Q: We have an employee who is currently undergoing chemotherapy and is unable to work during treatment. The teacher has exhausted all paid leave, including extended sick leave, but is still unable to return to the classroom. Because she is a new teacher who has worked for us less than 12 months, she is ineligible for Family Medical Leave. She has requested temporary disability leave so that she maintains health coverage during her treatment. What does this type of leave entail and do we have to continue to pay toward her health insurance during this time?
A: Temporary disability leave (“TDL”) entitles a certified educator to a minimum of 180 days of unpaid leave due to the employee's personal illness or injury. The District must grant the employee TDL if she has medical verification that she is unable to work. The employee is required to pay both her and the District's contributions to the employee’s health insurance during the period of leave, unless indicated otherwise in local policy.
Texas Education Code §21.409 and Board Policy DEC outlines an employee’s entitlement to TDL. To be eligible, DEC (LEGAL) requires that the employee be a “full-time educator” with a medical condition that interferes with his or her performance of regular duties. All full-time employees in positions that require SBEC certification are considered “full time educators.” Note that pregnancy and pregnancy related conditions can qualify an employee for TDL.
To be granted TDL, the employee must make a request to the Superintendent that:
· is accompanied by a doctor’s statement confirming the employee’s inability to work;
· states the date the employee desires the leave to begin; AND
· states the probable date of return to active duty as certified by the physician.
If the request complies with policy and includes the appropriate medical documentation, the employee’s request must be approved. Once approved, TDL lasts for a minimum of 180 calendar days. Most local policies also make this 180 days the maximum as well. The leave cannot be intermittent, thus all TDL leave days must be used consecutively. Most District’s CRD (LOCAL) policy provides that during any period of leave (other than paid leave or leave under the FMLA), the District will not continue its contribution toward the cost of the employee’s group health insurance coverage. However, the employee must be allowed to continue their health insurance coverage at their own expense for the period specified under the District’s group health insurance plan.
If the educator wishes to return to work before the expiration of the 180 days or before the anticipated return to work date, notification of such must be given to the Superintendent at least 30 days before the expected date of return. This allows the District time to make any necessary personnel arrangements or scheduling changes to accommodate the employee’s return to work. Upon the employee’s return, the teacher is entitled to an assignment at their previous campus, subject to availability of an appropriate teaching position. The District has until the beginning of the next school year to assign the employee to an appropriate position on full duty.