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Analysis: Legal rights when it comes to returning to the classroom

Families must decide how to handle going back to school. If you're a teacher, it's not only your health you're worried about, but your career and your paycheck.

MELVILLE, N.Y. — We have been hearing from students, parents, and teachers about their fears when it comes to going back to school. 

We've heard from some teachers who feel that their own lives, and those of the family members they come home to, are at risk.

A lot of families are dealing with this right now. They've got to decide how to handle going back to school, and if you're a teacher, it's not only your health you're worried about. It's also your career and your paycheck.

2 On Your Side wanted to find out what legal rights teachers have if they don't feel safe to go back into the building. 

2 On Your Side's Kelly Dudzik talked with downstate attorney Adam Ross. Ross is the co-chair of the New York State Bar Association's public sector committee of its Labor and Employment Law Section. He is an expert in this area of the law.

He told us your options depend on the reason you don't want to go back into the building for in-person teaching. 

"There is no general over-arching right that you have not to go to work just because you don't feel comfortable going to work, but there are specific circumstances where an employee may be entitled to an accommodation, or to leave for a certain period of time, paid or unpaid, not to go to work," Ross said.

"People have rights under the Family Medical Leave Act if they're caring for someone in their home who has a serious health condition. They may be entitled to twelve weeks of unpaid leave, or maybe paid under their collective bargaining agreement if they used their sick time."

Ross says it's all based on your specific situation, so if you're in a union, he says to contact your union rep first with any questions. He also says you can always contact an attorney.

He wants people to know that doing their research is super important.


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