Houston Education Association encourages Houston ISD to keep COVID-19 paid sick leave

Beginning the new school year, unless they reconsider, Houston ISD employees will not be paid for time off for COVID-19 recovery and quarantines. 

The Houston Education Association (HEA) is encouraging HISD to reconsider its decision to end special leave time for teachers and other employees who have or become exposed to COVID-19.

HISD’s current regular leave policy states that employees get one paid day of leave per month.

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HEA President Michelle Williams said, "This will force employees who have not accrued enough leave time, including teachers and other workers new to the district, to decide whether to put their co-workers and students at risk of contracting COVID-19 by coming to school, so they can continue to pay their bills."

Williams stated many HISD teachers contribute a leave day every year to the district’s Supplemental Sick Leave Bank (SSLB), a bank of personal leave days given by employees who want to voluntarily participate in a plan to extend leave for employees who have serious illnesses, according to the website.

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The association is asking the district to revise the SSLB policy to include COVID-19 paid sick leave days. 

In a press release, Williams said that not being paid sick for COVID-19 reasons will encourage teachers and workers to return to work and put students and their coworkers at risk.  

"An employee who contracts COVID-19 is advised to stay home for at least five days. Asking employees to stay home when they don’t have enough leave and will have to forfeit pay punishes hard-working employees who already are underpaid," she added.

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HEA is also urging the district to change the accrued paid leave policy, so employees with COVID-19 can get an advance on sick leave days if they don’t have enough paid leave days saved up.

Employees who don’t finish the school year after receiving the benefit would have the time taken from their escrow accounts.

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"We understand that the previous COVID-19 paid leave was not a long-term solution for the district. But HISD cannot ignore the fact that COVID-19 will remain a health issue for the foreseeable future. The district needs to find a long-term solution to help protect the health and safety of its students, workforce, and community," Williams said.