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For quite some times this question has popped up to my mind. In many jobs, you can take paid leave for some days. As a PhD student (F1-visa) in US, I am being supported by the department in the form teaching assistantship (TA) . Is there a provision for taking paid leave for TAs?

  • This question is going to be too specific since it will vary by school. Also, depending on what you mean by "paid leave", you may need to talk with immigration (studyinthestates.dhs.gov/maintaining-your-status) – virmaior Jul 31 '15 at 1:23
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    My guess would be in the vast majority of universities in the US it is not possible for graduate students to take "paid leave" when on teaching assistantship as the money is specifically tied to the performance of specific teaching related duties. – virmaior Jul 31 '15 at 1:24
  • It isn't clear exactly what kind of leave the OP is asking about (sick leave? parental or other family leave? vacation time?) – Brian Borchers Jul 31 '15 at 1:33
  • Teaching assistants are not recognized as workers by the US Labor Dept, so no right for form unions, no paid leaves. Of course many schools exploit graduate students who sometimes end up doing lots of the teaching or lab work. – Dr Pangloss Jul 31 '15 at 1:36
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    Some universities' teaching assistants have unionized, e.g. U Wisconsin - Madison. – aparente001 Jul 31 '15 at 4:16
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In the program I directed for many years, there was no provision for TAs to take paid leave. They could take unpaid leave.

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    This is my experience too- TA's are expected to fulfill their academic duties (teaching, office hours, etc.) and don't accrue sick leave or vacation like regular staff. – Brian Borchers Jul 31 '15 at 1:31
  • Exactly. They are not full employees. – ewormuth Jul 31 '15 at 1:34
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It depends on what you mean by "paid leave," as this can mean more than one thing in the context in which you are using it:

  • If be "paid leave" you mean "a few weeks of paid vacation time for going on holiday", most universities will give you 2-3 weeks formally, plus holidays. The holidays may be substantial (e.g., including a week for thanksgiving, another for winter break, plus two weeks for winter holidays), or they may be much more minimal. The de facto expectations, however, vary wildly between faculty members.
  • If by "paid leave" you mean "continue being paid while taking time off to deal with a major life event, such as having a child, caring for a dying relative, or long-term illness" then neither the US government nor most employers support this. This can be a big shock for people from other countries where such support is guaranteed and assumed. The Family and Medical Leave Act does provide for up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave, but I do not know how that interacts with an F1 visa.
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    Part time employees (and that would include graduate student TA/RA's who are typically paid for 20 hours per week of work) aren't covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act. – Brian Borchers Jul 31 '15 at 1:37
  • @BrianBorchers This is not necessarily true, and seems to depend on the university, and whether it interprets the 20 hours/week as "half time" or as "full time, with 20 hours/week defined responsibilities." Many also extend benefits beyond the bare minimum requirements, e.g., this Oregon State policy – jakebeal Jul 31 '15 at 1:52
  • Oregon State seems to have decided to give this benefit to their student employees, but that doesn't change the fact that under the law employers aren't required to provide FMLA benefits to part time employees. In my experience most universities don't give FMLA benefits to TA's. – Brian Borchers Jul 31 '15 at 2:01

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