August 5, 2014:
Dear Caddo Parish School Board Members,
It has come to the attention of the Red River United that the Caddo Parish School District Transportation Commission intends to submit a revised sick leave policy for approval before the Board at its next regularly scheduled meeting. This new policy would require an employee to provide a doctor’s excuse any time they are absent for three or more consecutive days, or when they are absent only one day immediately prior to or following a school holiday, or in the case of “repeated absences of less than three days”. It also seeks to prescribe the exact form in which such a doctor’s excuse should be submitted. For the following reasons, the Red River United strongly urges you not to approve these changes to Caddo’s sick leave policy.
Under this proposed policy, an employee who comes down with a cold, which most healthy adults would simply let run its course, would have to go to their doctor for an official excuse if they needed to be absent for only three days. The same would be true for an employee who experiences severe migraines, and has to stay home for a single day that just happens to fall immediately before or after a holiday. It would clearly be unreasonable for Caddo to require its employees to incur the financial cost and expend the time necessary to visit a doctor in these circumstances.
The proposed policy also requires an official doctor’s excuse in the case of “repeated absences of less than three days”, but fails to explain exactly what this means. What is a “repeated absence”? Multiple absences in consecutive weeks? Two absences that happen to fall on the same day of consecutive (or non-consecutive) weeks? Two absences that happen to fall on the same date of consecutive (or non-consecutive) months? Such a vague requirement has the potential for abuse, and if broadly construed, could be used to require an employee to provide a doctor’s excuse for any single absence after the first.
There is language in the proposed policy that describes in great detail the format to which a doctor’s excuse must adhere in order for it to be accepted. This would mean that if an employee’s personal physician’s stationary does meet these exact requirements, that employee must either lose pay for that day or make an appointment with a doctor not on the basis of his or her reputation or ability, but on the style of his or her letterhead. Does Caddo honestly want to be in the business of interfering with its employees’ personal heath choices?
Finally, it is our sincere belief that approval of this revised policy would be in violation of Louisiana law. As it stands, Caddo sick leave policy mirrors current law, which requires a doctor’s excuse after six or more consecutive absences. The proposed policy would place far more restrictive requirements on Caddo employees than the Louisiana legislature has seen fit to. Louisiana public school employees are guaranteed at least ten leave days for personal illness or other emergencies without reduction in pay. While local school boards are authorized to adopt rules and regulations for the use of such leave for emergencies, the law has given no such authority to enact stricter requirements for doctor’s excuses. Louisiana courts have long held that sick leave is a benefit granted to public school employees by the legislature, and not subject to the discretion of local school boards.
The Red River United stands firmly opposed to these revisions of Caddo’s sick leave policy. If approved, these proposed changes would place an unfair and unreasonable burden on employees who are already suffering from a personal illness. Be aware that if the Board sees fit to approve these changes and enact them as official policy, we will be forced to seek a judgment in court declaring them invalid. Please consider these arguments when casting your vote.
Jackie Lansdale, President