Workplace Issues FAQ

Here are some of the questions the AFT Michigan staff is most frequently asked by members. This is not a comprehensive list of all questions asked, but we have tried to include topics of interest to a large segment of the membership. If you have a question you think might be of interest to many AFT Michigan members please contact us.

Reporting Abuse and Neglect

What are the requirements for reporting abuse and neglect? 

Michigan’s Child Protection Act (CPA) requires school personnel to report suspected abuse or neglect. “Abuse” is defined as harm or threatened harm to a child’s health or welfare that occurs through physical or mental injury, sexual abuse or maltreatment. “Neglect” means harm or threatened harm to a child’s health or welfare as a result of negligent treatment, including the failure to provide adequate food, clothing, shelter, or medical care or placing a child at an unreasonable risk to the child’s health or welfare by failure to intervene to eliminate that risk. The law requires that a report be made to the appropriate agency within 24 hours of observing the suspected abuse or neglect.

School personnel are mandated to report observed or suspected abuse or neglect. Educators are required to notify their supervisors, and must also ensure that a report is made to the appropriate authorities. A teacher or paraprofessional telling the principal that they suspect abuse is not sufficient to satisfy the law. A report must be filed either by the teacher or paraprofessional, the principal, or a joint report. The reporting obligation is only satisfied if a report is actually made.

The CPA encourages the making of reports through a system of protection and penalties. An employee may not be disciplined for making a report. And a person making a report in good faith is immune from suit or prosecution for the act of making the report. But a child who is injured as a result of abuse or neglect may sue an employee who should have made a report, but failed to do so. The employee may also be prosecuted for a misdemeanor. Hence, the statute creates a powerful incentive to report whenever there is a reasonable basis to do so.

Use of Physical Force

Is using physical force with my students ever allowable?

Corporal punishment, defined as the deliberate infliction of physical pain by hitting, paddling, spanking, slapping, or any other physical force used as a means of discipline, is absolutely prohibited by statute. MCL 380.1312. Violation of the statute can be grounds for discipline and civil liability for damages. However, the statute also expressly permits the use of reasonable physical force upon a pupil as necessary to maintain order and control in a school or school-related setting for the purpose of providing an environment conducive to safety and learning. Circumstances in which reasonable physical force may be used if necessary are:

  • To restrain or remove a pupil whose behavior is interfering with the orderly exercise and performance of school district functions within a school or at a school-related activity, if that pupil has refused to comply with a request to refrain from further disruptive acts.
  • For self-defense or the defense of another.
  • To prevent a pupil from inflicting harm on himself or herself.
  • To quell a disturbance that threatens physical injury to any person.
  • To obtain possession of a weapon or other dangerous object upon or within the control of a pupil.
  • To protect property.

Recognizing that it is sometimes difficult to judge the necessity for physical force or the reasonableness of the force used in the heat of the moment, the statute expressly provides that deference shall be given to an educator’s reasonable good-faith judgment. In addition to the statutory guidelines, many school districts have their own policies on the use of force, which may be more restrictive than the statute. Failure to follow district policies and procedures may result in discipline.

Of course, the fact that reasonable force may be permitted in certain circumstances does not mean that it is always the best course of action. The use of physical force should only occur as a last resort in a drastic situation. If possible, get assistance from administrators or back up from other school personnel before acting. If you must use physical force against a student to protect or restrain, make sure that there are witnesses to the sequence of events. Obtain names and written statements from student and adult witnesses immediately following the incident. Don’t use more force than is necessary and never use force to punish a student. Report incidents as soon as possible.

Family and Medical Leave Act

Am I covered under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA)?

To be eligible you must have worked for an employer for 12 months, with at least 1250 hours worked, and the employer must have at least 50 employees working within a 75-mile radius.

If you are covered, FMLA provides for 12 workweeks of unpaid leave. Leave may be taken in blocks of less than a day for the birth or adoption of a child with the employer’s consent; and without regard to employer’s consent for medical necessity for self or family (spouse, child, or parent).

FMLA leave may be used for the birth and care of a newborn; placement of a child through adoption or foster care; care for immediate family member (spouse, child, parent) with a serious health condition involving inpatient care in a hospital or medical facility; or continuing treatment by a health care provider which includes a period of incapacity. If you use FMLA leave your health benefits are maintained, you must be returned to the same or equivalent job, and there is no loss of existing benefits.

Specifically for school employees:

    • Full time FLSA exempt employees (teachers, administrators, intellectual employees) are presumed to meet the 1250-hour requirement.
    • Probationary teachers: FMLA may be treated as break in service for computing probation period unless collective bargaining agreement or statute applies anniversary date. Otherwise probation period may be extended by the amount of leave.
    • Teachers: If the leave was foreseeable and the duration of leave is greater than 20% of the school year, employer may require leave to be a particular duration, but not longer than the length of leave; or, require the employee to transfer to alternative position with identical benefits.
    • Leave requests near the end of the school year: Leave with more than 5 weeks left of term – employer may require employee to continue leave to end of term if leave is at least 3 weeks duration and the return will be within 3 weeks before end of term. Leave with less than 5 weeks left – employer may require employee to take leave to end of term if leave is greater than 2 weeks and return would occur during 2 weeks prior to end of term.
    • Restoration to work, School Employees: May apply collective bargaining agreement or policy.
Continuing Educator Certification

What are the requirements for continuing educator certification?