Case of teacher's denied maternity leave due to summer birth goes before Illinois Supreme Court

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Thursday, January 23, 2020
Wood Dale teacher says school district denied maternity leave because child born on summer break
A Wood Dale teacher said her request to use sick time for maternity leave after the birth of her daughter was denied because of summer break.

WOOD DALE, Ill. -- The Illinois Supreme Court heard a case Wednesday in which a teacher claims her maternity leave was denied by her school district after giving birth to her daughter the day before school let out.

Teachers at Wood Dale's Westview Elementary School can take sick leave after the birth of a child in accordance with the Illinois School Code. But Margaret Dynak claims Wood Dale School District 7 did not allow her to take her sick leave because her baby was born during summer break.

"I felt very surprised and, at first, in shock at what the response was from the district," she said.

"It shouldn't matter when you have the baby," said Bridget Shanahan, spokeswoman for the Illinois Education Association. "You should be able to use the days that you've earned."

The IEA represents educators throughout the state of Illinois. Wednesday their attorneys will argue on Dynak's behalf before the Illinois Supreme Court that a "public school teacher has the use 30 days of accumulated paid sick leave...following the birth of her child."

Lower courts have sided with the Wood Dale School District.

Andrew Challenger, vice president at outplacement firm Challenger Gray & Christmas, said family leave is a hot topic among his clients. In terms of employer trends, he said more businesses are adding family leave to help with the bottom line.

"There's some studies that show women are more likely to come back to a job after parental leave if it was paid parental leave, and that helps companies build bottom lines, and allows them to continue to have more diverse workforces," he said.

But the superintendent of Wood Dale District 7 claims Dynak "was not denied any time off she requested in connection with the birth of her children."

"The question in this case is whether paid sick leave is available for use four months after the birth of the child when neither the teacher, spouse, or child present a medical issue that requires the teacher be absent," the superintendent said in a statement. "While the legislature is free to change the law, and the union is free to bargain for such a benefit, the present law does not support Ms. Dynak's claim to paid parental leave, as the lower courts have held."

The IEA said the Illinois Supreme Court is expected to make their ruling in two to three months.

The child at the center of Dynak's lawsuit is now almost four years old. She had another child who was also born in summer; she said she was denied using sick days again, but both times took unpaid time off to be with her newborns.