Know your rights

Absences and leaves for paraprofessionals

If you are a paraprofessional, have you ever wondered what your rights are in terms of leave time and absence from work?

You earn one sick leave day for every month in which you are in service for at least 16 calendar days. The maximum number of sick leave days earnable in a school year is 10 for September through June.

Those who complete a summer per-session activity earn one session for working July and one for working August. The unused per-session time will be transferred to the paraprofessional’s regular Cumulative Absence Reserve (CAR, commonly known as your “sick bank”). Paraprofessionals can use earned sick leave and be paid if they meet the following rules:

1. Self-treated absences. You cannot use more than three consecutive self-treated sick days. The fourth consecutive day will result in an absence without pay. No more than five self-treated days can be used in a five-month period or 10 self-treated days in a 10-month period.

2. Personal business days. Annual employees are entitled to up to three of their 10 self-treated days for personal business during a given school year provided that reasonable notice is given to the principal. Two of the three days may be used to care for a sick family member. The number of personal business days you use reduces the number of self-treated days you have.

3. Medically certified absences. Medically certified absences are without limit as long as the balance in your CAR permits. Absences exceeding the reserve will result in absences without pay.

Be aware that days off for both self-treated absences and personal business are intended to be used only for those express purposes. If a supervisor suspects that is not the case, he or she may investigate and attempt to deny payment if it is discovered that you were not really ill or did not have personal business to conduct that could be accomplished only during school hours.

‘Nonattendance’ days

Absences due to childhood illnesses that are listed in the contract (measles, mumps and chicken pox), for the death of a member of your immediate family or to appear in court as a juror or witness are considered “nonattendance” days and are not deducted from your CAR. Your chapter leader can advise you about the forms that you must submit to the principal for these types of absences.

Leaves without pay

Paraprofessionals are eligible for leaves without pay under certain conditions and with the proper application filled out. These include leaves for personal illness, including pregnancy-related disability, which can be granted with the approval of the Department of Education’s Medical Division.

You are entitled to return to work within one year on the basis of seniority, and retain the seniority and other rights you had before leaving.

The federal Family Medical Leave Act provides up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for the birth and care of a newborn child, new adoption, start of foster care, care for an immediate family member with a serious health condition or when you yourself have a serious health condition.

You are eligible if you have worked for a total of at least 12 months as of the date that the leave commences or 1,250 hours (the 12 months need not be consecutive). The leave can be intermittent or involve reducing your work schedule. Your health benefits will continue during a Family Medical Leave Act leave.

A child care leave without pay begins six weeks after the birth of the baby and can last for a period of up to four years. If you have worked for two or more years and take a child care leave, you regain your seniority and will be credited with any prior sick leave that was left in your CAR upon your return.

Teach/serve as a school secretary: Paraprofessionals with three or more years of seniority may be granted a maximum of a one-year leave without pay to teach or to serve as a secretary in a New York City public school. If you return within one year, you regain your seniority and any days left in your CAR when you return to work as a paraprofessional.

Leave with pay

Paraprofessionals who are on military leave will receive their DOE salary for a period of up to 22 working days or 30 calendar days per year; all benefits will continue.

The city also extended military benefits. For more information, read the Department of Education memo that outlines the city’s Extended Military Benefits Package.

Read more: Know your rights
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