Do I have to provide time off work to an employee who wants to go on their child’s class field trip if I already have people off work and can I discipline them or terminate them if they take the time off?
Employers who have 25 or more employees working at the same location are required by California law (Labor Code Section 230.8) to provide employees time off work to participate in their child’s school activities without regard to other employees being off work for other reasons.
This law applies to employees who are parents, stepparents, foster parents, grandparents or someone who stood in loco parentis to a child who is in a licensed day care facility or kindergarten through the 12th grade, and covers any kind of school activity, whether it is a field trip, fundraiser, school program or event.
In general a school activity may include any school-sponsored, -supervised or -approved activity. Employers may require documentation of the activity.
Allowable Time Limits
If you are required to provide the time off, you may limit the amount of time to 8 hours in any calendar month and 40 hours each year. You may require the employee to utilize any vacation, personal leave or paid time off (PTO).
If both the mother and the father work for the same employer and request the same time, the employer may require that only one parent be off for the same activity or if the employer chooses it may grant both employees the same time. Each parent has 8 hours per month and 40 hours per year; they do not share that time.
Employees must provide the employer with reasonable notice of a planned absence. If employees have provided reasonable notice, they should not be disciplined or terminated for taking the time off.
If an employer is found to have violated this law by terminating, suspending or demoting an employee for taking the time off, an employee is entitled to reinstatement and reimbursement for lost wages and benefits. In addition, an employer may face a penalty of three times the employee’s lost wages and benefits.
Amendments to this law that went into effect January 1 added stepparents foster parents, grandparents or someone who stood in loco parentis to a child and extended protection to apply to a child care provider emergency or a school emergency and finding, enrolling, or re-enrolling a child in a school or with a child care provider.
According to the new law, a “child care provider or school emergency” means that an employee’s child cannot remain in a school or with a child care provider due to one of the following:
• The school or child care provider has requested that the child be picked up, or has an attendance policy, excluding planned holidays, that prohibits the child from attending or requires the child to be picked up from the school or child care provider.
• Behavioral or discipline problems.
• Closure or unexpected unavailability of the school or child care provider, excluding planned holidays.
• A natural disaster, including, but not limited to fire, earthquake or flood.
The 8-hour limitation per month does not apply to emergencies. The annual entitlement, however, is still limited to 40 hours.
For more information visit HRCalifornia or contact the Labor Law Helpline.
The Labor Law Helpline is a service to California Chamber of Commerce preferred and executive members. For expert explanations of labor laws and Cal/OSHA regulations, not legal counsel for specific situations, call (800) 348-2262 or submit your question at www.hrcalifornia.com.