Employment Law Blog

News, trends and analysis in employment law and HR

Feb 19, 2014

ALERT: Prepare your business for school closures due to teachers’ strikes

 

After being closed for three days due to an ongoing teacher's strike, Medford, Oregon schools have reopened with substitute teachers and a shortened four-hour school day. Portland public school teachers authorized a strike that was to start February 20, 2014, although all-night negotiations at the last minute appear to have averted it. If a tentative agreement had not been reached, the schools would have been closed for at least the first three days while the district trained substitutes. Despite the agreement, Portland public schools will still close early on February 19, 2014.

After being closed for three days due to an ongoing teacher's strike, Medford, Oregon schools have reopened with substitute teachers and a shortened four-hour school day. Portland public school teachers authorized a strike that was to start February 20, 2014, although all-night negotiations at the last minute appear to have averted it. If a tentative agreement had not been reached, the schools would have been closed for at least the first three days while the district trained substitutes. Despite the agreement, Portland public schools will still close early on February 19, 2014.

If you have employees who have kids in these school districts, then you have employees who may be preoccupied with finding child care, worrying about the impact a strike or early closure may have on their kids or their own jobs. Even if your employees don’t live in these areas, it’s still a good idea to have a plan in place in case your local schools temporarily close. It could be a teachers’ strike, or it could be something else, such as weather, fire, or contagion. As an employer, the best things you can do for your employees in these uncertain times are to plan and to communicate.

You may want to consider making special arrangements to help your employees deal with sudden child care issues. While you are not required to do anything for your employees in this situation, you may decide to be proactive to lessen the impact on your employees and on your business. Some options you might want to consider (none of these things are required) are:

  • Circulate a survey among your employees to see if they do have child care concerns, or if they have already made arrangements.
  • Communicate your plans and expectations with your employees in advance.
  • Help employees with finding child care options by compiling a list of providers near your business. The Oregon Central Coordination of Child Care Resource and Referral may be able to help.
  • If your work environment is conducive, allow employees to bring their kids to work with them.
  • If the nature of the work allows it, allow employees to work from home.
  • Relax your attendance standards for this period.
  • Enforce your attendance policies and make sure your employees understand that your regular policies will continue to apply.
  • Allow employees to use paid time off (PTO) or vacation time to stay home with their kids. (Note that the Federal Family and Medical Leave Act, the Oregon Family Leave Act, and the new Portland Sick Leave requirements would not cover this situation because the kids are not sick and the schools have not been closed for health reasons.)
  • Adjust shifts based on the availability of before- and after-school child care.
  • Allow employees to trade shifts or temporarily transfer to a shift that would more easily accommodate child care arrangements.
  • You may be able to provide activities for employees’ children at your facility while your employees are at work. Oregon’s Office of Child Care has licensing requirements for many child care providers. If you choose to provide activities in your workplace, contact your state to ensure your plans are in compliance with state requirements. You should also contact your insurance carrier.

Whatever you decide to do or not do, regular and frequent communications with your employees can help to alleviate at least some of their uncertainty. Questions? Contact your Vigilant staff representative. For current information on the Portland and Medford strikes, visit these websites:

Medford School District
Medford Education Association
Portland Association of Teachers
Portland Public Schools

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