Posts tagged with "written notice"

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 wrongful termination lawsuit by a 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.

Case Details

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]

Administrative Remedies Under § 10-151

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]

The Court’s Decision

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.

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.

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.

 


[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).

Developing Your Special Education Child’s Individualized Education Program

A recent series of articles on this website provides an overview of the special education process so you, as a parent, know what to expect. You have the right to make sure your child receives a free appropriate public education (FAPE), and oftentimes that means a standard classroom environment does not meet your child’s special needs due to a disability.

If your child is between 3 and 21 years of age, suffers from an enumerated disability under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), and the disability interferes with his or her classroom performance, you have the opportunity to seek special education and related services. More importantly, you can play a critical role on the planning and placement team (PPT) to evaluate your child’s special education referral to determine eligibility.

Individualized Education Programs

So, you’ve made it this far: your child is deemed eligible for special education and related services, but… what happens now? The PPT will hold meetings to establish an individualized education program (IEP), which is “a written plan detailing your child’s special education program,”[1] including the following key elements:

  • Present levels of educational and functional performance;
  • Measurable educational goals linked to present levels of academic and functional performance for the coming year and short-term instructional objectives derived from those goals;
  • Evaluation procedures and performance criteria;
  • An explanation of the extent, if any, to which your child will not participate in the regular education class, the general education curriculum or extracurricular activities;
  • Modifications and accommodations your child needs to participate in the general education curriculum including nonacademic and extracurricular activities;
  • Special education and related services required by your child including transportation and physical and vocational education programs;
  • Recommended instructional settings and a list of people who will work with your child to implement the IEP;
  • The date services will begin and end, and the frequency of the identified services;
  • The length of the school day and year;
  • Statement of accommodations and modifications needed to facilitate CMT/CAPT, or district-wide testing;
  • Recommendations for participation in alternate assessments (if needed); and
  • Transition service needs.[2]
PPT Meetings

Within five days after the PPT meets and develops your child’s IEP, you must receive a copy of the plan. The same goes for any future revisions.

Keep in mind that you have the right to participate in the PPT meetings, and your school district must work with you to select a time and place that works for both sides. You must receive five days written notice of any meeting to make sure you will be able to attend. This notice includes:

  • A list of who will be attending the meeting;
  • Affirmation of your right to bring with you other individuals who are able to provide support or who have knowledge and/or expertise with respect to your child’s needs.
  • An invitation to your child to attend if he or she is 16 years of age or older (or even if the child is younger, if participation is deemed appropriate), and “the purpose of the meeting will be the consideration of the postsecondary goals and transition services for the child”[3]

If the school schedules the meeting at a time or location you cannot make, alternative methods of participation, such as a telephonic or video conference call, must be explored. However, if the school district repeatedly attempts to schedule a meeting and each time you are unable to attend, they may hold the PPT meeting without you; the school must maintain a results log documenting these attempts.

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.

If you are the parent of a child that has a disability, it is imperative that you participate in this process so as to help maximize your child’s educational opportunities. Should you have any questions about special education or education law in general, it may prove beneficial to 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.

 


[1] “Advocating on Your Child’s Behalf: A Parent’s Guide to Connecticut School Law,” by Joseph C. Maya, Esq., pp.20.

[2] “A Parent’s Guide to Special Education in Connecticut,” by the Connecticut State Department of Education, pp.4. Accessed October 9, 2012: http://www.sde.ct.gov/sde/lib/sde/PDF/DEPS/Special/Parents_Guide_SE.pdf

[3] Id. at 5.

A Student’s Rights During the Expulsion Process

Issuing Expulsion vs. Suspension

When a school board decides that a child’s misbehavior warrants a greater punishment than up to ten (10) days’ exclusion from school, they may instead consider issuing an expulsion. As with suspensions, there are three recognized grounds (discussed in greater detail here) for expelling a student: his or her behavior 1) violates a publicized school policy; 2) seriously disrupts the educational process; or 3) endangers persons or property. Where the conduct was committed on school grounds, only one category need be established; if off school grounds, then a showing of both #2 and #3 are required.

As a parent, if your child is facing expulsion, it is imperative that you understand your child’s rights during the expulsion process. Below you will find a concise guide on what to expect before, during, and after the expulsion hearing.

Before the Hearing and Preparation

When an expulsion is considered for student misbehavior, parents must receive written notice “within twenty-four hours detailing the date, time, a plain statement of the matters at hand, and a list of free or reduced-fee legal services.”[1] The school board must also provide any and all documentary evidence it intends to present at a suspension hearing. Barring emergency circumstances,[2] students are statutorily entitled to a formal hearing in front of the school board within ten (10) days after the proposed expulsion.[3]

Parents are advised that prior to the hearing, they review the school board’s evidence and speak with the school board’s witnesses to understand the substance of their potential testimony. In addition, parents should arrange for their own witnesses to testify on their child’s behalf.

At the Hearing

The expulsion hearing is presided over by three members of the board of education (or an impartial hearing officer).[4] Their purpose is to determine whether an expulsion is proper, and if so, how long it should last. A school administrator will present the facts leading to the expulsion, followed by presentation of evidence and cross-examination of witnesses by both parties. Board members have the opportunity to ask questions, and both the student and administrator may present additional arguments.

After the Hearing

The school board or hearing officer may render one of three possible decisions:

  1. Reject expulsion. The child immediately eligible to return to school.
  2. Support expulsion. The child cannot attend school or any school-sponsored activity for the duration of the expulsion. The school board will consider disciplinary history in determining the length of the expulsion.
  3. Recommend a suspended expulsion. This is basically probation for the student. If the student misbehaves again, the expulsion may be imposed.

Within twenty-four (24) hours of the hearing, parents must receive the decision. If expulsion was recommended, parents cannot appeal but are left with some choices:

  • The board must provide an alternative educational program (AEP) for the duration of the expulsion. Click here for more information on AEPs.
  • The parent may seek to enroll their child in another school, but this may be denied by the potential receiving school.
  • The parent may apply, on their child’s behalf, for early re-admission to the school.

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.

Because of the potentially adverse and significant impact a suspension or expulsion can have on a student’s future, it is imperative to seek the advice of an experienced school law practitioner. The lawyers at Maya Murphy, P.C., assist clients in Bridgeport, Darien, Fairfield, Greenwich, New Canaan, Norwalk, Stamford, and Westport. Should you have any questions regarding school discipline or other education law matters, 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] “Advocating on Your Child’s Behalf: A Parent’s Guide to Connecticut School Law,” by Joseph C. Maya, Esq. at pp.42 (citing Connecticut General Statutes § 10-233d(a)(3)).

[2] Connecticut General Statutes § 10-233d(a).

[3] Connecticut General Statutes § 10-233d(a)(3).

[4] Connecticut General Statutes § 10-233d.

Court Enforces Non-Compete Agreement for Niche Water Purification Company

KX Industries, L.P. v. Saaski, 1997 Conn. Super. LEXIS 2444
Case Background

Mr. Bruce Saaski worked for KX Industries, L.P., a manufacturer and distributor of solid carbon block water filters, from December 1993 to April 24, 1996, as the company’s Technical Support Manager.  His employment contract with KXI contained several restrictive covenants that prohibited him from using or disclosing confidential and proprietary information without the prior written consent of KXI, maintaining personal copies of the company’s confidential information, or working for an industry competitor.  The “industry competitor” restriction applied for one year after Mr. Saaski’s termination but the covenants pertaining to KXI’s confidential information were indefinite.

Mr. Saaski terminated his employment with KXI and began to work at Water Safety, a direct competitor, shortly thereafter.  Additionally, he failed to return copies of confidential information to KXI’s management upon his termination.  KXI sued Ms. Saaski for violation of the non-compete agreement he signed as part of his employment contract and sought a court injunction to enforce its provisions.  Ms. Saaski presented several arguments to the court as to why the agreement was not valid or enforceable.

The court rejected his assertions however and found in favor of KXI, granting their request for enforcement of the non-compete and confidentiality covenants. Mr. Saaski attacked the non-compete on the basis that its lacked consideration, arguing that there existed a prior employment agreement obligating KXI to employ him for a two-year period.

The Court’s Decision

The court held that Mr. Saaski did not present adequate evidence to prove the existence of a prior employment agreement and pointed to the language of the December 1993 agreement to show that Mr. Saaski gave consideration for the agreement when he agreed to the restrictive covenants contained therein. Furthermore, Mr. Saaski contended that the restrictions were unreasonable because they were overly broad in scope, specifically referring to the prohibition on working for a company “similar to” or in “competition with” KXI.

To determine if this language was in fact overly broad the court heard testimony from KXI’s Chief Executive Officer where he stated that there were only four competitors that the non-compete applied to: Honeywell, Culligan, Multipure, and Water Safety, Mr. Saaski’s new employer.  The court found this to be restricted in scope and not overly broad to disproportionately favor KXI’s interests.  The restriction applied only to a small section of the water purification industry and KXI’s CEO provided a plethora of companies that Mr. Saaski could work for without violating the non-compete agreement.

The court found the overall non-compete and confidentiality covenants to be reasonable and concluded that they did not place excessive restriction on Mr. Saaski’s ability to pursue his occupation and earn a living.  Accordingly, the court found in favor of KXI and enforced the provisions of the non-compete agreement.

 

The lawyers at Maya Murphy, P.C., are experienced and knowledgeable employment and corporate law practitioners and assist clients in New York, Bridgeport, Darien, Fairfield, Greenwich, New Canaan, Norwalk, Stamford, Westport, and elsewhere in Fairfield County.  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.

Enforcing a Non-Compete Agreement in the Connecticut Insurance Industry

Grayling Associates, Inc. v. Villota, 2004 Conn. Super. LEXIS 1859
Case Background

Grayling Associates, Inc., an executive recruiting agency for large national insurance companies, employed Mr. Albert Villota from October 2002 to April 8, 2004.  The parties executed a non compete agreement at the start of Mr. Villota’s employment that prohibited him from working at a competing firm within a one hundred mile radius of Grayling’s Connecticut office for a period of two years after his termination.

He began to work at a direct competitor, Park Avenue Group, Inc. (PAG), after he voluntarily terminated his employment with Grayling.  The company sued Mr. Villota in Connecticut state court and sought the enforcement of the provisions contained in the non-compete agreement.

The Court’s Decision

The court found in favor of Grayling and granted the company’s request for injunctive relief.  It enjoined Ms. Villota from working at PAG or other companies in competition with Grayling until April 8, 2006, the end of the two-year period as stipulated in the non-compete agreement.  The court went on to confirm that the time and geographical restrictions in the agreement were reasonable so that they properly balanced the interests of the parties.

The major point of contention in the case focused on the one hundred mile radius restriction.  Grayling was based in Hartford, referred to by many in the business world as the “insurance capital of the world” and as such, the nature of its services was very dependent on its location and proximity to the city.

Many of the nation’s most prominent insurance firms have their headquarters in Hartford and Mr. Villota’s actions within the vicinity of the city could negatively affect Grayling’s business interests and operations.  Grayling noted that the non-compete agreement allowed for the application of the “blue pencil rule” that would allow the court to modify the terms of the geographical restriction.  The court held that the restriction was enforceable as stated in the agreement and enforced the one hundred mile radius provision to protect Grayling’s legitimate interests.

The lawyers at Maya Murphy, P.C., are experienced and knowledgeable employment and corporate law practitioners and assist clients in New York, Bridgeport, Darien, Fairfield, Greenwich, New Canaan, Norwalk, Stamford, Westport, and elsewhere in Fairfield County.  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.