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California parents, Is school closed? Your time off work is protected!

Updated: Apr 7, 2020

One of the main issues challenging working parents is the conflict between attendance policies at work and daytime child-related events that take them out of work. It's difficult to navigate time off when all of the school orientations and parent-teacher conferences are during work hours. And what if the school is unexpectedly closed? How does calling out for childcare affect job security? Can a woman be fired for arriving late because she attended her child's first day at school? Under California law, the answer is no.

Many mothers assume that they are only protected from discrimination during or shortly after pregnancy. This is incorrect. Job protection for missing time off work due to childcare-related conflicts extends through the 12th grade. These rules are not widely known. I have not even seen them in employer handbooks. Mamas, it's important to spread the word on this, so we no longer feel worried about losing our jobs when we get that dreaded preschool call that we have to pick up our kid because he was in a fight with another child.

What are Your Rights?

Here are your rights under Labor Code 230.8.

You only have these rights if you work in California and if you work for an employer with 25 or more employees at your jobsite.

A parent may take up to 40 hours off each year for purposes of any of the following events:

- to find a school

- to enroll a child in school

- to participate in school activities

The parent must give reasonable notice if the absence is planned, and absence may not be more than 8 hours per month.

- to address a school emergency if the employee gives notice

Emergencies include:

- the school requested that the child be picked up

- the school has an attendance policy that prohibits the child from attending or requires the child to be picked up

- behavioral or discipline problems

- school closure or unexpected unavailability, excluding planned holidays

- a natural disaster, including fire, earthquake or flood

To me, giving notice of an emergency is not very logical, but what this means is that you can't just walk out. Make sure to explain why you are leaving, even if you are flustered.

You are also entitled to time off if your child's teacher requests your presence in class because your child was suspended. This is Labor Code 230.7.

"Parent" includes parent, guardian, stepparent, foster parent or grandparent.

"School" includes licensed child care providers, which would include kindergarten, preschool, and day care centers.

The parent must use any PTO or unpaid time off for any planned absences. So if there is a PTO policy, you are not entitled to additional time off.

Your employer may request verification from the school to confirm the child-related activity.

Your Job Protection Rights

An employer may not fire a parent, demote, suspend, or otherwise discriminate against a parent for taking time off for any of the events above.

If the parent is fired, he or she is entitled to reinstatement and reimbursement for lost wages and benefits.

If the employer refused to reinstate the parent, the amount of these damages would be tripled.

Make sure you know these rights. Many employers won't know them and assume labor protections only cover pregnant women or the time period women's children are newborn babies. This is untrue. The law put these protections in place so parents are not penalized for having children. Next time you get that dreaded call from preschool, make sure to assert your rights at work.

DISCLAIMER - This blog is for educational purposes and to give general information and a general understanding of the laws relating to employment law. It is not intended to provide specific legal advice, nor should you use it for that purpose. By using this blog you understand there is no attorney client relationship between you and the Momattorney or Gruenberg Law and you should not use this blog as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed attorney in your state. We don't know anything about your particular situation, and the law has many exceptions. If you have a dispute with your employer, you need to consult with an employment lawyer.

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