New Illinois Employment-Related Laws Affecting Educational Employers; Department Of Labor Opinion Letter States Attendance at IEP Meetings is a FMLA Qualifying Event

NEW ILLINOIS EMPLOYMENT-RELATED LAWS AFFECTING EDUCATIONAL EMPLOYERS

Unsatisfactory Teacher Ratings Subject to an Appeals Procedure

On August 27, 2019, the Governor signed SB 1213 (Public Act 101-0591) creating an appeals process for teachers who receive unsatisfactory summative ratings.  Public Act 101-0591 requires that school districts and special education cooperatives must develop and implement an appeals process for “unsatisfactory” performance evaluation ratings.  The development of the appeals process must be done “in good faith cooperation” with the teachers or through “good faith bargaining” with the teachers’ union.

While the new law is effective immediately, the appeals process must be implemented beginning with the 2020-2021 school year.  Notably, the law does not require retroactive application to unsatisfactory ratings received prior to the implementation date.  Public Act 101-0591 does not include a deadline by which the appeals process must be in place.

We recommend that educational employers begin working on a strategy for addressing the appeals process, including but not limited to the criteria to be used to determine a successful appeal, with its PERA joint committee and applicable unions.

Teacher Minimum Wage Legislation Signed by Governor

On August 22, 2019, the Governor signed HB 2078 (Public Act 101-0443), amending the Illinois School Code to establish minimum salaries for full-time teachers.  Beginning with the 2020-2021 school year, the minimum salary increases each year as follows:

  • 2020 – 2021 school year – $32,076
  • 2021 – 2022 school year – $34,576
  • 2022 – 2023 school year – $37,076
  • 2023 – 2024 school year – $40,000

Beginning with the 2024 – 2025 school year and thereafter, and subject to the Illinois General Assembly’s review, the minimum salary rate will increase from the previous year by a percentage equal to the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for All Urban Consumers, if there is an increase in CPI.

Beginning with the 2020 – 2021 school year, school districts and special education cooperatives will need to ensure their minimum teacher salaries comport with the law.  If not, the need to increase to the minimum legislated salary may trigger a bargaining obligation with the union.

DEPARTMENT OF LABOR OPINION LETTER STATES ATTENDANCE AT IEP MEETINGS IS A FMLA QUALIFYING EVENT

A U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) opinion letter issued on August 8, 2019, states that parents may use Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) time off to attend IEP meetings for their children.

In the facts leading to opinion letter FMLA2019-2-A, a woman received a health care certification from her children’s doctors supporting the need to take intermittent leave to care for her children.  The woman’s employer approved FMLA intermittent leave to take the children to medical appointments but denied intermittent leave when the woman requested to take leave to attend the children’s IEP meetings.

Per her children’s IEPs, the school district provided doctor-prescribed occupational therapy, speech therapy and physical therapy services.  Four times a year, IEP meetings were held to review these services and the students’ educational needs, well-being and progress.  The DOL found relevant the fact that such IEP meetings were attended by a speech pathologist, a school psychologist, an occupational therapist and/or a physical therapist, in addition to teachers and administrators, all who served her children.

The DOL found that the woman’s need to attend the IEP meetings, for the purpose of addressing the educational and medical needs of her children with certified serious health conditions, is a qualifying FMLA leave reason.  The DOL explained that FMLA provides that an eligible employee may take unpaid leave to care for a son or daughter, if such son or daughter has a serious health condition.  The DOL explained the described circumstance qualifies because her attendance at the meetings is to “care for a family member…with a serious health condition” which includes “to make arrangements for changes in care.”  29 C.F.R. § 825.100(a).  The DOL clarified that the children’s doctor need not be present at the IEP meetings for the woman’s attendance to qualify for intermittent FMLA leave.

Practically speaking, most educational employers likely already have a completed serious health condition certification for a parent/employee who has a child with a disability for the purpose of attending medical appointments. In those situations, such certification will suffice for the parent/employee to use FMLA leave to attend the child’s IEP meeting.  If not, we recommend that employers request a completed certification to use FMLA leave for such purpose.

The DOL opinion letter can be accessed here:

https://www.dol.gov/whd/opinion/FMLA/2019/2019_08_08_2A_FMLA.pdf

If you have any questions about how these laws may impact your current policies, procedures, or practices, do not hesitate to contact one of our attorneys at 630.313.4750 or by e-mail.