Posts tagged with "resigned"

Extremely Intrusive Strip Searches of Students Are Unconstitutional…Mostly?

On December 2, 2008, a teacher at Pine Academy in Shelton discovered that $70 was taken from her pocketbook. Upon this finding, the school principal “ordered [two teachers] to bring [four male] teens… accused of stealing [the money] individually into a room to be strip-searched. The teens were reported being told to remove their shirts and pull their pants down.”[1] This was in direct contravention of publicized district policy explicitly prohibiting strip searches.[2]

After the teens sued the school district, the U.S. Supreme Court rendered its decision in the case of a thirteen-year-old girl who, following unsubstantiated claims that she was dealing drugs, was “pulled out of class, ordered to strip to her underwear [and bra] and further expose herself as school officials searched for prescription-strength ibuprofen. No drugs were found.”[3] 

Suspicision vs. Degree of Intrusion

This case, Safford Unified School District v. Redding, 557 U.S. (2009), first summarized Fourth Amendment jurisprudence relating to searches conducted by police officers and the relaxed standards applied to those conducted by teachers and school administrators. Applying these principles, the Court explained that “the content of the suspicion failed to match the degree of intrusion” because of “the categorically extreme intrusiveness of a search down to the body of an adolescent [for] non-dangerous school contraband.”[4] Justice Souter concluded in his majority opinion:

[T]he T.L.O. concern to limit a school search to reasonable scope requires the support of reasonable suspicion of danger or of resort to underwear for hiding evidence of wrongdoing before a search can reasonably make the quantum leap from outer clothes and backpacks to exposure of intimate parts. The meaning of such a search, and the degradation its subject may reasonably feel, place a search that intrusive in a category of its own demanding its own specific suspicions.[5]

After the Pine Academy incident, administration placed the principal and one of the teachers involved on administrative leave for the remainder of the school year, at which point they resigned from their positions.[6] In early August 2010, the four teens each received $27,500 as part of their settlement of the lawsuit.[7]

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.

The language used by Justice Souter leaves open the ability of school officials, should they so choose, to strip search a student if they possess an equally compelling reasonable suspicion to do so, such as to locate dangerous contraband. Therefore, if your child is subject to a strip search at his or her school, it is imperative that you contact an experienced and knowledgeable school law practitioner to understand your rights and courses of action.

Should you have any questions regarding strip searches or any other education law 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 (located in Fairfield County), by telephone at (203) 221-3100, or by email at JMaya@mayalaw.com.

 


[1] “2 lose jobs in Ansonia strip-search incident,” by Lauren Garrison. Published February 12, 2009. Accessed October 4, 2012: http://www.nhregister.com/articles/2009/02/12/news/valley/a1-anpineacademy.txt

[2] “Supreme Court Decision Could Affect Ansonia Strip Search Case,” by Diane Orson. Published July 7, 2009. Accessed October 4, 2012: http://www.cpbn.org/article/ansonia-school-strip-search-case

[3] Id.

[4] Safford Unified School District v. Redding, 557 U.S. ___, 8-9 (2009). Accessed October 4, 2012: http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/pdf/08-479P.ZO

[5] Id. at 11.

[6] See Footnote 1.

[7] “Ex-students settle Ansonia strip search lawsuit,” by the Associated Press. Published August 12, 2010. Accessed October 4, 2012: http://www.wtnh.com/dpp/news/education/ex-students-settle-ansonia-strip-search-lawsuit

Enforceability of Non-Solicitation Agreement for Potential Clients of Former Employer

Webster Financial Corporation v. McDonald, 2009 Conn. Super. LEXIS 169

USI Insurance Services of Connecticut, Inc., formerly Webster Insurance, Inc., employed Mr. William McDonald as a senior vice president at its Westport, CT office. The company had Mr. McDonald sign an employment agreement dated February 11, 2003 that contained non-compete and non-solicitation clauses in the event of his termination. The agreement prohibited Mr. McDonald from soliciting any of USI’s contacts that had been clients or potential clients in the twelve months prior to his termination and established a geographical limit of twenty-five miles within USI’s Westport office. As for the time limitation, the covenant was applicable for the great period of two years following Mr. McDonald’s termination or as long as he received benefits from a deferred compensation plan. Mr. McDonald resigned on September 21, 2007 and began to work at Shoff Darby, Inc., an industry competitor well within the prohibited twenty-five radius of USI’s Westport office. At his new firm, Mr. McDonald proceeded to solicit and sell insurance products to USI’s former and current clients. Additionally, he contacted several USI employees and urged them to leave the company to seek employment with Shoff Darby.
USI sued Mr. McDonald and asked the court to enforce the provisions of the restrictive covenant. Mr. McDonald presented two defenses to the court, arguing that the agreement was overly broad and therefore unenforceable. He claimed that the prohibition of potential clients and the potential unlimited duration made the non-compete agreement unreasonable and unenforceable. USI asserted the validity of the agreement and emphasized to the court that it contained a “blue pencil” provision that authorized the court to amend the time and/or geographical limitation in order to comply with Connecticut law. Mr. McDonald countered this argument stating that this legal procedure would require the court to essentially rewrite the non-compete contract, an act forbidden under Connecticut law.
The court found in favor of USI with regard to the issue of the agreement’s enforceability with its holding stating, “taking the covenant as whole, nothing on the face of the contract renders the covenant unenforceable as a matter of law”. While deliberating about the claim that the prohibition on potential clients was unreasonable, the court stated that there is no direction or precedent from the Connecticut Appellate Courts and that the Superior Courts throughout the state were divided on the issue. This court took the approach used in Cuna Mutual Life Ins. Co. v. Butler (2007 Conn. Super. LEXIS 1623) that such limitations on potential clients are reasonable so long as they are “readily identifiable and narrowly defined”. The court concluded that the potentially unlimited applicable duration of the agreement was not “per se unreasonable” because the agreement as a whole contained several other definitive restrictions such as the twenty-five radius from the Westport office and the limited group of clients for the anti-solicitation clause.

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Court Invalidates Non-Compete Contract for Unreasonable Restrictions

Court Invalidates Non-Compete Contract for Unreasonable Restrictions
Trans-Clean Corp. v. Terrell, 1998 Conn. Super. LEXIS 717

Trans-Clean Corp. was a company engaged in the business of restoring exteriors and interiors of commercial buildings. The company began to employ Mr. Alton Terrell as a salesman and manager in December 1990 in connection with the company’s acquisition of Travel Washer, Inc.. The parties executed an employment agreement that created a one-year term of employment, specified the compensation schedule, and contained a non-competition covenant. The non-compete agreement stated that Mr. Terrell was prohibited for two years following the completion of his employment contract or any renewal thereof from competing with Trans-Clean within sixty miles of the company’s main office in Stratford, CT. The parties negotiated a pay increase in 1993 and a new compensation schedule was created. Trans-Clean considered this a renewal of the original employment contract and held the belief that the non-compete agreement was still valid and in effect. Mr. Terrell however did not share the same view and did not treat the pay increase and new compensation schedule as a renewal of the original contract. While the parties had different interpretations of the pay increase, there were no direct discussions to clarify its characteristics.
Mr. Terrell suddenly resigned from Trans-Clean in September 1997 and proceeded to create his own commercial restoration company and solicited business from individuals/businesses on Trans-Clean’s customer list. Trans-Clean sued Mr. Terrell and asked the court to issue an injunction to enforce the non-compete agreement and prevent any further violations. The court had to tackle two central issues to decide the dispute: 1) whether customer lists are protected trade secrets and 2) the nature and reasonableness of the employment contract and non-compete agreement. It held that the lists were not trade secrets that entitled Trans-Clean to an injunction and further concluded that the non-compete agreement was unreasonable and unenforceable.
The court held that the customer lists were not trade secrets or confidential information that required protection. There was never a company policy to designate the lists as confidential information or maintain a degree of secrecy of customers or contact persons. Furthermore, each salesperson maintained his or her own personal contact lists and did not have any direct access to other sales representatives’ lists. Each salesperson had the responsibility of developing his or her list, maintaining business relationships, and collecting accounts. These lists did not amount to a business interest for which Trans-Clean was entitled to protection and injunctive relief.
Next, the court assessed the reasonableness of the covenant not to compete and found that its provisions, specifically the geographical restriction, were unreasonable and unenforceable. The sixty-mile radius restriction covered 75% of Connecticut, including the state’s six major metropolitan areas (Bridgeport, New Haven, Hartford, Waterbury, Stamford, and Danbury), and extended into parts of New York (including four out the five boroughs) and New Jersey. The restriction, according to the court, was overreaching and unnecessarily infringed on Mr. Terrell’s ability to purse his occupation and obtain future employment. He had twenty years of experience in the commercial restoration industry and it was the only field in which he had ever worked.
Lastly, the court analyzed whether the pay increase and modification of the compensation schedule amounted to a renewal of the original agreement. The court stated there was a “question of fact” that it needed to answer in order to decide the case. It noted that the writing drawn up by the company regarding the pay increase did not make any reference to the original employment contract and there was no apparent connection between the two writings. In the absence of any reference or connection, the court concluded that the pay increase was not a renewal or extension of the original employment contract. The court noted however that Mr. Terrell “should be bound by the non-compete agreement if that agreement is found to be reasonable”. The court’s earlier analysis revealed that the covenant was in fact unreasonable, thereby overriding Mr. Terrell’s obligation to abide by its provisions.
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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