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AGO 1964 No. 98 - April 08, 1964
AGO Opinion Header Image
John J. O'Connell | 1957-1968 | Attorney General of Washington

DISTRICTS ‑- SCHOOLS ‑- SICK LEAVE FOR CERTIFICATED AND NONCERTIFICATED EMPLOYEES ‑- WHEN LEAVE MAY BE TAKEN.

(1) The phrase "contract of employment" as used in subsection 15 of RCW 28.58.100 must be construed to include all contracts of employment whether written or oral in respect to the employment of noncertificated employees.

(2) A full-time noncertificated employee under contract for a full year is entitled to ten days' sick leave at the beginning of the year, subject to rules and regulations of the board as to the manner of proof of illness or injury.

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

                                                                    April 8, 1964

Honorable Louis Bruno
State Superintendent of Public Instruction
Old Capitol Building
Olympia, Washington

                                                                                                                Cite as:  AGO 63-64 No. 98

Dear Sir:

            By letter previously acknowledged you have requested an opinion of this office upon certain questions relating to subsection (15), § 1, chapter 104, Laws of 1963 (RCW 28.58.100).  We have paraphrased your questions as follows:

            1. Does the phrase "contracts of employment," as used in subsection (15), include both written and oral contracts?

            2. Is a noncertificated employee under contract for a full year entitled to ten days sick leave at the beginning of the year?

            We answer your questions as explained in the analysis.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            Section 1, chapter 104, Laws of 1963 (cf. RCW 28.58.100), provides in part:

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

            ". . .

            "(15) Adopt such rules and regulations as the board deems necessary or advisable in regard to  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] granting leaves to persons undercontracts of employment with the school district(s) in positions requiring either certification or noncertification qualifications, including leaves for attendance at official or private institutes and conferences and sabbatical leaves for employees in positions requiring certification qualification, and leaves for illness and injury and bereavement for both certified and noncertified employees, and with such compensation as the board of directors prescribe: Provided, That the board of directors shall adopt rules and regulations granting to such persons annual leave with compensation for illness and injury 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 (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 (RCW 28.58.430) is hereby declared valid, and shall be added to leave for illness or injury accumulated under this proviso;

             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            "(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 compensable;

            "(g) accumulated leave under this proviso shall not be transferable from one district to another;

            "(h) 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."  (Emphasis supplied.)

            Question (1):

            It is pointed out in comment (c) § 1, of the Restatement of Contracts that the word "contract" is often used to express (1) the acts which create the legal relationship between the parties; (2) a writing which, if not itself such an act, is the evidence of such acts; and (3) the legal relations resulting from the operative acts.  It is apparent that all persons employed by a school district are under contract in the sense that there are legal relationships established from operative acts, which relationships the law will enforce.  In other words, teachers in positions requiring certification and employment by written contract (RCW 28.67.070) and custodians in positions not requiring certification and not employed by written contract must both be considered having "contracts of employment" with the district.

            Therefore, in terms of legal analysis, the phrase "contracts of employment" in its literal sense must include all contracts of employment whether written or oral.  However, if the literal import of the words is not consistent with legislative intent or leads to absurd results, the literal meaning should be modified by the intention of the legislature.  Groves v. Meyers, 35 Wn.2d 403, 213 P.2d 483 (1950).

            The practical inquiry seems to begin with a consideration of the whole statute.  A statute is passed as a whole and in construing it, the cardinal object of the whole statute must control and all phrases or parts must be interpreted harmoniously.  DeGrief v. Seattle, 50 Wn.2d 1, 297 P.2d 940 (1956).  A brief legal history of the statutes leading up to the present statute is an aid which our court has recognized and used upon several occasions to determine the object or purpose of a statute.  State ex rel. Evans  [[Orig. Op. Page 4]] v. Brotherhood, Etc., 41 Wn.2d 133, 153, 247 P.2d 787 (1952);State ex rel. Bugge v. Martin, 38 Wn.2d 834, 840, 232 P.2d 833 (1951).

            The power of a school district to grant leaves of absence to teachers under certain conditions has been inferentially recognized by this office upon several occasions.  However, the first specific enactment relating to a school district sick leave policy was passed during the 1959 legislative session.  Chapter 195, Laws of 1959, provided:

            "Every person under contract for a full school year with a school district in a position requiring certification qualification shall be entitled to ten days annual leave of absence for illness or injury.  Sick leave not taken shall be accumulated from year to year up to a maximum of one hundred eighty days.

            "A certified employee, under contract as a part-time employee, shall be entitled to that proportion of ten days leave of absence for illness or injury as the total number of days contracted bears to one hundred and eighty days.  Pay for any period of absence shall be the same as the pay the employee would have received by contract for such period of absence.

            "The contracted sick leave for any school year plus any sick leave previously accumulated may be taken at any time during the school year.

            "The board of directors of each school district shall adopt rules and regulations requiring and prescribing the manner of proof of illness or injury for the purposes of this section:  Provided, A grant of sick leave in excess of five consecutive days must be verified by written statement from a physician."

            It should be noted that this 1959 version only applied to leaves of absence for illness or injury (see, AGO 59-60 No. 62 [[to Lloyd J. Andrews, Superintendent of Public Instruction on August 24, 1959]]) and applied only tocertificated personnel.

            Then in 1961, the legislature repealed chapter 195, Laws of 1959,supra, and amended RCW 28.58.100 by adding substantially the same provisions as those contained in the 1959 enactment.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 5]]

            RCW 28.58.100 then read in pertinent part as follows:

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

            "(15) Adopt such rules and regulations as the board deems necessary or advisable in regard to granting leaves to persons under contracts of employment with the school district(s) in positions requiring certification qualification, including leaves for attendance at official or private institutes and conferences, sabbatical leaves, and leaves for illness and injury and bereavement, and with such compensation as the board of directors prescribe:  Provided, That the board of directors shall adopt rules and regulations granting to such persons annual leave with compensation for illness and injury 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 (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  [[Orig. Op. Page 6]] of 1959 (RCW 28.58.430) is hereby declared valid, and shall be added to leave for illness or injury accumulated under this proviso;

            "(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 compensable;

            "(g) accumulated leave under this proviso shall not be transferable from one district to another;

            "(h) 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."

            The 1961 version again only applied to certificated personnel, but enlarged the area within which leaves could be granted and spelled out in greater detail the manner in which they would be allowed.

            Chapter 104, Laws of 1963, supra, amended chapter 66, Laws of 1961, (RCW 28.58.100) above in only one respect.  Instead of applying only to certificated personnel it was amended to apply to "persons under contracts of employment with the school district in positions requiring either certification or noncertification qualifications."

            This brief review of the history of sick leave law indicates quite clearly that the 1963 legislature intended to broaden the coverage to include all school district personnel who meet the other conditions of the statute.  Thus the object of the whole statute is to put all personnel upon an equal basis as far as sick leave is concerned, with certain differentiations to be made between part-time employees and employees under contract with the district for a full year.

            As you have noted in your letter certain noncertificated personnel are employed without the benefit of individual written contracts.  This, of course, is typical in regard to the type of employee involved not only in school districts but in all fields of employment.  To construe the term "contracts of employment" to mean only written contracts would subvert the obvious legislative intent by again making RCW 28.58.100 (15) applicable only to certificated personnel.

            Therefore, we conclude that the literal meaning of the phrase  [[Orig. Op. Page 7]] "contracts of employment" is consistent with the legislative intent and must be construed to include all contracts of employment whether written or oral.

            Question (2):

            For ease of reading, we restate your second question as follows:

            Is a noncertificated employee under contract for a full year with a school district entitled to ten days' sick leave at the beginning of the school year?

            We understand your question does not refer to those employees who have accumulated ten or more days' of sick leave by virtue of prior employment.  Rather, you refer to new employees or old employees who have not accumulated any sick leave through their prior service.

            As pointed out above, the 1963 session of the legislature expanded the coverage of the school district sick leave statute to include noncertificated employees.  Your second question, then, is whether the noncertificated employee who is under contract (either oral or written) with the district for a full year, is entitled (assuming illness or injury) to take his sick leave at the beginning of the school year or whether the board of directors may by rule and regulation establish a policy whereby such employees must earn one or more sick leave days during the school year.

            Section 1, chapter 104, Laws of 1963 (cf. RCW 28.58.100) provides in so far as pertinent to this question as follows:

            ". . .Provided, That the board of directors shall adopt rules and regulations granting to such persons annual leave with compensation for illness and injury 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;" (Emphasis supplied.)

             [[Orig. Op. Page 8]]

            Our court has said the primary rule when construing statutes is to ascertain and give effect to the intent of the legislature which enacted the statute.  Public Hosp. Dist. v. Taxpayers, 44 Wn.2d 623, 269 P.2d 594 (1954);Graffell v. Honeysuckle, 30 Wn.2d 390, 191 P.2d 858 (1948).  In arriving at the intent of the legislative body, the first resort of the courts is to the context and subject matter of the legislation because the intention of the lawmakers is to be deduced therefrom if possible.  Hatzenbuhler v. Harrison, 49 Wn.2d 691, 306 P.2d 745 (1957); Driscoll v. Bremerton, 48 Wn.2d 95, 291 P.2d 642 (1955).

            From the "face of the act" quoted above, it is obvious that the legislature contemplated only that part-time employees of the school district (i.e., employees not under contract with the district for a full year) would "earn" days of sick leave based upon the days worked during the school year.  It is our opinion that the legislature intended that each certificated and noncertificated employee of a school district who is under contract for the full year would be entitled to at least ten days' sick leave at any time during the school year, subject to reasonable rules and regulations established by the district to establish proof of illness or injury.  Any other construction of the act could possible place the employee under contract for a full year in the same position as a part-time employee in so far as the availability of sick leave is concerned.

            Furthermore, if resort be had to the legislative history of the sick leave law, we feel that added support is found for the conclusion stated above.

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

Very truly yours,

JOHN J. O'CONNELL
Attorney General

BRUCE W. COHOE
Assistant Attorney General

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