The Q&As for this week focus on the application of PFL to higher education institutions.

Question:  Are private colleges and universities covered by PFL?

Answer:  Yes.  Private colleges and universities are deemed to be covered employers under PFL.  However, if these colleges and universities are not-for-profit organizations, they may be deemed to be covered employers, but may also have some employees who are not covered by PFL.  Specifically, employees engaged in a “professional” or teaching capacity for not-for-profit educational institutions are excluded from the definition of employee under the law.  Certainly, higher education institutions can extend coverage to these exempt classes of individuals if they choose to do so.

Question:  Are state colleges and universities covered by PFL?

AnswerNo, to the extent that such institutions fall within the definition of a “public employer.”  PFL does not apply to public employers, which includes the following entities:  the state, a political subdivision of the state, a public authority, or any other governmental agency or instrumentality.

Question:  Can state colleges and universities voluntarily choose to provide benefits under the PFL law?

Answer:  Yes.  Public employers are permitted to opt in to PFL.  The process for opting in is slightly different for unionized and non-unionized employers.  If a public employer chooses to cover its non-unionized workers, it must provide 90 days’ advance notice of its decision to opt in to not only the WCB, but to all employees who will be required to make PFL contributions.  In order for a public employer to cover/opt in its unionized employees, the public employer must engage in collective bargaining and reach consensus/agreement with the applicable union.  Once an agreement is reached, the employer must notify the WCB that an agreement has been reached and provide certain information to the WCB.

Question:  Are higher education institutions who currently provide voluntary state disability insurance coverage (DBL) to their employees also required to provide PFL?

Answer:  No.  However, if these higher education institutions currently provide voluntary DBL coverage to their employees, they must notify both the employees and the WCB whether they will also provide voluntarily PFL coverage.  Notification must be made by no later than December 1, 2017.

Question:  Are student employees entitled to PFL?

Answer:  Yes, provided they satisfy the requisite eligibility criteria.  Student employees are treated in the same manner as any other employee.  If the student employee is regularly scheduled to work at least 20 hours per week, he/she is eligible to take PFL after he/she has been employed for 26 weeks.  If the student employee is regularly scheduled to work less than 20 hours per week, he/she is eligible to take PFL after working 175 days.

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For more information and updates on PFL, please continue to visit our blog.

If you have any questions about PFL, please contact the authors of this post, any of the attorneys in our Labor and Employment Law Practice, or the Bond attorney with whom you regularly work.