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IL Supreme Court Considers Teacher's Sick Leave

Courtesy of Illinois Education Association

A suburban Chicago school teacher is asking the Illinois Supreme Court to agree she can use her paid sick days for maternity leave. The catch? Her baby was born in June, on the last full day of the school year. The teacher wanted to use her remaining 28 paid sick days at the start of the following school year. 


Adam Dauksas, an attorney representing the school district, told the court that interpretation disconnects the leave from the birth, and could have absurd results.

“It’s not tethered to the event,” he said, “because if she could take it 10 weeks later, at that point, what’s stopping her from taking it 10 months later? Because as Mr. Thoma just said, there’s no temporal requirement. There’s no limit.”


State law doesn’t specify a time limit, but says school districts may require a doctor’s note as a basis for paid leave beyond 30 days after birth.


Margaret Dynak, a teacher in the Wood Dale School District, just west of Chicago, had banked 30 days of sick leave before her baby girl was born. The first chance Dynak had to use those paid sick days didn’t come until school re-opened in the fall. The district denied her request. 


The Illinois Education Association — the state’s largest teachers union — is representing Dynak in court. Attorney Ryan Thoma pointed out that sick days can only be used on a work day.


“And Ms. Dynak requested to use the days of sick leave consecutively, over 30 continuous work days immediately following birth,” he said, “and the statute simply provides no exception for that.” 


Dynak ended up taking 12 weeks leave, unpaid, as allowed by the Family and Medical Leave Act. The school district says she can still use her 28 banked days of sick leave later, if needed, or cash them out whenever she ends her employment with the district.


After a long career in newspapers (Dallas Observer, The Dallas Morning News, Anchorage Daily News, Illinois Times), Dusty returned to school to get a master's degree in multimedia journalism. She began work as Education Desk reporter at NPR Illinois in September 2014.
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