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Back to School Edition: School-Related Parental Leave Laws

By: Jason Plowman

It’s that time again! The annual run for school supplies, shopping for back to school clothes, and . . . time to review state laws covering school-related parental leave? As kids hurry off to new classrooms throughout the country, employers may notice an uptick in time-off requests for school-related events. Employers should be aware that several states (currently nine states and the District of Columbia) have laws authorizing leave time for parents to attend school functions. California’s law is most generous, providing up to 40 hours per year (but no more than 8 hours per month) to participate in children’s educational activities.

Many of these state laws provide for leave beyond traditional school events or classroom activities including, for example, leave to find or enroll a child in a school or daycare facility or to attend a PTA event.  Also, many of the laws also cover not only biological parents, but also those with legal custody, acting as a parent, or otherwise related to the student. 

Generally speaking, these state laws require the employee to provide advance notice of a request for the school-related leave. Most states also allow employers to request documentation from the school to verify that the employee participated in a school activity on a specific date and time. Typically, however, the employer must accept documentation deemed appropriate and reasonable by the school.   

No state law requires employers to pay for school-related leave, but some states allow the employer to require use of any accrued PTO/vacation to participate in these activities (if that requirement is specified in the employer’s policy). 

Finally, similar to other leave laws, these state laws generally contain provisions protecting employees from discrimination or retaliation for taking leave to participate in school activities in compliance with the law.

Employers with operations in states allowing for school-related leave should include references to the leave in their employee handbooks or policies, and make sure that any written policy addresses the interplay between existing PTO/vacation policies and school-related leaves.  Employers with questions regarding such leave laws should consult with competent counsel.