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Basic
Legal Aspects

Angela
Spencer

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Washington
State Personnel Association

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Abstract

This paper will review
what was learned from researching the necessary basic legal aspects of human
resources which include Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Family Medical
Leave Act, American Disability Act, Fair Labor Standards Act and Title IX. You
will read about the legal workshop that was attended and how it relates to the
practices of the Nine Mile Falls School District.  Interviews were held with the payroll officer
Mandi Stack to discuss how the district is compliant with the Fair Labor
Standards Act, this paper will report what was found. After researching the
basic legal aspects of human resources and how they relate to our district you
will see why understanding the basic legal aspects of human resources is
important.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meeting with the Human Resource
Administrator

            The Nine Mile Falls School District is a small rural
district which is why the superintendent is the Human Resource Administrator.
My position in Human Resources supports, informs, documents and educates
administration so all administrators have the information needed to make sound
decisions in regards to Human Resources. Our district often reaches out for
legal counsel when  dealing with
employment issues so we can ensure fair labor practices.

            The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission purpose
“is responsible for enforcing federal laws that make it illegal to
discriminate against a job applicant or an employee because of the person’s
race, color, religion sex (including pregnancy, gender identity and sexual
orientation), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic
information.” It is my role to follow and educate all administrators who
are hiring any staff for any position in the rules of the Equal Employment
Opportunity Commission to prevent discriminatory hiring.

            The Family Medical Leave Act “entitles eligible
employees of covered employers to take unpaid, job-protected leave for
specified family and medical reasons with continuation of group health
insurance coverage under the same terms and conditions as if  the employee had not taken leave.”
Family Medical Leave is offered to all eligible employees that report the need
for any time off due to specified family and/or medical reasons. The paperwork
is generated by me and signed by the superintendent. By generating the
paperwork and explaining what the Family Medical Leave Act is to employee’s,
they can then understand that this is not paid time away from work but instead
understand that this is job protection.  

            The purpose of the Americans with Disabilities Act is
“to provide a clear and comprehensive national mandate for the elimination
of discrimination against individual with disabilities.” The term
“disability” refers to a physical or mental impairment that
substantially limits one or more major life activities. In general these are
described as performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping,
walking, standing, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading,
concentrating, thinking, communicating, and working. Accommodation must be made
for an employee which has a disability. When hiring new staff the most
qualified staff must be offered the position with no regard to disability. Scott
Friedman is the Section 504/ADA Coordinator if any questions arise.

             The district is in
compliance with Title IX of the Education Amendment of 1974. Title IX requires
school districts to provide opportunities for all students and personnel in all
areas, regardless of gender. Any questions that may arise from Title IX are
directed to the superintendent as he is the Civil Rights Compliance Coordinator.

            It is important for all of our district office staff that
responsible for human resource duties to attend continuing educational
opportunities as the rules in many of these areas continue to change.  It is a practice of the Nine Mile Falls
School District to send employees responsible for these areas to workshops that
are presented either through our local Educational Service District or other
outside vendors so they can keep current on the ever changing rules that
support Human Resources.

Review District Policy

            The policies that pertain to Human Resources were
reviewed with Kathy Fairbanks who is the Administrative Assistant to the
superintendent. Not all of the policies have been updated but it is the
practice of the district to include updates to policy and procedure monthly or
as time allows.  After seeing what it
takes to update policy I have volunteered to update the 5000’s as that is the
section that relates to personnel.  It
has been the past practice that the administrative assistant to the
superintendent is responsible for updating the districts policies and
procedures.

Common School Manual

            The Common School Manual “is a compilation of most
of the laws enacted by the state legislature governing common school system
operations.” This manual is over one thousand pages and supports the work
of our administrators and staff by having a central repository for all the
RCW’s and WAC’s that govern the rules that surround education. 

            Part One of the RCW’s covers common school provisions,
Part Two is Administrative Procedures, Part Three addresses Collective
Bargaining and public employment labor relations. Part Four covers other laws
such as abuse of children, primaries and elections,  inter-local agreements, public records act,
and many other laws that education is governed by.

            The Professional Educators Standards Board’s rules are
under part four of the Washington Administrative Code which can be found in the
Common School Manual. I can honestly say that I didn’t know what was covered in
the Common School Manual and have now familiarized myself with the content that
is there and will be able to use this as a resource in the future. After
meeting with Mandi Stack, our payroll office we both agreed that understanding
where to find correct information is sometimes the most difficult part of finding
the answer to the question. The Common School Manual is a good place to start
looking for answers.

Equal Employment Opportunity and
Affirmative Action

            The Nondiscrimination and Affirmative Action Policy was
reviewed and discussed with Stephanie Hance, Business Manager for the Nine Mile
Falls School District. We both believe that the Nine Mile Falls School District
does its best to recruit and hire from a diverse applicant pool. I have noticed
through the years that on the Voluntary Affirmative Action Program
Questionnaire that is separated from the application when it arrives at the
district office, primarily documents a Caucasian population of applicants. The
Seattle Times reported this last year that 90% of our public school teachers
are white.  They also reported that
“plentiful research shows a strong correlation between diverse teaching
staff and student success”. There has also been significant research on
how to make students from marginalized groups feel welcome in schools. Minority
teachers can serve as “cultural ambassadors” who help students feel
more comfortable and welcome in school. Minority staff can also can have a more
positive perception of students of color.  “44% of Washington students identity as not
being white.”

            When the Nine Mile Falls School District advertises for
new teacher jobs we advertise across the state in multiple venues in the hopes
of attracting the best and brightest teachers. Since we are a small district
many new teachers may not be aware of who we are or where we are located so it
is important for us to advertise to a larger market. Until more people of color
are attracted to the field of education it will continue to be a struggle for
all districts to hire a diverse staff.

Workshop Related to Legal Issues in
Human Resources

            Curtis Leonard, and Rick Kaiser from the Law Offices of
Richard H. Kaiser presented a workshop Employee Investigations and
Discipline.  Curtis started the day by
discussing the rules that must be followed by Certificated employees compared
to Classified employees.  Certificated
employees are governed by RCW’s where classified employees have no statute and
generally require just cause.

            A discussion was then had on the differences between a
letter of direction versus discipline. Letters of direction are not considered
discipline even though the employee may “feel” that they are being
disciplined. A letter of direction is coaching the employee in a new direction
to avoid discipline. This letter may be held in a principals file and may not
be placed in the personnel file. A letter of discipline will state the facts,
the rules that were violated, directives the employee must follow to correct
the violation,  and the consequence for
failure to comply.  Failure to comply may
lead to termination.

            Just Cause was the next topic covered. There are seven
tests of  Just Cause. The most important
rule for Just Cause is “Was the employee adequately warned of the
consequences of his/her conduct?” (Leonard, 2017)  The rules of just cause are routinely used by
arbitrators which is why it important for those working in Human Resources to
know the rules and be asking these questions of our processes.

            Many topics such as the investigation process,  paid administrative leave,  how to investigate, discipline which included
Weingarten Rights and Loudermill Meetings were all covered. The day was ended
with the general rules of terminating an employee.  Rick Kaiser spoke about flagrant conduct and
cause for termination. If the employee’s behavior was sexually exploitive or
physically abusive you can terminate without using the “Clarke test”
or “Hoagland factors”.

            It is important to properly document all discipline,
using progressive discipline. Having a record of progressive discipline will
help prove that the employee is not remediable and will also show the impact on
the employee’s position. This six and a half hour training was valuable;  all human resource staff that are involved
with employee discipline should be encouraged to attend.

Fair Labor and Standards Act

            The Fair Labor Stands Act “is a federal law which
establishes minimum wage, overtime pay eligibility, recordkeeping, and child
labor standards affecting full-time and part-time workers in the private sector
and in federal, state, and local governments.” When an employee works in
excess of 40 hours per week they will receive overtime at the rate of one and
half time the employee’s regular rate. A school districts collective bargaining
agreements could have other requirements in regards to overtime eligibility so
it would be wise to read the collective bargaining agreement. There are some
employee’s that are exempt from overtime pay. The Department of Labor provides
an exemption from both minimum wage and overtime pay if the employee is an
executive, administrative, professional, computer, and outside sales employee.

            Mandi Stack, our payroll officer, and I met and discussed
that there has been considerable movement about what the minimum salary
threshold would be this past year. At one point it looked like it was moving
from $23,660 to $47,476. This had many people talking about how this would
impact their bottom line and looking at the affordability of this new
requirement. In September of 2017 the rule was struck down leaving the rule
from 2004 in place. The other topic that has been discussed at length is the new
“sick time” rule and how it will be tracked for our substitute
employee staff. This is an ongoing discussion without a clear decision of how
we plan on managing and tracking the accrual through the systems that we
currently have in place. The one thing we do know is that we will be tracking
and awarding sick time to substitute employees.

Conclusion
and Reflection

After
researching, reviewing, and discussing equal employment guidelines, the Family
Medical Leave Act, American’s with Disabilities, Fair Labor and Title IX with
all of the different staff members in the district office I now have a clearer
vision of who is responsible for each area. It continues to be all of our
responsibility to make sure we are all following the rules that govern our
employment practices and when necessary seek legal counsel. One of the Nine
Mile Falls School District core beliefs is that “we are each other’s best
resources”. This continues to hold true when staff are empowered to seek
continuing education and then given a way to share this information with
others. Since Nine Mile is a smaller school district many of us wear many hats
and do not specialize in any one area. A weekly meeting has been set up to
address any changes that are happening either within the district or with
changing rules and law. This has already improved communication between the
staff that are affected by these updates which will provide a better outcome to
the overall operation of the district. This has been a helpful learning
experience and has opened my eyes to the complexities of the basic legal
aspects that govern our school district.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

References

 

Americans with Disabilities Act. (2017, December 1). Retrieved from United States
Department of Justice Civil Rights Devision:
https://www.ada.gov/pubs/adastatute08.htm
Bazzaz, D. (2017, May 30). The Seattle Time.
Retrieved from Seattletimes:
https://www.seattletimes.com/education-lab/how-does-racial-identity-affect-students-and-teachers-find-out-at-educationsowhite/
Kaiser, C. L. (November , November 13). Employee
Investigations and Discipline. Employee Investigations and Discipline.
Spokane, Wa, USA: Curtis Leonard and Rick Kaiser.
Labor, U. S. (2017, December 1). Wage and Hour
Division Family and Medical Leave Act. Retrieved from United States
Department of Labor: https://www.dol.gov/whd/fmla/
Lisette Partelow, A. S. (2017, September 14). America
Needs More Teachers of Color and a More Selective Teacher Profession.
Retrieved from Center for American Progress: https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/education-k-12/reports/2017/09/14/437667/america-needs-teachers-color-selective-teaching-profession/
Management, O. o. (2017, December 1). Fair Labor
and Standards Act. Retrieved from Office of Financial Managment:
https://ofm.wa.gov/state-human-resources/compensation-job-classes/compensation-administration/fair-labor-standards-act-flsa
Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction. (2017, February 8). Retrieved from 2017 Common
School Manual: http://www.k12.wa.us/ProfPractices/AdminResources/CSM.aspx
U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. (n.d.). Retrieved December 1, 2017, from U.S.
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission: https://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/index.cfm
 
 

 
 
 

 

 

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