Editor’s Note: This is a post part of the Can They Do That series from MSTA’s Staff Attorney, Kyle Farmer.
This post does a great job of explaining the state law regarding making up missed school days due to inclement weather. As is the case with most good articles, this post stirred up even more questions that got into the basic functions of contract law.
While state statute spells out exactly how many days must be made up by the school district, the statute is only concerned with days and hours of instruction for students. Those requirements relate directly to the state funding formula and how districts are reimbursed by the state. State law in no way dictates how school districts handle employee hours and make-up days. Instead, we need to look at an employee’s contractual status and at the actual language of the employment contract, which varies district by district.
Let’s start by talking about at-will employees versus contracted employees. At-will employees (which would be any district employee who does not have an employment contract with the district) have very little ability to contest being called in to work during inclement weather days or being forced to make up inclement weather days at the end of the school year. Without a contract to spell out the terms of employment, secretaries, custodians and other at-will employees truly serve “at the will” of the district.
Contracted employees present a tougher set of issues. The answers to these questions typically depend on the language of the contract. Some school districts still use teacher contracts that include a specific number of school days that teachers are contracted to work. If your district uses this kind of contract, there is a strong argument that the district cannot make you work more days than are included in the contract. While you would be expected to make up any missed days up to the number included on your contract, any additional days would require additional pay. Your specific contract could also have language about inclement weather days and whether you are required to work those days or make them up later in the school year.
Most districts have transitioned to contracts that do not state the number of days a teacher is required to work and have replaced that language with a number of months or a generic statement about the school year. Under this version of the teacher contract, it is much harder to argue that being forced to make up days without students is illegal. Without a hard limit on the number of days a teacher is contracted to work, the district can essentially set any limit they deem necessary.
Of course, all of this can be overridden by a collective bargaining agreement between the district and the teachers.
First and foremost, check your employment contract and any collective bargaining contract or additions to see how these terms are outlined. If you have specific questions about how your district is handling making up inclement weather days, please give the MSTA Legal Department a call at 866-343-6186.
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