New York Teachers’ Rights Attorneys Protect Experienced Teachers from Wrongful Termination
New York teachers’ rights attorneys have seen a growing number of cases involving school districts trying to fire older teachers to make room for younger, less costly ones. It is no secret that in recent years, teacher tenure has been a source of controversy. With budget constraints and evaluation changes, it appears that various groups and individuals are seeking to strip educators of many of the rights they have earned; rights that are strongly protected by law.
If you are an older educator, you may be at risk of termination by your school district. As schools try to save money and cut corners to remain within newly imposed tax caps, they may try to find “reasons” to get rid of more expensive staff. This practice of excessing older workers is common in the private sector too. One important difference between private and public employment, however, is that teachers have protected tenure rights that schools must respect. When a school violates teacher tenure laws, you should have an experienced New York teachers’ rights attorney representing you and ensuring the enforcement of due process you deserve.
At Leeds Brown, our attorneys have been protecting the rights of teachers for decades. We have successfully represented many hundreds of educators in cases involving harassment, discrimination, wrongful termination, and denial of tenure and other violations of tenure laws. If you have lost your teaching position, make sure you have attorneys who understand the various tenure, contract and other laws that apply to teachers’ rights cases. New York teachers’ rights attorneys at Leeds Brown can help ensure that you receive appropriate compensation when a school district violates your rights.
What is Tenure?
Tenure is your statutory right to due process. It provides protection from arbitrary termination and discipline. A teacher may obtain tenure after a 3 or 4-year probationary period.
For example, once obtained, tenure protects teachers from being terminated for personal, political or other non-work related reasons. Tenure also protects teachers from being fired based on false allegations of wrongdoing. Tenure is also supposed to prevent school districts from firing more experienced teachers so they may hire less experienced teachers at a lower salary.
When a school district accuses a tenured teacher of misconduct or incompetence, they must follow very specific procedures and processes. These are in place to prevent a school from terminating a teacher for an unlawful or arbitrary reason. Often, a school district accuses a teacher of something as a way to terminate an older, more expensive teacher. Procedures are in place to make sure that accusations are not simply false pretenses for saving money by firing an older educator.
Due Process under 3020a
Education law section 3020a governs disciplinary procedures for tenured teachers and administrators and provides due process rules. Due process is the minimal procedural requirement that schools must satisfy when terminating a tenured teacher. For example,
- Charges must be filed in writing with the school district within the school year
- The board of education must determine within five days if there is probable cause to bring a disciplinary hearing
- If so, a written notice must be sent to the teacher detailing the charges, information about the penalties if the teacher waives a hearing and the employee’s other rights.
- The notice must be sent by certified or registered mail.
Once disciplinary proceedings begin, you may be suspended with pay and request a hearing. If you request a hearing, the specific rules that apply will vary depending on the nature of the charges you are facing. There will be an investigation, and the hearing must occur within three years of the alleged misconduct or incompetence.
Your 3020a Hearing
3020a hearings are presided over by an arbitrator who will consider many factors when deciding how to resolve your matter. Some considerations may include:
- Did the education department provide a preponderance of evidence that there is just cause to terminate you?
- Did the evidence support the charges?
- Were the witnesses credible?
- What was the quality of representation on both sides?
- Were there extenuating circumstances?
- What was the disciplinary record of the teacher before the initiation of the 3020a hearing?
The school district will have to show that it told you that you were performing defectively, that it gave you adequate opportunity and tools to improve, and that your failure to do so was insubordinate.
Although the burden is on the school district to provide the evidence of their just cause to fire you, it is imperative that you have competent representation at your 3020a hearing. You want to ensure that New York teacher tenure lawyers are protecting your rights.
It is not unusual for school districts to look for ways to terminate older teachers. Do you have an excellent record up until the point of this action? Have you noticed a pattern of your school singling out more experienced teachers for discipline? Has anyone made derogatory comments to you about your longevity or asked “isn’t it time you retired?”
These all may be signs that your school is wrongfully trying to use the 3020a hearing as a way to terminate your employment.
What Happens After the Hearing?
If the arbitrator finds that there is no just cause for your termination or discipline, you will be entitled to return to your job and recover back pay if applicable. You will also have the right to have the charges removed from your employment record. You may be entitled to recover your attorney’s fees.
If there is a finding of just cause, your termination stands.
Whether you are acquitted or not, you may have the right to recover compensation from a school district who falsifies or brings frivolous claims against you. You might have a claim under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act if the actions were an attempt to terminate or discriminate based on your age, gender or race.
In a world of tight budgets and tax caps, we see more and more teachers being wrongfully disciplined and terminated to make room for less costly employees. Do not let your school district violate your tenure rights. Have an experienced New York teacher tenure lawyer from Leeds Brown represent your interests. Your termination should not be based on bad evidence, trumped up charges and questionable witnesses. We can ensure that your hearing is fair and that you receive zealous representation.
When school districts violate contracts, tenure laws, and anti-discrimination statutes, they must be held accountable. You have worked hard to earn the seniority, salary, and rights you have obtained during your years as an educator. Law entitles you to certain job protections and due process. Enforce and protect your these rights by contacting New York teacher tenure rights attorneys at Leeds Brown.
Someone is in our office to take your call 24/7. Contact Leeds Brown today for a free consultation at 1-800-585-4658.