Paraprofessional FMLA Regulations Formally Adopted: School Paraprofessionals Will Now Be Eligible For FMLA Leave Once They Have Worked 950 Hours After May 12, 2014

by Pullman & Comley, LLC
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On May 12, 2014, the Connecticut Secretary of State’s website posted the Department of Labor’s Family and Medical Leave for School Paraprofessionals final regulations.  Under the new regulations, Connecticut school districts will now be required to provide paraprofessionals with FMLA leave benefits once they have worked 950 hours after the May 12, 2014 date of the regulations’ adoption.

This new requirement is the result of 2012 state legislation, Public Act 12-43, that created a special, reduced hours-worked FMLA eligibility threshold for Connecticut school paraprofessionals.  Under federal law, public school employees are required to work 1,250 hours in the twelve-month period preceding leave in order to become eligible for FMLA-protected leave benefits.  Most school paraprofessionals did not work enough hours in a year to meet the 1,250 hour threshold for eligibility.

Public Act 12-43 provided that Connecticut school paraprofessionals would be eligible for FMLA leave once they had worked 950 hours after the adoption of implementing regulations.  Now that the regulations have been adopted the 950-hour “clock” starts ticking and most full-time school paraprofessionals will become eligible for FMLA leave sometime during the 2014-15 school year.

As your school district prepares to administer this new FMLA benefit there are several key points to keep in mind:

  • The 950-hour eligibility requirement applies to all school paraprofessionals, even those who have already been employed by your district for more than 950 hours.  This means that currently employed paras will only be eligible for FMLA once they have been employed by the district for at least twelve months and worked 950 hours after May 12, 2014.  New hires will be eligible for FMLA once they have been employed for at least twelve months and worked 950 hours in the twelve-month period preceding leave.
  •  In order to be eligible for leave under the 950-hour rule, the hours must actually be worked.  The use of accrued leave benefits (sick leave, vacation leave, etc.) does not count as time worked.  Business managers and paraprofessional supervisors should ensure that district recordkeeping practices accurately distinguish between hours worked and use of accrued time.
  • Paraprofessionals will be eligible for the same FMLA leave benefits as other FMLA eligible employees.  This means paraprofessionals will be eligible to use FMLA:
  • Upon the birth of the employee’s son or daughter, or to care for the employee’s newborn child;
    • In connection with the employee’s serious health condition;
    • To care for a spouse, son, daughter or parent who has a serious health condition;
    • In connection with a qualifying exigency relating to the foreign deployment or call (or impending call) to active military duty of a paraprofessional’s spouse, son, daughter or parent; and
    • To care for a spouse, son, daughter or parent who suffered a serious injury or illness in the line of duty.
  • Paraprofessional FMLA generally should be administered in the same way as existing FMLA. This means human resources managers and staff should ordinarily follow the same rules with respect to the certification of serious health conditions, concurrent use of paid leave and other issues;
  • The new regulations require districts to post notices that explain the new paraprofessional FMLA entitlement and that inform employees of the procedures for filing complaints with the State Department of Labor.  Notices must be posted prominently in places where they can be seen by employees and job applicants.  Electronic posting may be sufficient so long as the electronic posting meets all other regulation requirements[1];
  • Summer recess does not count as FMLA leave time unless a paraprofessional is required to report to work during the summer months;
  • The new 950-hour eligibility requirement likely requires amendment to your board of education’s FMLA policy and regulations.

[1]  The Department of Labor has developed a model notice that employers can post to comply with the regulations’ notice requirement.  The model notice is attached to this alert and is also available as “Appendix B” to the Department of Labor regulations, which are available on-line at: http://www.ct.gov/sots/lib/sots/regulations/recentlyadopted/ecopy_reg_6160.pdf .

[View source.]

 

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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