Earlier this month, Governor Phil Murphy signed a new law that expands the definition of what constitutes a “sick day” for teachers across the state.
The new law, which comes as teachers emerge from the most challenging and unstable periods of the pandemic education environment, is viewed as a major victory as it recognizes the reality that the ability to obtain preventative health care, address mental health needs, care for family members, and grieve the loss of a loved one plays an important part in a person’s well-being.
Prior to the new law, schools were required by the state to offer 10 personal sick days for teachers and other full-time employees to use only when they were sick or injured. While teachers in some districts have negotiated additional personal days for things like caring for a family member, most had not. The new law now applies statewide.
Expanded Reasons for Teacher Sick Days
The new law, which is in effect now, provides greater flexibility for teachers and other fully-time school faculty to utilize their 10 state-mandated sick days for reasons other than being sick. Educator sick days have been expanded to include:
- Diagnosis, treatment, or recovery from a physical or mental illness
- Preventative medical care
- Caring for a sick family member
- Reasons related to domestic or sexual violence
- Death of an immediate family member for up to seven days
- Attend meetings, school conferences, and other events for their child
- Reasons related to the closure of their child’s school or childcare facility
It should be noted that while teachers can now take sick days to recover from injuries, sick days are not the same as “Workers’ Compensation” days – especially when those injuries are work related.
If a teacher is injured in the course of their employment, the classification of their time out of work may be treated differently than a personal medical problem. However, a Judge of Worker’s Compensation has no authority to Order a School District to change the classification of days spent out of work. All a Worker’s Compensation Judge can order is that an injured teacher is entitled to temporary disability, treatment, and compensation for a permanent injury. Other remedies for teachers whose days are misclassified may be available in other forums.
Levinson Axelrod, P.A. Supports Our Teachers
As a law firm that has represented school employees and other injured workers in personal injury and workers’ compensation cases since 1939, we know that K-12 teachers and employees play invaluable roles in supporting our children and our communities. It’s why we strongly support expanded access to sick days for teachers, and why we are always available to help educators and other school district staff with any injury-related legal issues they may have.