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Know Your Rights: Teachers and telework

HSTA strongly recommends teachers concerned with COVID-19 exposure apply for telework

Members should know their contractual rights, especially during the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The following guidance is provided as a member resource and should not be considered exhaustive. Members with additional questions or concerns should contact their HSTA leaders on campus or their UniServ Director.

I would feel more safe working from home. Is it a requirement that teachers need to report to and work on campus when they are providing distance learning instruction? Will teleworking be allowed after July?

The Hawaii State Teachers Association was successful in persuading the Hawaii State Department of Education to allow for options for teachers to request telework beyond July 28.

On July 24, the HIDOE announced that its telework program, which was initially launched in June for 12-month employees, would be extended through school year 2020–21 for any employee who may qualify.

Teleworking makes sense when many communities across the state are facing widespread community spread. The HSTA believes there is a strong argument for principals to approve teachers teleworking to reduce the number of individuals on campus.

We strongly recommend that you consider applying for telework, especially if you are concerned about reducing your exposure to others during this time of increasing spread of COVID-19.

View the memo for telework and related documents here. Please review both the memo and guidelines thoroughly.

The following should be kept in mind when applying:

  • Teachers will not be approved for telework if they request the telework option for the purpose of staying home and caring for their own children or other loved ones (see Telework Program Guidelines for Salaried Employees, Section IV.U, page 11, and Section V.B.7, page 12).
  • Telework approval is very dependent on your actual line assignment. If you need to be on campus to complete your responsibilities, it is less likely to be approved. Teachers should be prepared to articulate how they can complete their work from home.
  • Telework approval requires that teachers can perform the work from home, and they have access to adequate equipment including internet access.   
  • Teachers can work with their principals for partial telework, i.e., only certain days of the week.
  • While the approval form indicates both principal and complex area approval, at the Board of Education meeting on Aug. 20, both Superintendent Christina Kishimoto and Assistant Superintendent Cindy Covell indicated that the principal is responsible for approval.
  • If a teacher is denied telework, the decision is not grievable, but the principal should provide you a reason for the denial. If others on your campus are approved for telework but you are not and your situation is similar, we encourage you to contact your UniServ Director for further consultation. There should not be disparate treatment of employees when it comes to telework policies.

Please note that this telework process is completely different and separate from employees who are requesting telework as part of an ADA accommodation due to a medical disability. Teachers who need telework for ADA accommodations reasons should pursue an ADA request and not utilize the telework request process. Click here for more information on requesting ADA.

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