Some Los Angeles County parents have class – literally. That’s because municipal ordinances in cities throughout the county require a public school teacher to haul a suspended child’s parent into class if the teacher suspends the child. In effect, these ordinances require a parent to suddenly take time off from work – and send a message to her employer that she’s a bad parent – or maybe even a bad employee. Fortunately, Labor Code section 230.7 prohibits an employer from firing or taking any other action against an employee because her child’s school made her take time off.
Can a Public School Teacher Send a Suspended Child’s Parent to Detention?
Every public school teacher has the power to suspend a child from class if the child commits any of 19 different acts.1 Those acts range from smoking in the boy’s room2 and hazing other students3 to possessing a bomb4 and committing sexual assault.5 For any of those 19 acts, the teacher may suspend a child from class for the rest of the day and the day after.6 The teacher may, not must, suspend the child for any of those 19 acts, but if the teacher does suspend the child, the teacher must ask the child’s parent to attend a parent-teacher conference about the suspension.7
Two of those 19 acts can result in more than a parent-teacher conference. Under Education Code section 48900.1, a school district’s governing board may adopt a policy authorizing a teacher to require a parent to spend part of the school day in the classroom if the teacher suspends the child for: (1) committing an obscene act or engaging in habitual profanity or vulgarity; or (2) disrupting school activities or otherwise willfully defying the valid authority of school personnel while they’re performing their duties.8 So if a class clown keeps throwing paper airplanes in class, his parent might soon be the one wearing the dunce cap.
Can an Employer Discriminate Against an Employee for Going to Detention?
School districts throughout L.A. County have adopted a policy pursuant to Section 48900.1. Luckily, a suspended child’s parent doesn’t have to worry about what will happen to her job while she’s in detention. Labor Code section 230.7 prohibits an employer from discharging or otherwise discriminating against an employee “for taking time off” to appear at her child’s school pursuant to a “request” (really an order) under Section 48900.1, so long as she gives reasonable notice of the “request” before she takes time off.9 Section 230.7 doesn’t say that the employee must prove to the employer that she got the request.
If an employer fires, threatens to fire, demotes, suspends, or in any other manner discriminates against an employee in the terms or conditions of her employment “because [she] has taken time off to appear in the school of a pupil” pursuant to a Section 48900.1 request, the law will entitle her to reinstatement and/or reimbursement for the loss of any wages or work benefits.10 Unfortunately, the law doesn’t say that an employee whose employer fires her before she takes time off can seek reinstatement or reimbursement. Nobody appears to have brought that loophole to the Legislature’s attention.