New Law Requires COVID-19 Paid Administrative Leave Days and Reinstatement of Sick Leave for Vaccinated Staff, and Paid E-Learning Days for ESPs and Contractors

Public Act 102-0697, which is effective immediately, impacts many school district and charter school employees who either had to previously miss work for certain COVID-related reasons or who may miss work in the future for COVID-related reasons. The Act also requires school districts and charter schools to pay educational support personnel and contractors who provide educational support services for any work missed during a school closure or e-learning day. Below are the highlights of this Act.

COVID-19 Paid Administrative Leave Days

The Act creates Section 20.83 of the School Code, which requires school districts (which are defined to include charter schools) to provide fully vaccinated employees with paid administrative leave days during any time the Governor has declared a public health emergency if the employee is required to be excluded from work due to COVID-19 restrictions.

An employee may use COVID-19 paid administrative leave days either because the employee was restricted from being on school district property or the employee took sick leave to care for his/her/their child, who was unable to attend elementary or secondary school, because the employee or the employee’s child had:

  1. a confirmed positive COVID-19 diagnosis from a PCR test (or other molecular amplification diagnostic test),
  2. a probable COVID-19 diagnosis via an antigen diagnostic test,
  3. been in close contact with a person who has a confirmed case of COVID-19 and is required to be excluded from the school, or
  4. been required by the school or school district policy to be excluded from school district property due to COVID-19 symptoms.

Employees on COVID-19 paid administrative leave will receive their regular rate of pay. Under the Act, only those employees who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and participate in any COVID-19 testing program adopted by the school district, to the extent participation by individuals who are fully vaccinated is required, are eligible to receive paid administrative leave days. “Fully vaccinated against COVID-19” under the statute means two weeks have passed since the final dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and, upon adoption by the IDPH and CDC, includes any recommended booster doses for which the employee is eligible.

Paid administrative leave days must also be provided to employees who were excluded for the specified COVID-related reasons for absences that occurred prior to the effective date of the Act, provided that the employee becomes fully vaccinated within 5 weeks after the effective date of the Act. Likewise, school districts must reinstate any sick leave the employees used prior to the effective date of the Act during the 2021-2022 school year for the COVID-related reasons. Employees who separated from the school district prior to the effective date of the Act are not eligible to have their sick leave days restored.

Employees on paid administrative leave must provide all documentation requested by the school board, and employees cannot accrue paid administrative leave.

Pay to ESPs and Contractors for School Closures or E-Learning Days

The Act amends Section 10-20.56 of the School Code, which allows for the implementation of e-learning days, and now requires school districts (which are defined to include charter schools) to pay educational support personnel employees their daily rate of pay and benefits for any days the employees must miss work as a result of a school closure or e-learning day. School districts must also make full payment to contractors who provide educational support services for any days the contractor’s employees were precluded from working as a result of a school closure or e-learning day. This requirement does not apply in situations where the workdays are rescheduled and the employees will be paid their daily, regular rate of pay and receive the same benefits for the rescheduled day when services are rendered.

Additionally, the Act provides that school districts must make these payments retroactively for any school closure or e-learning day that occurred during the 2021-2022 school year prior to the effective date of the Act (April 5, 2022), if the employee or contractor did not receive pay or was required to use earned paid time off. Again, this requirement does not apply if the day is rescheduled and the employee will be paid their daily, regular rate of pay and benefits for the rescheduled day when services are rendered. Employees who separated from the school district prior to the effective date of the Act are not eligible to receive retroactive payment.

Many school districts that currently have or anticipate implementing e-learning plans (which generally require school districts to take several steps, including action by the school board and verification from the regional office of education or intermediate service center) have already bargained language with their unions for their ESPs to receive payment or be able to make up the work if the ESPs would have reported to work but for the e-learning days. Any such agreements should be reviewed in light of this new law. Additionally, school districts should review agreements with contractors who provide educational support services to determine if language in the contract is compliant with this new law.

Contact Chris Hoffmann or Mary Karagiannis or any of our Labor/Employment practice group attorneys with your questions regarding this new law.

Source: https://www.ilga.gov/legislation/102/HB/PDF/10200HB1167lv.pdf