Legislature Extends School Code Provision on “Holidays” to Educational Support Personnel
Jan 18, 2024
As first noted in our 2023 Legislative Roundup for Schools, Public Act 103-0395 (eff. 1/1/24), clarifies that educational support personnel cannot be required to work on a legal school holiday (except in certain circumstances). It also adds new language (as underlined below) to this section of the School Code that “no deduction shall be made from the time or compensation of a school employee, including an educational support personnel employee, on account of any legal or special holiday in which that employee would have otherwise been scheduled to work but for the legal or special holiday.” As a reminder, under this same section, school boards may grant special holidays whenever they deem such action is advisable.
Per the legislative history, the change was an IEA initiative after attempts to bargain paid holidays for certain educational support personnel (“ESP”) were unsuccessful. The change was proposed to ensure consistency throughout the State in terms of how paid holidays are defined for ESPs. The new language, coupled with the legislative history, establishes paid legal holidays (or special holidays) for ESPs that fall during their work year unless a waiver applies (see below).
There are 13 legal holidays listed in this section of the School Code: New Year’s Day, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, President Lincoln’s birthday, Casimir Pulaski’s birthday, Good Friday, Memorial Day, Juneteenth, July 4, Labor Day, Columbus Day, Veterans’ Day, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day.
Notably, the statutory language about waivers remains intact. A school board may hold school, schedule teacher institutes, parent teacher conferences, or staff development on five (5) legal holidays: Martin Luther King Jr. Day, President Lincoln’s birthday, Casimir Pulaski birthday, Columbus Day, and Veterans’ Day, provided that the person or persons honored by the holiday are recognized through instructional activities on that day or the next day school is in session and a public hearing is held.
While many schools already provide at least some paid holidays for 12-month ESPs, this will be a significant change for 9 and 10-month ESPs. With regard to 9 and 10-month ESPs, the paid holidays would not include Juneteenth or July 4 (unless pay is provided for in a CBA), as the reason they are not scheduled to work is because of the summer break between two academic terms, not because of the legal holiday. Also, if school ends prior to Memorial Day, no pay would be due for those ESPs whose last work day for the school year was prior to Memorial Day (unless pay is provided for in a CBA).
As to all ESPs, the paid holidays would not include Christmas Day or New Year’s Day (unless provided for in a CBA) because the reason they are not scheduled to work is because of winter break, not because of the legal holiday. Along the same lines, if Good Friday falls during a school district’s spring break, no pay would be due because the reason they are not scheduled to work is because of spring break, not because of the legal holiday (unless provided for in a CBA).
This change presents additional challenges as it took effective in the middle of a school year and fiscal year for budgeting purposes. For some schools, this change will significantly impact this year’s budget.
School districts will need to update their policies accordingly. Schools should also review existing CBAs to determine how holidays are applied to all categories of ESPs, as schools may provide greater (but not lesser) benefits than federal or state law. It is possible that impact bargaining over this change may be necessary for some units.
As appropriate, school districts should exercise their statutory right as to waivers for certain holidays. Schools should also use caution in establishing other special holidays that may confer a right to pay for ESPs.
Please contact any Robbins Schwartz attorney for further guidance on this change in the law.