this article, please contact Nadia Bermudez.

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