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Vol. 17-002, May 3, 2017

(OAH Case No. 2016070474 (2017).)
The Gist
​● Misuse of leave may constitute dishonest conduct and warrant dismissal
​● Leave forms should require employees to certify their appropriate use of leave
​● Proper monitoring of employee leave may reduce employee abuse of leaves

The Details
In this case, on two occasions, a second-grade teacher took paid sick leave and agreed, under penalty of perjury, not to be employed elsewhere during her regular work hours while on leave.  On both occasions while on paid leave, she worked for a school district in Florida. 
The school district’s Certificated Request for Leave of Absence form included a section stating in relevant part: “I certify I was not and will not be employed elsewhere during my regular work hours within the time period claimed on this certification.”  Just below this text, the form further provided: “I declare under penalty of perjury that I have read the paragraph above, and it is true and correct.”  The teacher took paid sick leave from January 13, 2015 through May 30, 2015.  Thereafter, the teacher traveled to Florida and worked as a teacher in a public school for 16 days while on paid leave.
The teacher returned in time to work two days before the end of that school year.  On the first day of the 2015-2016 school year, the teacher took another paid leave and signed the same form, certifying she would not work while on paid leave.  During her second leave period, she worked in Florida for five days, and applied for employment in Florida during that time. 
The CPC unanimously found the teacher’s conduct was dishonest, that she refused to obey school laws and that she engaged in unprofessional conduct by making false statements.  The CPC found the teacher’s claim that she did not work during “work hours” given the time difference between Florida and the west coast damaged her credibility.  The CPC also noted that she appeared to have little remorse for her actions.
Practical Pointers
Employee leaves place a heavy burden on clients, and managing leaves can be time consuming for human resources departments.  Further, abuse of leave seems to be an increasing problem for school districts.  This case supports the argument that teachers who dishonestly represent the purpose of leave and/or use that leave for improper purposes may be dismissed.  This case also illustrates the importance of having key safeguards in place, including updated school district forms concerning leaves of absences.  It further demonstrates that monitoring employee use of leave can result in dismissal of unprofessional or dishonest employees who abuse paid leave.    

Please note, nothing contained in the CPC Blog is intended to be legal advice.  Please feel free to contact any of our offices for additional information and/or consult legal counsel regarding any particular matters.