In the wake of challenges around personal business (PB) days and our efforts in bargaining to consolidate and get Chicago Public Schools to stop fighting these cases, there have been several recent arbitration victories for Chicago Teachers Union members.

The Union brought cases to arbitration insisting that members have the right to use their PB time without providing a reason, and, without arbitrary restrictions on what dates are acceptable. Arbitrators agreed and have made it clear that while CPS has a right to deny PB days, the denial must be based on the need to maintain a safe and secure school environment by having adequate staff coverage. Days cannot be denied because the principal doesn’t like the reason, because of the date requested or because consecutive days are being used.

Altogether, the awards are:

  • In a case at Corliss HS, the arbitrator ruled that schools cannot bar use of personal days for vacation if there is no handbook explaining so. (Of course, since then, almost all schools now have created handbooks saying this.)
  • Regarding use of a personal day around Thanksgiving break by a teacher at Pulaski ES, the arbitrator ruled that a principal “may not insist on a reason for taking the business leave” but “may regulate the number of teachers taking off on a particular day based on staffing needs.” Pulaski’s principal allowed two other teachers to take off the day before Thanksgiving break, so the grievance was granted because there was no reason to treat any other teacher differently.
  • Suder Montessori case ruling that there can only be restrictions on personal days where the restrictions can be justified based on needs of the school. A teacher who requests a personal day to extend a vacation should be granted it when the request is made well in advance.
  • A Stowe Elementary “blackout” for personal days around holidays and for the month of June was struck down, but the principal was allowed to limit the number of personal days to two per day (if there is an exception for emergencies).
  • Nancy Jefferson ES ruling that sudden, unexplained changes by admin to rules about use of personal days are not allowed, because rules must be justified and provided in advance to teachers.

CPS agreed to eliminate restrictions such as blackout days from the use of sick days with the contract change in 2012 that eliminated the rollover of unused PB days into employees’ sick day banks. This policy change was not applied in a fair across-the-board way, and numerous cases arose where members were denied PB days for reasons such as it being the day before a holiday or after a vacation, or for failing to provide a “compelling” reason for the request. The only justification management may have is that with too many teachers out, administrators cannot cover classes and maintain an orderly learning environment.

Be sure to attend the Jan. 18, 2020, Delegates and School Leaders Training to learn more about enforcing our contract, advancing our contract, improving school conditions and who you need to contact with questions or concerns.

And look for more updates like this that share wins and challenges about defending your rights!