School Employment

Joseph Maya selected to 2022 Edition of Best Lawyers in America

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

Westport, CT

 

Maya Murphy, P.C. is pleased to announce that Joseph Maya has been included in the 2022 edition of The Best Lawyers in America®. Since it was first published in 1983, Best Lawyers has become universally regarded as the definitive guide to legal excellence.

Joseph Maya, a Connecticut and New York-based litigation attorney, was recognized in The Best Lawyers in America© 2022 edition. He has been rated Best Lawyers in America and ranks among the top private practice attorneys nationwide. Attorneys listed in this edition of The Best Lawyers in America were selected after an exhaustive peer-review survey that confidentially investigates the professional abilities and experience of each lawyer. Recognition in Best Lawyers® is widely regarded by both clients and legal professionals as a significant honor.

Mr. Maya has been practicing law in Connecticut for more than 25 years. He has been a licensed attorney in New York for more than 30 years.

“Best Lawyers was founded in 1981 with the purpose of highlighting the extraordinary accomplishments of those in the legal profession,” said Best Lawyers CEO Phillip Greer. “We are proud to continue to serve as the most reliable, unbiased source of legal referrals worldwide.”

Lawyers on The Best Lawyers in America list are divided by geographic region and practice areas. They are reviewed by their peers based on professional expertise, and undergo an authentication process to make sure they are in current practice and in good standing.

 

Maya Murphy, P.C. has offices in Westport, CT and New York City. For additional information on Joseph Maya or Maya Murphy, P.C., please visit its website at https://mayalaw.com, or call 203-221-3100.

 

What Is the Law Controlling Drug Testing in the Workplace or in Public Schools in Connecticut?

Among employees there are a variety of times in which they may legally be drug tested in the workplace.  Employees are often tested prior to being hired to prevent employers from hiring people who use illegal drugs.  After an employee is hired, if an employee’s supervisor has reasonable suspicion that the employee is under the influence of drugs or alcohol, they may test the employee for illegal drug use.  Employees in a workplace may also be tested post-accident to determine whether drugs or alcohol contributed to the event.  Lastly, employers may choose to conduct random testing to deter drug use.  However, Connecticut law prohibits private-sector employers from requiring employees to undergo random drug tests.  An employer must have a reasonable suspicion that the employee is under the influence of drugs or alcohol that is affecting, or could affect, his job performance before he may require a test.

State and municipal employees are not covered by the state law that prohibits random drug testing, however they are protected by the Fourth Amendment which prohibits the government from carrying out unreasonable searches.  The Supreme Court has ruled that urine tests are searches and that the Fourth Amendment applies to governments acting as employers.

Federal law and regulations also require the operators of commercial vehicles over a certain size, to undergo drug tests before they are hired, after serious incidents, and when there is a reasonable suspicion.   In the private sector, pre-employment drug testing is fairly common.

There are no federal or state statutes that cover drug testing of students in public schools.  Students do not have the same level of constitutional rights as adults however.  A 2002 Supreme Court decisions permits schools to conduct random drug testing of students who participate in extracurricular activities, but drug testing cannot be a condition for attending school.

If you have any questions regarding employment law in Connecticut, please contact Joseph C. Maya, Esq. at (203) 221-3100 or e-mail him directly at JMaya@Mayalaw.com.

Milford Teacher and Coach Accused of Assaulting Student

Via WFSB CT: MILFORD, CT

A Milford teacher is under arrest after being accused of placing a student in a headlock. Mark Ruzbarsky, a math teacher at Jonathan Law High School, was taken into custody July 3 on an arrest warrant. Police said Ruzbarsky, who is in his fourth year as a math teacher at Jonathan Law High School, was accused of restraining the unidentified student by the neck during a class at the school.

The incident reportedly happened during an algebra class in February, and Ruzbarsky was charged late last week. He said he didn’t mean to hurt the student and that it was all meant in fun. “I think that’s absolutely awful,” said Courtney Luciana of Milford. Milford police said Ruzbarsky was teaching the algebra class last February when he noticed a 15-year-old student wasn’t completing his classwork. That’s when investigators said he grabbed the student’s arm, and according to an arrest “Ruzbarsky then squeezed his neck and pushed his head down,” and the victim told police the headlock lasted about one second and that he could not breathe.

“It’s OK for teachers to play around with their students here and there but I don’t believe in putting their hands on a child whatsoever is OK,” said Luciana. Seconds after the alleged headlock, the victim told police that Ruzbarsky did it again and this time “he couldn’t breathe for approximately five seconds.” Ruzbarsky told police that it was all in good fun since “the victim raised his head and smiled at him.” Later that day, the student told a guidance counselor “his neck hurt when he touched it and he did have minor scrapes on his neck,” the warrant said.

William B. Westcott of Maya Murphy in Westport, Ruzbarsky’s lawyer, said his client had nothing to hide and released this statement:

“He placed his hands on a student’s shoulders during math class in an effort to do nothing more than engage the student’s attention. Mr. Ruzbarsky was attempting to be boisterous and brotherly in his approach. He was not angry with the student for any reason, nor was he meaning to discipline the student in any way. Mr. Ruzbarsky was both shocked and distraught when he learned only later in the day that he had made the student feel self-conscious and uncomfortable. It is important to note that Mr. Ruzbarsky was quickly returned to work after the school conducted its own investigation, even though the school was aware that this arrest would be forthcoming. It is apparent that the colleagues and administrators who personally know Mark Ruzbarsky are confident he poses no threat whatsoever to the students he supervises and educates.”

25955558_BG3

Ruzbarsky, who is also the assistant wrestling coach at Jonathan Law High School, was charged with third-degree assault and second-degree breach of peace. The Milford school system would not comment on the case, but it did say that Ruzbarsky remained an employee.

Police said he is due in court July 29.

The original report on the incident can be found at the following link: http://www.wfsb.com/story/25955558/milford-teacher-arrested-for-assaulting-student

Deliberate Indifference Required for School to be Liable under Title IX for Student-Student Harassment

In a New York District decision earlier this year, a student’s cause of action under Title IX of the Civil Rights Act against the Monroe-Woodbury School District was denied because it did not show deliberate indifference in response to the student’s claim of student-to-student sexual harassment.[1]

Parents on behalf of their fifteen year old daughter brought suit against Monroe–Woodbury Central School District pursuant to Title IX of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, alleging that she was deprived of an educational environment free from sexual harassment as required by federal law.

Beginning in January 2010, when she was in the eighth grade, the student was subjected to teasing, taunting, and physical bullying by other students, which she reported to her guidance counselor.  She was sexually assaulted by a male classmate who requested a handjob and subsequently ran her  hands over the genital area of his pants and attempted to shove her hands down his pants.[2] As a result of the incident, the student alleges that she was subjected to more taunting and name-calling by other students and in response began to engage in self- injurious behavior by cutting herself. When she began attending Monroe–Woodbury High School in September, another student and friend of the first continued to harass her and in November sexually assaulted her by pinning her against a locker and pushing his hands down her pants and blouse, touching her genital area and breast.[3]  The student began missing school frequently to avoid continued harassment.  At some point she confided in her guidance counselor that her absenteeism and self-injurious behavior was the result of the persistent teasing and the two incidents of sexual assault by her classmates.[4]

The School District recommended that she attend the GO Program, an out-of-district academic program, to which her parents agreed. After her first day there, CF reported to her parents that she was uncomfortable with this placement because the students there were “in many cases, not attending their regular high schools due to serious disciplinary records and incidents.”[5] When her parents again met with the principal, they requested that their daughter be transferred to another public school to continue her high school education.  The principal refused saying there were no other options besides the GO program.[6]

The parent brought suit alleging the school failed to: (1) initiate an investigation upon the parents’ verbal complaint; (2) conduct a prompt, equitable, and thorough investigation of the charges; (3) ensure that immediate corrective action be taken, including subjecting the offending individuals to appropriate disciplinary measures; and (4) inform CF of her right to pursue legal remedies.

Title IX of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 states that “[n]o person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” 20 U.S.C. § 1681(a)[7]. Title IX contains an implied private right of action for plaintiffs who bring suit against educational institutions that receive federal funding, and liability may be imposed upon a school district if it is found to be in violation of this law.

Title IX funding recipients may be held liable for student-on-student harassment if the plaintiff can establish damages only where the school district: (1) was deliberately indifferent; (2) to sexual harassment; (3) of which it had actual knowledge; (4) that was so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive that it deprived the victim of access to the educational opportunities or benefits provided by the school.[8] A showing of deliberate indifference requires that the school had actual knowledge of the sexual harassment and either responded in a “clearly unreasonable manner in light of the known circumstances,”[9] or responded with remedial action only after a “lengthy and unjustified delay.”[10]

The Court rejected the plaintiff’s assertions that the GO Program was an “inappropriate” placement for her because it did not provide her with a “regular high school environment.” Saying even if it was inappropriate, “Title IX simply does not require recipient school districts to provide students with a ‘regular high school environment.’ Title IX does not prescribe any particular educational experience at all. Rather, Title IX merely prohibits schools from excluding anyone, on the basis of sex, from participating in an educational program that receives federal assistance; or denying the benefits of such programs on the basis of sex; or subjecting anyone in such programs to discrimination on the basis of sex.”[11]  Finding that the school did not cause the discrimination and the School District took some remedial action (not clearly unreasonable under the circumstances) in response to the student’s complaints, the Court dismissed the action.

Bullying and harassment in school should never be tolerated.  The lawyers at Maya Murphy, P.C., are experienced and knowledgeable education law practitioners and assist clients in New York, Bridgeport, Darien, Fairfield, Greenwich, New Canaan, Norwalk, Stamford, Westport, and elsewhere in Fairfield County. Should you have any questions about bullying, student harassment, school liability or any other matter, please do not hesitate to contact Attorney Joseph C. Maya, Esq. He may be reached at Maya Murphy, P.C., 266 Post Road East, Westport, Connecticut, by telephone at (203) 221-3100, or by email at JMaya@mayalaw.com.


[1] KF ex rel. CF v. Monroe Woodbury Cent. Sch. Dist., 12 CIV. 2200 ER, 2013 WL 177911 (S.D.N.Y. Jan. 16, 2013)

[2] Compl.¶¶ 10-11

[3] Compl.¶¶ 12-13

[4] Id.

[5] Compl.¶¶ 14

[6] Id.

[7] Title IX of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 20 U.S.C. § 1681(a)

[8] Williams v. Bd. of Regents of the Univ. Sys. of Georgia, 477 F.3d 1282, 1293 (11th Cir.2007)

[10] Hayut v. State Univ. of N.Y., 352 F.3d 733, 751 (2d Cir.2003)

[11] KF ex rel. CF v. Monroe Woodbury Cent. Sch. Dist.

 

Hurdles Employees Must Jump in Filing a Claim for Unlawful Discrimination

Here in Connecticut and across the nation, employees from all walks of life routinely face unlawful discriminatory practices and treatment in the workplace. Depending on the nature of the claim, he or she may file civil lawsuits under Title VII (which prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, and national origin) or the Connecticut Fair Employment Practices Act (CFEPA).

However, employees need to keep in mind that before they seek recourse with the courts, they must first exhaust all of their administrative remedies. “The exhaustion requirement exists to afford the administrative agency the opportunity to investigate, mediate, and take remedial action.”[1] Failure to do so will result in dismissal of the case (see, for example, this previously-discussed case).

Furthermore, employees must pay attention to statutory time restrictions for filing administrative charges under Title VII and CFEPA:

To sustain a claim for unlawful discrimination under Title VII in a deferral state such as Connecticut, a plaintiff must file administrative charges with the EEOC [Equal Employment Opportunities Commission] within 300 days of the alleged discriminatory acts.[2] … CFEPA requires that a complainant file the administrative charge with the CCHRO [Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities] within 180 days of the alleged discriminatory act.[3]

Courts are particularly cognizant of these requirements and endorse “strict adherence… [as] the best guarantee of the evenhanded administration of the law.”[4] As a result, the time bar will begin running for each individual adverse employment action against the employee on the date it occurred. Failure to timely file a claim may prevent it from being reviewed by the EEOC or CCHRO.

However, employees often endure discriminatory practices over a prolonged period of time, so even if alleged conduct falls outside of the charging period, it may be reviewable. An important exception to strict adherence is the continuing violation exception, which involves incidents occurring both within and outside the time bar. A continuing violation occurs “where there is proof of specific ongoing discriminatory policies or practices, or where specific and related instances of discrimination are permitted by the employer to continue unremedied for so long as to amount to a discriminatory policy or practice.”[5]

As an employee, it is imperative that you understand Connecticut’s statutory scheme surrounding hiring, evaluation, and termination processes, as well as the requirements for filing a lawsuit under State and federal anti-discrimination law. The attorneys at Maya Murphy, P.C., assist clients in Bridgeport, Darien, Fairfield, Greenwich, New Canaan, Norwalk, Stamford, and Westport. If you have any questions regarding any employment law matter, please do not hesitate to contact Attorney Joseph C. Maya. He may be reached at Maya Murphy, P.C., 266 Post Road East, Westport, Connecticut (located in Fairfield County), by telephone at (203) 221-3100, or by email at JMaya@mayalaw.com.


[1] Stewart v. United States Immigration and Naturalization Service, 762 F.2d 193, 198 (2d. Cir. 1985).

[2] Flaherty v. Metromail Corp., 235 F.3d 133, 136 n.1 (2d Cir. 2000).

[3] Connecticut General Statutes § 46a-82e.

[4] Mohasco Corp. v. Silver, 447 U.S. 807, 826 (1980).

[5] Cornwell v. Robinson, 23 F.3d 694, 704 (2d Cir. 1994).

Tenured Teacher’s Wrongful Termination Claims Dismissed for Failure to Exhaust Administrative Remedies

This past June, the Superior Court of Connecticut, Judicial District of Stamford-Norwalk at Stamford granted a school district’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit by a terminated teacher, who claimed he was fired because of his disability. Rather than reaching the merits of the case, the Court stated it lacked jurisdiction. This case illuminates the importance for teachers and staff to first exhaust all administrative remedies, including enumerated appeals processes, before seeking recourse with the courts.

The teacher was a tenured physical education teacher at a public middle school in Norwalk when he allegedly became the target of continuous, inappropriate harassment and threats made by the school principal. The teacher sought therapy and was diagnosed with a chronic traumatic stress disorder, and the licensed therapist suggested that he seek reassignment to another school district. The teacher informed the school district of this recommendation, though he was denied a transfer to a physical education teacher position at another school within the district. Approximately one year later, the teacher was discharged and filed a lawsuit, alleging, in part, wrongful termination on the basis of mental disability discrimination.

The school district filed a motion to dismiss these counts, arguing that the teacher “failed to exhaust his administrative and statutory remedies pursuant to the Teacher Tenure Act, General Statutes § 10-151.”[1] Therefore, the school district argued, the court did not have subject matter jurisdiction to adjudicate the teacher’s claims. The teacher countered that a § 10-151 was not the only remedy he could seek: rather, he could bring his wrongful discharge course of action under the Connecticut Fair Employment Practices Act, or CFEPA. In addition, the teacher asserted that exhaustion was not required because “it would have been futile for him to pursue his claims with the board of education.”[2]

Connecticut courts have consistently found that “[a] tenured teacher’s challenge of an allegedly wrongful discharge, is governed by and limited to the statutory appeal process provided by § 10-151(e)… Thus, the plaintiff cannot pursue a separate tort claim for wrongful discharge. Instead, she is limited by the available administrative remedies under § 10-151.”[3] Thus, a court will not have jurisdiction unless the tenured teacher exhausted his administrative remedies or an exception to the exhaustion doctrine applies.[4]

The administrative remedies of § 10-151 can be outlined as follows:

  1. Prior to termination: written notice that termination is being considered must be given to the tenured teacher
  2. Within 7 days of receipt of notice in #1: teacher must file written request asking for reasons for termination
  3. Within 7 days of receipt of request in #2: written statement outlining the reasons must be supplied to the tenured teacher
  4. Within 20 days of receipt of statement from #3: teacher must file a written request for a hearing
  5. Within 15 days of receipt of request in #4: the hearing must be held

After the teacher received the written statement with the reasons for termination, he did not file a written request for a hearing. He asserted that he was:

[A]dvised by my attorney that the Norwalk [t]eachers [u]nion [p]resident, who was about to retire, was unsupportive of teachers in the [s]chool [d]istrict and would not assist them in termination hearings, would not bring grievances on their behalf and would not cooperate in terms of designating a teacher representative to the impartial hearing panel. Thus, I was advised by [my attorney] that a hearing pursuant to [s]ection 10-151(d) would be futile.[5]

However, the Court was not persuaded on the teacher’s futility claim, which is a valid exception the exhaustion rule, because he failed to demonstrate that it “would have been futile for him to request a § 10-151(d) hearing.” The purpose of this hearing is “to resolve the question of whether any of the asserted grounds for termination is supported by the evidence adduced at the hearing.”[6] In this case, “if the plaintiff had requested the hearing afforded to him pursuant to § 10-151(d), he could have presented evidence demonstrating that the defendants sought to fire him for an illegal and discriminatory reason.”[7] Therefore, his tactical decision amounted to a deliberate decision to not avail himself of the statutory recourse available to him, and “[h]is failure to request a hearing and to pursue his available remedies is thus fatal to his present cause of action.”[8] The Superior Court thus granted the school district’s motion to dismiss the wrongful discharge claims.

As a teacher, it is imperative that you understand Connecticut’s statutory scheme surrounding hiring, evaluation, and termination processes. Should you have any questions regarding these or other education law matters, you should seek the counsel of an experienced school law practitioner. Please do not hesitate to contact Attorney Joseph C. Maya, Esq. He may be reached at Maya Murphy, P.C., 266 Post Road East, Westport, Connecticut (located in Fairfield County), by telephone at (203) 221-3100, or by email at JMaya@mayalaw.com.

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.


[1] Diaco v. Norwalk Public School District, 2012 Conn. Super. LEXIS 1544 at 6.

[2] Id. at 12.

[3] Tomlinson v. Board of Education, 226 Conn. 704, 730 (1993).

[4] Mendillo v. Board of Education, 246 Conn. 456, 464 (1998); Niestemki v. Ramos, Superior Court, Judicial District of Fairfield, Docket No. CV 06-5001386 (November 20, 2008, Bellis, J.)

[5] Id. at 21, n.8.

[6] Mendillo v. Board of Education, supra. 246 Conn. 468-69.

[7] Diaco v. Norwalk Public School District, supra, 2012 Conn. Super. LEXIS 1544 at 22.

[8] LaCroix v. Board of Education, 199 Conn. 70, 83-84 (1986).

Tenured Teacher Suffering Numerous Physical, Psychological Ailments Properly Dismissed

In a recent matter heard in front of the Superior Court of Connecticut in New Haven, a tenured teacher unsuccessfully appealed a school board’s (Board) decision to terminate her employment. The Court determined that the Board’s decision was not arbitrary or capricious, but rather was based upon sufficient evidence.

The plaintiff was a music teacher for many years, but suffered from numerous physical and psychological medical problems that interfered with her performance abilities as an educator. As a result, “she was frequently absent from work not only on a short-term basis, but also for significantly longer periods as a result of several extended leaves of absence which she sought and the Board granted.” However, despite such numerous and extensive accommodations, the plaintiff’s problems only seemed to worsen. For example:

  • She was often characterized as unfocused; disoriented; dazed; confused; exhausted; zoned out; overwhelmed; and “zombie-like.”
  • She had “difficulty leading… [her students] in an organized and flowing manner,” and frequently delegated duties and responsibilities to her paraprofessional, who was not qualified to perform such tasks (i.e. grading, planning, etc.).
  • On more than one occasion, she attempted to dismiss her classroom early due to confusion about schedules or her inability to control misbehaving students.
  • A psychiatrist indicated that the plaintiff had deficits in memory and executive functioning, which would interfere with her ability to perform essential tasks for her position.

Due to the frequency of complaints from parents and students regarding the plaintiff’s conduct, the Board initiated procedure to terminate the plaintiff’s employment, pursuant to Connecticut General Statutes § 10-151(d). It ultimately cited two reasons for termination: 1) “disability, as shown by competent medical evidence” and 2) “[for] other due and sufficient cause.” The plaintiff appealed this decision to the Superior Court, arguing that the decision was “arbitrary and capricious” because there was no evidence to support the reasons given.

When a court considers a teacher’s appeal claiming unlawful termination, it applies the substantial evidence rule, a standard of review similar to that used in assessing jury verdicts in criminal trials. In essence, the court must decide whether the Board’s decision was supported by the evidence presented before it: “evidence is sufficient to sustain an agency finding if it affords a substantial basis of fact from which the fact in issue can be reasonably inferred.”

In this case, the Superior Court agreed with the Board: there was sufficient evidence to support both reasons given for termination. Simply based on the psychiatrist’s testimony regarding the plaintiff’s inability to perform at least four major responsibilities in her classroom, the termination was amply supported – however, the additional testimony only bolstered the Board’s decision. The court was not convinced that previous accommodations granted by the Board “compel[ed] the Board to offer additional and potentially limitless future accommodations,” for such concessions appeared ineffectual. Therefore, the Court dismissed the plaintiff’s appeal.

If you have any questions regarding education law matters, please do not hesitate to contact Attorney Joseph C. Maya at the Maya Murphy, P.C. Westport location in Fairfield County at (203) 221-3100 or at JMaya@mayalaw.com.

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.

Considering Teacher Evaluation Under Connecticut Law

On Sunday night, the Chicago Teacher’s Union called for a strike that lasted this entire week, stemming from disagreements over such negotiable employment terms as teacher evaluations. As Katherine Wojtecki explained, “Teachers are concerned about job security in the wake of a new program that evaluates them based on their students’ standardized test scores” that had the potential to leave thousands of teachers without jobs.[1]

Presently, Connecticut law governing teachers is rather extensive and goes into particular detail regarding employment, tenure, and notice and hearing on failure to renew or termination of contracts. See Connecticut General Statutes (C.G.S.) § 10-151. The process of evaluating teacher performance, particularly in light of the potential pitfalls as seen in Chicago, had already become a focal point of legislation in this State. At the present time, Connecticut law requires continuous evaluation of school teachers by every district, taking into consideration more factors than mere test results: 1) teacher strengths; 2) areas that need improvement; 3) improvement strategy indicators; and 4) numerous measures of student academic growth.[2]

By July 1, 2013, the State Board of Education “must develop new model teacher evaluation program guidelines for using multiple indicators of student academic growth.”[3] In addition, public schools will be required to collect data not just on mastery test scores but also students and teachers themselves. This data will then be used when evaluating student performance and growth. Teacher data that must be collected is articulated in C.G.S. § 10-10a:

(i)                  Teacher credentials, such as master’s degrees, teacher preparation programs completed and certification levels and endorsement areas

(ii)                Teacher assessments, such as whether a teacher is deemed highly qualified pursuant to the No Child Left Behind Act, P.L. 107-110, or deemed to meet such other designations as may be established by federal law or regulations for the purposes of tracking the equitable distribution of instructional staff

(iii)              The presence of substitute teachers in a teacher’s classroom

(iv)               Class size

(v)                 Numbers relating to absenteeism in a teacher’s classroom

(vi)               The presence of a teacher’s aide

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.

For more information regarding statutory requirements that govern teacher layoffs and evaluations, please follow this link, which provides a summary produced by the Office of Legislative Research. Should you have any questions about teacher evaluations or other education law matters, please do not hesitate to contact Attorney Joseph C. Maya, Esq. at Maya Murphy, P.C.’s Westport office located in Fairfield County at (203) 221-3100 or at JMaya@mayalaw.com.


[1] “Source: Tentative deal reached in Chicago teacher strike,” by Katherine Wojtecki. September 14, 2012: http://www.cnn.com/2012/09/14/us/illinois-chicago-teachers-strike/index.html

[2] “Teacher Layoff and Teacher Evaluation Requirements,” by Judith Lohman, Office of Legislative Research. February 9, 2011: http://cga.ct.gov/2011/rpt/2011-R-0075.htm

[3] Id.

Contractual Rights for Teachers: An Overview

Contracts for School Teachers

The law of contracts applies to contracts between teachers and school districts. This law includes the concepts of offer, acceptance, mutual assent, and consideration. For a teacher to determine whether a contract exists, he or she should consult authority on the general law of contracts. This section focuses on contract laws specific to teaching and education.

Ratification of Contracts by School Districts

Even if a school official offers a teacher a job and the teacher accepts this offer, many state laws require that the school board ratify the contract before it becomes binding. Thus, even if a principal of a school district informs a prospective teacher that the teacher has been hired, the contract is not final until the school district accepts or ratifies the contract. The same is true if a school district fails to follow proper procedures when determining whether to ratify a contract.

Teacher’s Handbook as a Contract

Some teachers have argued successfully that provisions in a teacher’s handbook granted the teacher certain contractual rights. However, this is not common, as many employee handbooks include clauses stating that the handbook is not a contract. For a provision in a handbook to be legally binding, the teacher must demonstrate that the actions of the teacher and the school district were such that the elements for creating a contract were met.

Breach of Teacher Contract

Either a teacher or a school district can breach a contract. Whether a breach has occurred depends on the facts of the case and the terms of the contract. Breach of contract cases between teachers and school districts arise because a school district has terminated the employment of a teacher, even though the teacher has not violated any of the terms of the employment agreement. In several of these cases, a teacher has taken a leave of absence, which did not violate the employment agreement, and the school district terminated the teacher due to the leave of absence. Similarly, a teacher may breach a contract by resigning from the district before the end of the contract term (usually the end of the school year).

Remedies for Breach of Contract

The usual remedy for a breach of contract between a school district and a teacher is monetary damages. If a school district has breached a contract, the teacher will usually receive the amount the teacher would have received under the contract, less the amount the teacher receives (or could receive) by attaining alternative employment. Other damages, such as the cost to the teacher in finding other employment, may also be available. Non-monetary remedies, such as a court requiring a school district to rehire a teacher or to comply with contract terms, are available in some circumstances, though courts are usually hesitant to order such remedies. If a teacher breaches a contract, damages may be the cost to the school district for finding a replacement. Many contracts contain provisions prescribing the amount of damages a teacher must pay if he or she terminates employment before the end of the contract.

If you feel you have been mistreated by your employer or in your place of employment and would like to explore your employment law options, contact the experienced employment law attorneys today at 203-221-3100, or by email at JMaya@mayalaw.com. We have the experience and knowledge you need at this critical juncture. We serve clients in both New York and Connecticut including New Canaan, Bridgeport, White Plains, and Darien.

This case was not handled by our firm. However, if you have any questions regarding this case, or any employment law matter, please contact Joseph Maya at 203-221-3100 or by email at JMaya@MayaLaw.com.


Source: FindLaw

***All posts for the MayaLaw.com blog are created as a public service for the community. This case overview is intended for informational purposes only, and is not a solicitation of any client.***

Brief Summary of Connecticut’s Teacher Tenure Law

Connecticut’s teacher tenure law sets out strict termination and due process requirements for teachers, whether or not they have tenure. It covers certified professional employees below the rank of superintendent employed by a board of education for at least 90 days in a position that requires certification.

Covered teachers first hired after July 1, 1996 attain tenure after working for 40 school months, if their contracts are renewed for the following school year. Teachers who attain tenure with one board of education and who are reemployed by the same or another board after a break in service attain tenure after 20 school months of continuous employment, if their contracts are renewed for the following school year.

Tenured teachers have their contracts automatically renewed from year-to-year; can be dismissed only for six statutorily specified reasons; and have the right to (1) bump untenured teachers in positions for which they are qualified if their positions are eliminated, (2) written notice of the reasons for termination, (3) a termination hearing before the board of education or an impartial hearing panel, and (4) appeal the results of the hearing to Superior Court.

Untenured teachers must be (1) employed under a written contract; (2) notified by April 1 if their contracts are not being renewed for the following year; (3) given written reasons for termination or nonrenewal on request; (4) allowed a hearing before the board of education or an impartial hearing panel on the termination; and (5) if the termination is for moral misconduct or disability, granted the right to appeal to Superior Court.

As a teacher, it is imperative that you understand Connecticut’s statutory scheme surrounding hiring, evaluation, and termination processes. Should you have any questions regarding these or other education law matters, you should seek the counsel of an experienced school law practitioner. Please do not hesitate to contact Attorney Joseph C. Maya, Esq. He may be reached at Maya Murphy, P.C., 266 Post Road East, Westport, Connecticut (located in Fairfield County), by telephone at (203) 221-3100, or by email at JMaya@mayalaw.com.

This case was not handled by our firm. However, if you have any questions regarding this case, or any employment law matter, please contact Joseph Maya at 203-221-3100 or by email at JMaya@mayalaw.com.