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AGO 1980 No. 22 - November 19, 1980
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Slade Gorton | 1969-1980 | Attorney General of Washington

DISTRICTS ‑- SCHOOLS ‑- TEACHERS ‑- LIMITATION ON COMPENSATED LEAVE FOR SCHOOL DISTRICT EMPLOYEES 

(1) As amended by § 4, chapter 182, Laws of 1980, RCW 28A.58.100(2) prohibits a school district from granting as well as accumulating annual leave for illness, injury, and emergencies in excess of twelve days per year.   

(2) As thus amended, however, RCW 28A.58.100(2) does not prohibit a school district from granting emergency leave separate from leave for illness and injury; nor is a school district prohibited from limiting the number of days of leave for emergencies to a specific number less than ten of the required ten days of leave for illness, injury, and emergencies for a full-time employee. 

(3) Any such emergency leave must, however, be so limited that it, together with leave for illness and injury, does not exceed twelve days per year. 

                                                              - - - - - - - - - - - - - 

                                                               November 19, 1980 

Honorable Don Herron
Pierce County Prosecuting Attorney
946 County-City Building
Tacoma, Washington 98402

Cite as:  AGO 1980 No. 22                                                                                                                

Dear Sir:

             By letter previously acknowledged you requested our opinion on several questions pertaining to compensated leave for school district employees for illness, injury and emergencies under chapter 182, Laws of 1980.  We paraphrase your questions as follows:

             (1) Does chapter 182, Laws of 1980, prohibit a school district from granting as well as accumulating annual leave for illness, injury, and emergencies in excess of 12 days per year?

              [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            (2) Does chapter 182, Laws of 1980, prohibit a school district from granting emergency leave separate from leave for illness and injury, and if not, is a school district nevertheless prohibited from limiting the number of days of leave for emergencies to a specific number less then 10 of the required 10 days of leave for illness, injury, and emergencies for a full-time employee?

            (3) If question (2) is answered in the negative, must emergency leave that is granted be limited so that it, together with leave for illness and injury, does not exceed 12 days per year?

             We answer questions (1) and (3) in the affirmative and both parts of question (2) in the negative.

                                                                      ANALYSIS

            RCW 28A.58.100(2) authorizes the boards of directors of school districts to adopt written policies granting leaves to certificated and noncertificated school district employees.  That statute was recently amended by § 4, chapter 182, Laws of 1980, in the following respects:

             "Every board of directors, unless otherwise specially provided by law, shall:

             ". . .

             "(2) Adopt written policies granting leaves to persons under contracts of employment with the school district(s) in positions requiring either certification or noncertification qualifications, including but not limited to leaves for attendance at official or private institutes and conferences and sabbatical leaves for employees in positions requiring certification qualification, and leaves for illness, injury, bereavement and, emergencies for both certificated and noncertificated employees, and with such compensation as the board of directors  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] prescribe:  PROVIDED, That the board of directors shall adopt written policies granting to such persons annual leave with compensation for illness, injury and emergencies as follows:

            "(a) For such persons under contract with the school district for a full year, at least ten days;

             "(b) For such persons under contract with the school district as part time employees, at least that portion of ten days as the total number of days contracted for bears to one hundred eighty days;

             "(c)For certificated and noncertificated employees, annual leave with compensation for illness, injury, and emergencies shall be granted and accrue at a rate not to exceed twelve days per year; provisions of any contract in force on the effective date of this amendatory act which conflict with requirements of this subsection shall continue in effect until contract expiration; after expiration, any new contract executed between the parties shall be consistent with this subsection;

             "(d) Compensation for leave for illness or injury actually taken shall be the same as the compensation such person would have received had such person not taken the leave provided in this proviso;

             "(((d)))(e) Leave provided in this proviso not taken shall accumulate from year to year ((up to a maximum of one hundred eighty days,)) and such accumulated time may be taken at any time during the school year but for purposes of payments for unused sick leave shall not exceed twelve days per year;

             "(((e)))(f) Sick leave heretofore accumulated under section 1, chapter 195, Laws of 1959 (former RCW 28.58.430) and sick leave accumulated under administrative practice of school  [[Orig. Op. Page 4]] districts prior to the effective date of section 1, chapter 195, Laws of 1959 (former RCW 28.58.430) is hereby declared valid, and shall be added to leave for illness or injury accumulated under this proviso;

             "(((f)))(g) ((Accumulated leave under this proviso not taken at the time such person retires or ceases to be employed in the public schools shall not be compensable except in the following manner:)) Any leave for injury or illness accumulated up to a maximum of forty-five days shall be creditable as service rendered for the purpose of determining the time at which an employee is eligible to retire, if such leave is taken it may not be compensated under the provisions of sections 5 and 6 of this amendatory act:

             "(((g)))(h) Accumulated leave under this proviso shall be transferred to and from one district to another, the office of superintendent of public instruction and offices of educational service district superintendents and boards, to and from such districts and such offices;

             "(((h)))(i) Leave accumulated by a person in a district prior to leaving said district may, under rules and regulations of the board, be granted to such person when he returns to the employment of the district.

             "When any teacher or other certificated employee leaves one school district within the state and commences employment with another school district within the state, he shall retain the same seniority, leave benefits and other benefits that he had in his previous position.  If the school district to which the person transfers has a different system for computing seniority, leave benefits, and other benefits, then the employee shall be granted the same seniority, leave benefits and other benefits as a person in that district who has similar occupational status and total years of service."

              [[Orig. Op. Page 5]]

Question (1):

             Your first question asks:

             Does chapter 182, Laws of 1980, prohibit a school district from granting as well as accumulating annual leave for illness, injury and emergencies in excess of 12 days per year?

             As amended by § 4, chapter 182, supra, RCW 28A.58.100(2) reads, in relevant part:

             ". . .

             "(c)For certificated and noncertificated employees, annual leave with compensation for illness, injury, and emergencies shall be granted and accrue at a rate not to exceed twelve days per year; . . .

             ". . ."  (Emphasis supplied.)

            Thus, the statute as amended expressly states that a school district cannot grant compensated annual leave for illness, injury and emergencies in excess of twelve days per year.  Where the language of a statute is precise and unambiguous, statutory construction is unnecessary.  Griffin v. Dept. of Social & Health Services, 91 Wn.2d 616, 590 P.2d 816 (1979);Vita Food Products, Inc. v. State, 91 Wn.2d 132, 587 P.2d 535 (1978).

             Arguably, however, this express limitation upon compensated annual leave for illness, injury and emergencies as contained in § 4, chapter 182,supra, conflicts with the following statement in § 5, chapter 182,supra:

             ". . . PROVIDED, That no employee may receive compensation under this section for any portion of leave for illness or injury accumulated at a rate in excess of one day per month."  (Emphasis supplied.)

             This provision could be seen as conferring upon school districts the authority to grant more than one day  [[Orig. Op. Page 6]] per month, or twelve days per year, of compensated leave for illness or injury‑-but we do not believe that a court would so hold.

             Whenever possible, a statute should be construed so as to harmonize and give effect to all its provisions.  Williams v. Pierce County, 13 Wn.App. 755, 758, 537 P.2d 856 (1975).  By its express terms, § 5 relates only to compensation for accumulated annual leave for illness or injury; it does not purport to deal with amount of leave which school districts are authorized to grant.  Accordingly, § 5, chapter 182,supra, does not conflict with the express limits established by § 4, chapter 182, supra, upon the granting of compensated annual leave for illness, injury and emergencies; instead, the two provisions simply relate to different subjects.

           Question (2):

            Your second question asks:

             Does chapter 182, Laws of 1980, prohibit a school district from granting emergency leave separate from leave for illness and injury, and if not, is a school district nevertheless prohibited from limiting the number of days of leave for emergencies to a specific number less than 10 of the required 10 days of leave for illness, injury, and emergencies for a full-time employee?

             We answer both parts of this question in the negative.

             RCW 28A.58.100(2) still grants school districts the general authority to adopt written policies regarding various types of leave, including leave for illness, injury or emergencies.  This general authority is limited only by the proviso contained therein.  A proviso ordinarily acts as a limitation upon or an exception to the general statute to which it is attached.  Jepson v. Dept. of Labor and Industries, 89 Wn.2d 394, 573 P.2d 10 (1977).  And a proviso is also to be strictly construed, with any doubt to be resolved in favor of the general provisions rather than the exceptions.  State v. Wright, 84 Wn.2d 645, 652, 529 P.2d 453 (1974).

              [[Orig. Op. Page 7]]

            The proviso here in question, as amended by § 4, chapter 182,supra, requires, among other things, that employees under contract for a full year be granted not less than ten days nor more than twelve days compensated annual leave for illness, injury and emergencies.  The phrase "illness, injury, and emergencies" is used in the conjunctive.  See, 1A Sutherland,Statutory Construction, § 21.14 (4th Ed. 1972).  Accordingly, the legislature must be deemed to have intended to require school districts to grant some compensated annual leave for each of those three reasons.

             However, although the proviso thus requires all school districts to grant compensated annual leave for illness, injury and emergencies it does not purport to forbid those districts from making emergency leave a separate category from leave for illness and injury.  Accordingly, a school district could adopt a written policy to that effect by virtue of the general authority conferred by RCW 28A.58.100(2),supra.

             In addition, the statute, read as a whole, evidences a legislative intent to allow emergency leave to be treated as a separate category from leave for illness and injury.1/   Pursuant to a 1971 amendment2/ to the proviso to RCW 28A.58.100(2), districts were required to adopt policies granting compensated annual leave for emergencies in addition to leave for illness or injury.  However, in two places, the statute distinguishes between leave for illness or injury and emergency leave.  First, RCW 28A.58.100(2)(d) states:

              [[Orig. Op. Page 8]]

            "(d) Compensation for leave for illness or injury actually taken shall be the same as the compensation such person would have received had such person not taken the leave provided in this proviso;"  (Emphasis supplied.)

              [[Orig. Op. Page 9]]

Likewise, RCW 28A.58.100(2)(g) states:

             "(g) Any leave forinjury or illness accumulated up to a maximum of forty-five days shall be creditable as service rendered for the purpose of determining the time at which an employee is eligible to retire, if such leave is taken it may not be compensated under the provisions of RCW 28A.58.097 and 28A.21.360;"  (Emphasis supplied.)

             Finally, it will also be noted that the attendance incentive program established for school district employees by § 5 of chapter 182, supra, provides for remuneration only for "unused leave for illness or injury."

             It is a fundamental rule of statutory construction that a statute must be construed so as to avoid nullifying or rendering meaningless or superfluous any of its provisions.  Taylor v. Redmond, 89 Wn.2d 315, 319, 571 P.2d 1388 (1977).  To interpret RCW 28A.58.100, as amended by  [[Orig. Op. Page 10]] § 4, chapter 182,supra, as forbidding school districts from differentiating between compensated annual leave for illness or injuries and leave for emergencies would nullify and render meaningless the statutory distinctions between those three categories of leave.  Had the legislature intended to preclude school districts from treating leave for illness or injuries and leave for emergencies as separate categories, it seemingly would not have drawn such distinctions between the two.

             As for the second part of this question, the proviso to RCW 28A.58.100(2) does not forbid a school district from adopting a written policy allotting a specified number of days to emergency leave.  However, since the terms of the proviso require annual leave to be granted for "illness, injury, and emergencies," a district could not allot all of the ten days' annual leave it must grant or the twelve days it is allowed to grant either to emergency leave or to leave for illness or injury.

             Question (3):

             Finally, you have asked:

            If question (2) is answered in the negative, must emergency leave that is granted be limited so that it, together with leave for illness and injury, does not exceed 12 days per year?

             We answer this question in the affirmative.  As noted above, § 4, chapter 182,supra, expressly provides that not more than twelve days of compensated leave can be awarded for illness, injury and emergencies.  Thus, regardless of whether a given school district separates emergency leave from leave for illness and injury, the amount of leave for all three cases cannot exceed twelve days for employees contracted for a full year.

             We trust that the foregoing will be of assistance to you.

 Very truly yours,
SLADE GORTON
Attorney General 

JERALD R. ANDERSON
Assistant Attorney General 

                                                         ***   FOOTNOTES   ***

1/To determine legislative intent, a statute must be read as a whole.  Automobile Drivers & Demonstrators Union Local No. 882 v. Department of Retirement Systems, 92 Wn.2d 415, 598 P.2d 379 (1979). 

2/RCW 28A.58.100(2) was amended by § 1, chapter 203, Laws of 1971, 1st Ex. Sess., in relevant part, as follows: 

            "Every board of directors, unless otherwise specially provided by law, shall:
 

            ". . .

             "(2) Adopt written policies granting leaves to persons under contracts of employment with the school district(s) in positions requiring either certification or noncertification qualifications, including but not limited to leaves for attendance at official or private institutes and conferences and sabbatical leaves for employees in positions requiring certification qualification, and leaves for illness, injury, bereavement and, emergencies for both certificated and noncertificated employees, and with such compensation as the board of directors prescribe:  PROVIDED, That the board of directors shall adopt written policies granting to such persons annual leave with compensation for illness ((and)), injury and emergencies as follows:

             "(a) For such persons under contract with the school district for a full year, at least ten days;

             "(b) For such persons under contract with the school district as part time employees, at least that portion of ten days as the total number of days contracted for bears to one hundred eighty days;

             "(c) Compensation for leave for illness or injury actually taken shall be the same as the compensation such person would have received had such person not taken the leave provided in this proviso;

             "(d) Leave provided in this proviso not taken shall accumulate from year to year up to a maximum of one hundred eighty days, and such accumulated time may be taken at any time during the school year;

             "(e) Sick leave heretofore accumulated under section 1, chapter 195, Laws of 1959 (former RCW 28.58.430) and sick leave accumulated under administrative practice of school districts prior to the effective date of section 1, chapter 195, Laws of 1959 (former RCW 28.58.430) is hereby declared valid, and shall be added to leave for illness or injury accumulated under this provision ((.)):

            "(f) Accumulated leave under this proviso not taken at the time such person retires or ceases to be employed in the public schools shall not be compensableexcept in the following manner:  Any leave for injury or illness accumulated up to a maximum of forty-five days shall be creditable as service rendered for the purpose of determining the time at which an employee is eligible to retire;

". . ."

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