Back to School: Parents, Know Your Rights on the Job So You Can Be There for your Kids

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Amid the school supply shopping and back-to-school jitters that signal the end of summer, August is the perfect time for working parents of kids in school to brush up on helpful laws that can help them manage the competing demands of work and family.

Parental involvement is key to a child’s success in school. In some states, parents have the right to time off from work to attend events, like parent-teacher conferences, at their children’s schools. In California, D.C., Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, and Rhode Island, workers in both the private and public sectors can take job-protected leave from work to participate in a child’s educational events. Illinois’ law, for example, requires that employers with at least 50 employees give workers eight hours per school year to attend a child’s school activities. In other states—Arkansas, Hawaii, Florida, Tennessee, and Texas—only government employees are entitled to school-related leave for a child. Laws in some other states, including Louisiana, Oklahoma, Oregon, Utah, encourage employers to give working parents leave for school events, but don’t require them to. For more information about the laws in your state, check out A Better Balance’s updated fact sheet on educational leave.

Certain workers in San Francisco, Vermont, and, starting September 1, 2016, New Hampshire, also have the right to request workplace flexibility without penalty. A more flexible schedule—for example a change in your start and stop times or the ability to work from home—may make it easier to accommodate a child’s school schedule. While these laws do not guarantee that covered workers’ requests will be granted, they prohibit retaliation and offer a process for employees to engage with employers about alternative work schedules. See Babygate for more information on the San Francisco and Vermont laws.

If you work in a state or locality with a paid sick leave law, you may be able to use your sick time to care for a child who is too ill to go to school. For more information on the sick leave laws where you work, see our chart. Finally, in a few states and over 60 localities, workers are protected from discrimination because of their familial status. In Minnesota, for example, parents, guardians, and people who are pregnant or in the process of securing legal custody of a child are protected from discrimination in employment. Workers in New York City are protected from discrimination at work based on their status, actual or perceived, as caregivers for a minor child or for another relative suffering from a disability. These laws help to ensure that parents are not treated worse on the job just because of their role at home.

At A Better Balance, we are working to ensure that parents can balance their jobs with involvement in their children’s education and wellbeing. If you have any questions about your rights, please consult with a local attorney or call our free clinic, as this post is not intended to provide legal advice.

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