Teacher strike will impact Oklahoma employers, workers

Posted by Charles Middleton on 03/30/2018

Q: A teacher strike is planned for Monday in Oklahoma. Does Oklahoma or federal law require employers to give employees time off to care for children who are at home because of a teacher strike?

A: No. Federal leave laws only require employers with 50 or more employees to provide unpaid leave for parents when a child meets the limited definitions of a serious medical condition, and even then there's a documentation procedure that takes several days to complete.

Q: What does Oklahoma law say about parents just leaving their children home alone while the parent is at work?

A: There's no law or policy in Oklahoma for how old a child has to be in order to be left alone. The Oklahoma Department of Human Services' published guidelines for parents say children 6 and younger never should go without adult supervision and grade-school children never should be left to care for younger children. According to the agency, middle-school children who demonstrate the ability to care for themselves without help may be left alone for up to four hours during the day, and middle-school children may care for one or two younger children for up to four hours during the day if there's constant access to a responsible adult.

Q: What are the options for employees?

A: There are a few drop-in day care groups in the larger metropolitan areas and towns. But the larger groups charge a first-time registration fee of $50 to $70 and then charge $10 per hour per child for the child care. Parents whose children are too young to be left alone at home should consider whether there is a grandparent, adult relative or other responsible adult friend who could care for their child while the parent is at work. If both parents work, they may need to consider taking alternating paid days off work. Some churches and civic groups will offer child care.

Q: What are the options for employers?

A: Employers should anticipate service or production needs and putting together a plan to cover those needs. Second, employers and employees need to plan for parent-workers to take available vacation or paid time off days to care for children who are at home due to a teacher strike. If there's no available vacation or paid time off for a worker, an employer could consider some flexibility with advancing future earned paid days off to the worker who needs to be at home. Some employers allow employees to donate their days off or to pool paid days off with co-workers to help co-workers with needs to be off work. Employers also could consider unpaid leave for employees who have to be off work to care for their children. This is not a great option since the parent is not earning wages, but it provides job protection and a work position to return to when the strike is over.

PAULA BURKES, BUSINESS WRITER

Published by The Oklahoman, March 30, 2018