Posts tagged with "discharged"

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).

Non-Compete Enforceability: Must Protect Legitimate Interest & Not Be Punitive

Non-Compete Enforceability: Must Protect Legitimate & Not Be Punitive
Ranciato v. Nolan, 2002 Conn. Super. LEXIS 489

Historic Restoration and Appraisal, LLC (HRA) was engaged in the business of restoring primarily detached single-family homes that had suffered casualty damage from fire and/or water. The company employed Mr. Timothy Nolan to work as a project manager for jobs located throughout the state of Connecticut. Mr. Nolan’s employment began on November 18, 1996 and the company informed him shortly thereafter that his employment was contingent on the execution of a non-compete agreement. The parties signed the restrictive covenant on November 21, 1996 and it prohibited Mr. Nolan from performing the same services offered by HRA in the states of Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island for a period of three years. The agreement did not affect Mr. Nolan’s ability to offer painting or home improvement services that were not in connection to fire and/or water damage. In exchange for this employment restriction, the agreement stipulated that Mr. Nolan’s annual salary would be $48,500. He felt that he would be fired if he failed to sign the agreement and signed it without consulting a legal professional.
HRA fired Mr. Nolan on January 24, 1997 after repeated incidents of discovering that he was receiving lewd and inappropriate materials via the company’s fax machine. He began to work for McGuire Associates shortly after HRA discharged him and performed marketing and business development services in the capacity of his new position. Unlike HRA, McGuire is a preferred builder and the court held that it did not compete with HRA. The company sued Mr. Nolan in Connecticut state court and asked the court to enforce the non-compete agreement that the parties had executed. The Superior Court of Connecticut in New Haven rejected HRA’s request and held that the company “suffered no financial loss as a result of the defendant’s employment by McGuire”.
According to the non-compete agreement, Mr. Nolan can be in breach only if he works at a company that is “in competition with” HRA. While the court acquiesced that HRA and McGuire were both in the construction industry, it held that they performed significantly different services and were not in competition with each other for clients or projects. The industry classified HRA as a “fire chaser” because it received most of its jobs by monitoring police reports and fire scanners to alert them of individuals that needed repairs for fire and/or water damage. McGuire however was a preferred builder and provided services for not only single-family homes, but also commercial and municipal buildings. The courts interpreted the significant differences between the two companies as adequate evidence that Mr. Nolan was not “in competition with” HRA because of his new employment with McGuire.
Furthermore, the court discussed the reasons why a court would enforce a non-compete covenant, specifically referencing the legal system’s desire to balance and protect the parties’ interests. Courts generally grant injunctions to enforce a non-compete agreement when the plaintiff employer can provide adequate evidence that the former employee’s breach will result in adverse financial consequences. The court noted that this policy did not apply to the case since HRA had not suffered any financial loss or hardship and Mr. Nolan did not have any access to confidential information that would be harmful to the company should it be disclosed.
Additionally, the court concluded that the time and geographical restrictions in the agreement were unreasonable given the facts of the case. HRA did not have anything to lose because of McGuire employing Mr. Nolan because of the differences in their business operations and the court held that the restrictions, if enforced, would only serve to prevent Mr. Nolan from employment at another company. The policy to enforce non-compete agreements focuses on protecting the interests of the employer and not to punish the employee and excessively restrict future employment opportunities. Specifically, the court cited that HRA could only “benefit from protection in the New Haven area” and that the “tri-state restriction imposed on the defendant was not necessary to protect any legitimate interests of the plaintiff and, therefore, [the agreement] was not ‘reasonably limited’”.
If you have any questions relating to your non-compete agreement or would like to discuss any element of your employment agreement, please contact Joseph C. Maya, Esq. by phone at (203) 221-3100 or via e-mail at JMaya@Mayalaw.com.

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Non-Compete Enforceability: Must Protect Legitimate Interest & Not Be Punitive

Non-Compete Enforceability: Must Protect Legitimate & Not Be Punitive
Ranciato v. Nolan, 2002 Conn. Super. LEXIS 489

Historic Restoration and Appraisal, LLC (HRA) was engaged in the business of restoring primarily detached single-family homes that had suffered casualty damage from fire and/or water. The company employed Mr. Timothy Nolan to work as a project manager for jobs located throughout the state of Connecticut. Mr. Nolan’s employment began on November 18, 1996 and the company informed him shortly thereafter that his employment was contingent on the execution of a non-compete agreement. The parties signed the restrictive covenant on November 21, 1996 and it prohibited Mr. Nolan from performing the same services offered by HRA in the states of Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island for a period of three years. The agreement did not affect Mr. Nolan’s ability to offer painting or home improvement services that were not in connection to fire and/or water damage. In exchange for this employment restriction, the agreement stipulated that Mr. Nolan’s annual salary would be $48,500. He felt that he would be fired if he failed to sign the agreement and signed it without consulting a legal professional.
HRA fired Mr. Nolan on January 24, 1997 after repeated incidents of discovering that he was receiving lewd and inappropriate materials via the company’s fax machine. He began to work for McGuire Associates shortly after HRA discharged him and performed marketing and business development services in the capacity of his new position. Unlike HRA, McGuire is a preferred builder and the court held that it did not compete with HRA. The company sued Mr. Nolan in Connecticut state court and asked the court to enforce the non-compete agreement that the parties had executed. The Superior Court of Connecticut in New Haven rejected HRA’s request and held that the company “suffered no financial loss as a result of the defendant’s employment by McGuire”.
According to the non-compete agreement, Mr. Nolan can be in breach only if he works at a company that is “in competition with” HRA. While the court acquiesced that HRA and McGuire were both in the construction industry, it held that they performed significantly different services and were not in competition with each other for clients or projects. The industry classified HRA as a “fire chaser” because it received most of its jobs by monitoring police reports and fire scanners to alert them of individuals that needed repairs for fire and/or water damage. McGuire however was a preferred builder and provided services for not only single-family homes, but also commercial and municipal buildings. The courts interpreted the significant differences between the two companies as adequate evidence that Mr. Nolan was not “in competition with” HRA because of his new employment with McGuire.
Furthermore, the court discussed the reasons why a court would enforce a non-compete covenant, specifically referencing the legal system’s desire to balance and protect the parties’ interests. Courts generally grant injunctions to enforce a non-compete agreement when the plaintiff employer can provide adequate evidence that the former employee’s breach will result in adverse financial consequences. The court noted that this policy did not apply to the case since HRA had not suffered any financial loss or hardship and Mr. Nolan did not have any access to confidential information that would be harmful to the company should it be disclosed.
Additionally, the court concluded that the time and geographical restrictions in the agreement were unreasonable given the facts of the case. HRA did not have anything to lose because of McGuire employing Mr. Nolan because of the differences in their business operations and the court held that the restrictions, if enforced, would only serve to prevent Mr. Nolan from employment at another company. The policy to enforce non-compete agreements focuses on protecting the interests of the employer and not to punish the employee and excessively restrict future employment opportunities. Specifically, the court cited that HRA could only “benefit from protection in the New Haven area” and that the “tri-state restriction imposed on the defendant was not necessary to protect any legitimate interests of the plaintiff and, therefore, [the agreement] was not ‘reasonably limited’”.
If you have any questions relating to your non-compete agreement or would like to discuss any element of your employment agreement, please contact Joseph C. Maya, Esq. by phone at (203) 221-3100 or via e-mail at JMaya@Mayalaw.com.

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