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School districts and community colleges are required to give full-time teachers and other employees who work 600 or more hours in a school year at least 10 days of sick leave each year. Sick leave is typically awarded at the beginning of each school term. It may be used for personal illness or serious illness or death in the immediate family. Unused sick leave may be accumulated to at least 180 days. The amount of sick leave may be increased by the collective bargaining agreement or by board policy. A teacher may not be dismissed or have his or her tenure status affected by tempory physical or mental incapacity.
Federal law requires that persons who are disabled because of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions must be treated the same as other employees. Thus, a woman who is unable to work following childbirth is entitled to use accumulated sick leave for this purpose. Sick leave may not be used for an extended maternity leave unless provided for by a collective bargaining agreement, board policy, or allowed for other non-medical leaves.
A school board may, but is not required to pay employees for unused sick leave when they leave employment. Employees covered by the Illinois Teachers’ retirement System, the State Universities Retirement System, and the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund may supply unused sick leave to increase retirement benefits. Persons under the Illinois Municipal Retirement System may apply up to 170 days of unused and uncompensated sick leave granted by current and former educational employers in order to acquire one year’s service credit. Those covered by the State Universities retirement System can receive up to one year of service credit if they have 180 to 240 days of unused sick leave. Those covered by the Illinois Municipal Fund can receive up to one year’s service credit if they have 240 days of unused sick leave.
Family and Medical Leaves
In general, the FMLA entitles employees to up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year for a spouse or an immediate family member with a serious health condition, or when unable to work because of a serious health condition. Employers covered by the law are required to maintain any pre-existing health coverage during the leave period and, once the leave period is concluded, to reinstate the employee to the same or equivalent job. All school districts are covered by the law, although not all educational employees are eligible if he or she has worked for the employer for at least 1250 hours during the preceding 12-month period and the employer has at least 50 employees. Teachers are presumed to have met the 1250-hour requirement.
Other Teacher Leaves
Several other leaves are provided by statute for teachers. A school board may grant a sabbatical leave to a teacher for resident study, research, travel, or other activities determined by the board to benefit the district by improving the quality and level of experience of the teaching force. The length of the leave may be from four months to one year. In order to qualify for a leave, the teacher must have at least six years of full-time teaching.
During the leave the teacher is paid the normal salary from which may be deducted an amount equal to that paid for substitute teachers. The teacher on sabbatical leave must be paid at least the statutory minimum salary or one-half the normal salary, whichever is greater. After completion of the sabbatical leave, the teacher must return to the district for at least one school term or repay the district the amount received during the sabbatical. A teacher returning from sabbatical leave must be returned to a position equivalent to that held before the leave. A teacher returning from sabbatical leave does not lose any tenure rights.
A tenured teacher who enters military service is protected against loss of tenure status. Similarly, a teacher who is elected to the General Assembly must be given a leave of absence if one is requested, and leaves must be granted for service to a state or national teacher organization that represents teachers in collective bargaining negotiations. Many collective bargaining agreements provide for a variety of leaves including maternity leaves, extended illness leaves, bereavement leaves, and educational leaves. These provisions need to be carefully reviewed where applicable.
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