SAN DIEGO – Soon after the San Diego Unified School District and U.S. Department of Labor reached an agreement in April 2023 to improve compliance by the nation’s 14th largest school district with the Family and Medical Leave Act, the district took immediate actions and the benefits for employees quickly showed.

The two parties entered into an enhanced compliance agreement after the department’s Wage and Hour Division opened an investigation in October 2021 and found the district, the employer of more than 13,000 people, lacked an adequate written FMLA policy and did not have proper procedures and forms in place. The division also learned the school district had denied two FMLA-protected leave requests improperly by not providing timely written notice or reasons for denying the protected leave.

“The Family and Medical Leave Act allows an employee to balance work and home life, especially in the event of a serious health issue,” explained Wage and Hour Division District Director Min Park-Chung in San Diego. “Leaving employees unaware of their ability to use FMLA-protected leave adds to already stressful situations. No worker should have to choose between caring for themselves or their family and a paycheck.” 

After the division’s initial FMLA policy review, the San Diego Unified School District followed the division’s guidance and updated its written policy for employees, which included making clear how FMLA-related leave differs from other types of available leave. The changes also updated information on nursing workers’ rights to pump breast milk at work.

The district also made systemic changes to make sure employees understood their FMLA protections and their rights to use them. Its changes included publishing the revised FMLA policy on the district’s intranet for employees, in its employee handbook and in other internal communications. In May 2023, a comprehensive FMLA presentation was made to the school district’s representatives to share with employees.

“Since establishing the new policy and training its employees, the San Diego Unified School District’s results have been dramatic,” Park-Chung added. “When our review began, there were approximately 60 Family and Medical Leave Act-related requests submitted in about two years. “Not long after we reach our compliance agreement and the school district made changes, the number of FMLA-related requests increased significantly, from approximately five per month to 20 to 30 requests per month.”

The San Diego Unified School District operates more than 220 educational facilities and is California’s second-largest school district.

Learn more about the FMLA and other laws enforced by the Wage and Hour Division, including an FMLA Compliance Assistance Toolkit, or contact the division’s toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243).

Workers can call the Wage and Hour Division confidentially with questions, regardless of where they are from, and the department can speak with callers in more than 200 languages. Learn more about the Wage and Hour Division, including a search tool to use if you think you may be owed back wages collected by the division.

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