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Know your rights
Absences for pedagogues
January 6, 2014 New York Teacher issue
Teachers and other pedagogues are credited with one day of “sick leave” on the 16th of each month of the school year, or 10 days for a full school year of work. These days accumulate in your Cumulative Absence Reserve (CAR), commonly known as your “sick bank.”
If you are absent from school because of illness, you will be paid for up to 10 days in any school year without needing to submit a doctor’s note. These are known as “self-treated days.”
If you take more than 10 days in any school year, you will not be paid for those additional absences unless you submit a doctor’s note, even if you have days accumulated in your CAR.
Wherever possible, you should submit medical certification for each day you are absent to preserve as many of your self-treated days as possible.
You can use three of those 10 days for personal business, provided that you give reasonable notice to your principal. Personal business is officially defined as something that cannot be done at any time other than a school day, during school hours.
Two of these three personal business days may be used to care for family members who are ill.
If you are ill after having exhausted all the days in your CAR and you are regularly appointed, you may borrow up to 20 additional sick days. You should request these days in writing, on the appropriate form, from your principal. Regardless of the nature of your absences, it is important that you call your school and notify the principal that you will be absent.
If you fail to pay back these borrowed days by the time you retire or resign, the Department of Education can deduct a sum of money from your termination pay to cover that cost. If termination pay does not cover the bill, the DOE will send you a bill. The DOE may also sue you in civil court to recover the money owed.
These deductions will be based on your current salary at the time of retirement or resignation, not at the time of your borrowing. Ask your payroll secretary about the various ways you can pay back this time.
If you are regularly appointed, you can accumulate up to 200 days of sick leave in your CAR during your career.
Upon termination, resignation or retirement, you are entitled to receive up to one-half of your unused sick days (up to 100 days) at the rate of 1/200th of your then-current yearly salary. You will be paid in three equal installments. Speak to your payroll secretary about the form you must file to receive this money.
Absences such as those due to childhood illnesses that are listed in our 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 you must file for these and other nonattendance days.
You can take off a maximum of up to four hours on an annual basis for breast cancer or prostate cancer screenings. Requests must be made in advance, in writing. Your chapter leader can advise you, if you have any questions about this.
When to notify your chapter leader
If your supervisor believes that your absences are “so numerous so as to limit the effectiveness of service” (Chancellor’s Regulation C-601), you may receive a letter for your official school file. If you believe that the letter improperly accuses you of violating a specific contract clause or Chancellor’s Regulation, you should speak to your chapter leader, who can help you file a grievance. The remedy for such a grievance may be the removal of the letter from your file.
If you are a probationary teacher, you may receive a U-rating or be terminated for excessive absences and lateness. In these cases, you should contact your chapter leader immediately so that you can receive the proper advice and representation.
If you are tenured and you are accused of being excessively absent or late, the DOE has the right, with sufficient notice, to summon you to a 3020a hearing about your conduct. The DOE can either bring formal 3020a charges against you or pursue charges against you pursuant to a special “time and attendance” procedure set forth in the collective-bargaining agreement.
If the DOE utilizes the special procedure, the arbitrator cannot terminate you, but can impose a monetary penalty or suspension without pay. If the DOE brings formal 3020a charges, it is possible for you to be terminated.
It is critical that you alert the union as soon as you are notified that a disciplinary proceeding has been initiated against you so that a union lawyer can assist you in defending against the charges and can represent you at the hearing.