Delaware Legislative Alert: Proposal Would Require Employees Be Given Leave to Attend School Functions

What do Delaware and Colorado employers have in common? If Delaware House Bill 231 is passed, both states will require employers to grant employees leave to attend school-related functions for their children. Unlike Colorado’s law, which applies only to employers with 50 or more employees, Delaware’s law would apply to all employers. In a nutshell, Delaware’s law would grant working parents 16 hours of unpaid leave per year to attend school-related events.

If passed, the law would require that all Delaware employers, regardless of size, permit employees to attend classroom activities, school meetings and extra-curricular school events related to the employee’s child if the meetings or classroom activities cannot be scheduled during non-work hours, up to 16 hours a year, per child. The time off can be taken in increments of up to 4 hours. The only consolation to small employers is that employers with ten or fewer employees working at one location could limit the number of employees who may take leave on any one day.

Any time off taken under the new law would be unpaid (like FMLA leave), but the employee could substitute any “available leave” such as vacation and personal days to be compensated for this time.

The only responsibility of the employee requesting such leave would be to provide at least 48 hours advance notice of the leave and make a reasonable effort to schedule the leave so as not to unduly disrupt the operations of the employer. The employer can request written verification of the event.

Any employer who violates this section shall be subject to a civil penalty between $1,000 and $5,000 per violation.

One interesting question is whether sick leave would be considered “available leave.” “Available leave” is defined in the statute as “annual or vacation leave, personal leave, compensatory leave or other similar leave provided to an employee with pay by an employer.” Unlike the Colorado law, Delaware’s statute does not explicitly identify “sick leave” as leave that could be used for this purpose. One would expect employees who have paid sick leave to attempt to use this leave, prior to other types of accrued leave.

Although the leave is unpaid, it could potentially present a considerable burden on smaller employers. Under the statute, an employer with 11 employees, 5 of whom requested leave to attend the same school-related function, would be required to let them all attend. It makes more sense to limit the statute to larger employers, like the FMLA, and like Colorado did in its similar law.

We’ll keep you posted on the progress of this bill.