During this COVID crisis, many folks are being asked to risk their health and possibly their lives to keep the business running. What about teachers? The state of Texas has mandated that school districts provide in-person teaching for any family desiring it. That means school districts are pressuring teachers to return to in-person teaching, even if it means risking their health and that of their families. One such teacher is Joy Tucker, who works for a charter school in Houston. After several miscarriages, she is finally pregnant at the age 37. That is considered a high risk pregnancy, even without the COVID19 virus.
The charter school insisted she return to on-campus teaching. After Ms. Tucker used all her leave, she filed a grievance, to avoid returning to school. She wants to teach. She misses her kids. But, she is not willing to risk the health of her family. About 28% of the district’s children have returned to in-person teaching. It sounds like Ms. Tucker sought an accommodation. The Texas Tribune article mentions that the district can deny her request for an accommodation if the accommodation poses “undue hardship” for the district. Her lawyer appears to be speaking about the Americans with Disabilities Act. Under the ADA, a person can request an accommodation. The employer can refuse the accommodation, if it presents an undue hardship for the employer.
Dozens of teachers at several dozen schools in the Houston Independent School District are staging a “sick out” to protest the lack of protections at their schools for the virus. See Houston Chronicle report.
The challenge for Ms. Tucker’s school will be in showing a true undue hardship. Texas school districts largely conducted all teaching online in the latter half of the Spring semester. Many school districts are still conducting most classes online. That suggests online teaching is a viable alternative. But, this problem will only grow as the semester progresses. More and more schools will feel the pressure to conduct classes in-person. And, we may well have a resulting spike in infections. See Texas Tribune article here. And with those increasing case numbers will come increasing fear of returning to work.