School Is Starting: Do You Offer Parental Involvement Leave?

In less than two weeks, my household will once again change dramatically. My husband teaches high school and we have two kids in elementary school, so every year about this time, our slow moving summer household must once again “get back with the program.” I both dread and look forward to the middle of August. Part of me abhors the constant hum of activity that descends on the house in August and lifts only as the heat settles in for a stay in June. The other part of me is ready to get back into the routine, start packing lunches, checking homework, and juggling after school commitments. The anticipation of this juggle leads me to my back-to-school blog topic: parental involvement leave.

North Carolina is a relatively employer-friendly state. It requires very little of employers in excess of what is already required by the Federal Government. North Carolina does not extend the entitlement for Family and Medical Leave, as do some states; it doesn’t have a higher minimum wage; and it doesn’t require specific breaks or mealtimes for adult employees. In fact, the only additional leave required for North Carolina employees is parental involvement leave. If your company doesn’t currently have a parental involvement leave policy, you likely should.

North Carolina law requires all North Carolina employers (regardless of size) to offer 4 hours per year of unpaid leave for employees who are parents, guardians, or persons standing in loco parentis of a child so that the employee may attend or otherwise be involved at that child’s school. The leave is subject to the following conditions: (1) the leave shall be at a mutually agreed upon time between the employer and the employee; (2) the employer may require the employee to provide a written request for the leave at least 48 hours before the time of the desired leave; and (3) the employer may require that the employee furnish written verification from the child’s school that the employee attended or was otherwise involved as indicated at the time the employee was taking the leave. The law goes on to define “school” as meaning not only traditional public schools, but also preschools, child care facilities, and private and religious schools. The law may be found at N.C. Gen. Stat. § 95-28.3.

The law also provides that employers shall not take an adverse action against an employee who requests or takes parental involvement leave and provides a private right of action to employees who suffer an adverse employment action for requesting or taking such leave. Note that no private right of action exists for employees who are merely denied leave. This is most likely because the leave is required to be taken at a “mutually agreed upon time” between the employer and the employee. Also of note, I have been unable to locate any cases where employers have been sued pursuant to the parental involvement leave statute.

Because the leave is mandated by North Carolina law and subject to particular conditions, I advise employers to address the leave in a written policy in their handbooks setting forth the conditions on the leave so that expectations are clear as to how the leave must be requested and that the leave must be at a mutually agreeable time. I also advise employers who are able to do so, when considering their business and employee schedules, to grant proper requests for such leave. Allowing parents the ability to support their children in their educational endeavors is good for employee morale and good for the next generation.

Now can anyone direct me to all of the “washable” school supplies for my new kindergartner?

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