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Williams Oinonen LLC filed suit today on behalf of our client Ms. Denise Davis, a courageous whistleblower and former DeKalb County School District Human Resources Administrator who contends that the DeKalb County Schools unlawfully RIF'd DeKalb County educators throughout the District by failing to comply with the Georgia Reduction in Force statute O.C.G.A. § 20-2-948 and their own District policy.
Specifically, she alleges in her complaint that they circumvented the RIF requirement to consider job performance as the primary factor by eliminating entire positions, then creating new titles that were in effect the same jobs that had been eliminated but were now simply under a different name upon which they selected new hires based on favoritism, friendship, or familial status.
Unfortunately, the District continues to deny Ms. Davis' lawful request for a hearing before the DeKalb County Board of Education so that she may avoid expensive and costly litigation to the DeKalb taxpayers and to herself forcing her to file this lawsuit.
Tomorrow the DeKalb County Board of Education has a hearing before the State Board of Education to determine whether a recommendation will be made to the Governor to remove them from office.
Concerning the recent lawsuit against DeKalb County School District, Senator Emanuel Jones, leader of the DeKalb's Senate delegation commented on his concerns about the school district's failure to respond to open records requests: "When they're not responding, it just begs the question as to, 'What are they hiding? What are they covering up?'" he says, "And it's going to lead to more questions and it's going to lead to more concerns from the public and all the other stakeholders."
The AJC featured the story here and WSBTV's Erica Byfield interviewed Senator Jones on the evening news in a piece that can be read here entitled "Lawsuit Raises Concerns About DeKalb Schools Corruption" The video can be seen here.
The news story quoted our law firm attorneys stating:
"Our law firm was informed that the Superintendent did not want the text messages to go public and that as a result she was willing to offer Ms. Gipson and up to 11 of our clients their jobs back, not just for this year but also a guaranteed contract for next year as well in exchange for us withdrawing the open records demand for her text messages. We accepted in writing the offer that had been sent to us by the Chief Legal Officer of DeKalb County School District Senator Ronald Ramsey on the Superintendent's behalf.
For the Superintendent's high priced law firm paid by the taxpayers to claim no text messages is absolutely preposterous. For the school district to have backtracked out of this agreement violates our RIF'd clients rights. We received a tip in August that relevant evidence was located in those text messages and over the past several months our law firm, Senator Emmanuel Jones and the news media have demanded these text messages. We call upon our leadership to stop this cover up and comply with Georgia law."
Good Georgia Education Lawyer sued Superintendent Cheryl Atkinson and DeKalb County School District on behalf of our client for violations of the Open Records Act in relation to a fair dismissal hearing where a graduation coach was non-renewed due to a reduction in force.
The complaint alleged that Defendant Superintendent Cheryl Atkinson thwarted the Georgia Open Records Act by withholding the production of public documents: text messages contained within her DeKalb County School District issued cellular phone. The complaint also alleged that the Superintendent made representations that she would be willing to offer Plaintiff a job and 11 (eleven) other of Plaintiff counsel's clients who had been "RIF'd" (laid off due to a reduction in force) in exchange for Plaintiff being willing to withdraw her Georgia Open Records Act demand for the Superintendent's text messages.
As a "tenured" Georgia educator, the complaint alleged that the Plaintiff is subject to rights under the Fair Dismissal Act O.C.G.A. § 20-2-940 which provide her with the opportunity to be heard and to present evidence in a non-renewal hearing in front of a tribunal. Her due process rights are alleged to have been violated by a failure to disclose evidence and information concerning these factual allegations that are being withheld deliberately and without substantial justification by DeKalb County School District and the Superintendent.
The Plaintiff further contended that the school district unlawfully engaged in a pattern and practice of systematically and pervasively violating Georgia law O.C.G.A. § 20-2-948, through an arbitrary and capricious implementation of the Reduction in Force in violation of DeKalb County School District employees' rights.
Good Georgia Lawyer was pleased to save the job of a Clayton County Public School teacher who had his contract non-renewed. Fortunately, we were able to aggressively intervene and the school system rescinded the non-renewal of the teacher, placing him back into the school system and awarding him all his retroactive back pay.
Said this teacher:
"My family appreciates your hard work and dedication to the case. You have brought so much joy and dignity back to our household and professional life. You worked hard and gave it your all to bring justice to our case. As a result, many will gain because you made it okay to fight for what is right!
When we went into education, we never thought we would have a battle as this one. Yet, we grew professionally and learned quite a bit. We will always hold your name, Julie, up in our prayers and meditations because without your efforts we would be lost.
Please continue your hard work. I will always reference you to any other teacher needing legal advice and help.
Thank You! Thank You! Thank You!"
Good Georgia Lawyer is proud to represent Georgia educators throughout our state. We are not afraid of suing school districts and fight hard to protect the rights of teachers, administrators, parents, and students who go up against these mammoth governmental entities who pay their law firms millions of dollars to fight disputes. Williams Oinonen LLC is proud to say that we do not represent school districts---only educators and the families they teach. We are also proud to be a Georgia Association of Educators referral firm.
If you are a teacher with a problem during the school year do not wait till you get a non-renewal letter down the road. If you receive a PDP or letter of directive, the time to act is NOW rather than later to save your job and protect your interests. If you are looking for aggressive fighter on your side, contact us to insure your legal rights are protected.
Good Georgia Lawyer was pleased to save the job of a university administrator who worked for a college within the University System of Georgia. The University System of Georgia is the third largest university system in the United States and enrolls more than 310,000 students, employs more than 40,000 faculty and staff, and the combined annual operating budgets of all 35 institutions is over $6 billion.
Our client was a university professional who had a long history of working within the university system and had been wrongfully terminated. Fortunately, Williams Oinonen LLC was able to intervene and the university system rescinded the termination, placing him back into his position.
Stated our client:
"I am writing to express my sincere thanks to Williams Oinonen LLC with the help they gave me with my employment law case. At the beginning of the process, the firm informed me of all of the legal remedies available. The firm took time to research my issue and developed a plan of action that would be acceptable. The firm communicated with the opposing party on my behalf, and they were strong advocates of my position. When communicating with the opposing party, Julie Oinonen remained firm but reasonable. Julie's knowledge of the law and strategic decisions lead to a favorable decision in my case. I cannot thank her enough."
If you have an employment matter, contact Williams Oinonen LLC. Georgia is an "at will" employment state meaning that if you have a problem at work, the time to contact an attorney is sooner rather then later, i.e. while you still have a job. Legal intervention, even if it is "behind the scenes" can assist you in keeping the job you have and protect your legal interests.
Contact us today to discuss your rights under Georgia law.
Williams Oinonen LLC was very gratified with the courage the Tribunal showed in making the right decision to reject Superintendent Cheryl Atkinson's recommendation to terminate the contract of an educator in DeKalb County School District through a reduction in force.
While the educator ended up accepting a very attractive offer at a nearby school district so the Tribunal's decision did not end up having to be ruled on by the Board, Ms. Oinonen hopes that the DeKalb County Board of Education will take note as to how the Reduction in Force is being applied, ask the right questions and demand accountability from the Superintendent in the future.
Regarding Ms. Oinonen's legal representation, Mr. Lynch stated:
"She won a RIF hearing for me. That says it all. I cannot recommend Julie enough. She is passionately intense and sincerely dedicated to securing the interests of her client. But, most importantly, she achieved a singular and, in my opinion, far reaching success when she won my RIF hearing, a very difficult thing to do. I would not hesitate to recommend her for any educator in a similar situation."
Good Georgia Lawyer was pleased to save an Assistant Principal's job in one of the largest school district's in Georgia.
Regarding Julie Oinonen, attorney at Williams Oinonen LLC, the Assistant Principal stated the following:
"First and foremost Julie was honest & attentive with me from our first meeting concerning my case. In addition, she was easily accessible by phone or e-mail throughout the duration of my case. She is a true professional. In the end, she protected my name, reputation, and secured my contract for the upcoming school year. Thanks!!!"
Good Georgia Lawyer handles all types of education and employment cases representing teachers, administrators, students and parents. We are Georgia Association of Educators (GAE) and National Educators Association (NEA) referring attorneys.
If you are an educator who is placed on a PDP or is experiencing difficulty from your supervisor, the time to seek legal counsel is sooner rather then later in order to protect your job. Seeing an attorney before you are terminated, demoted, or suspended can be key to helping you best insure your legal interests in order to protect your job.
For more information on resolving a dispute concerning education or employment, contact Williams Oinonen LLC at 404-654-0288.
It is that time of year again: a time that can be very difficult for teachers in Georgia who have recently received a letter notifying them that their contract has been non-renewed. As many teachers already know, the law in Georgia protects teachers who are in their fourth year within the same local school district. The law states that once a teacher accepts a school year contract for the fourth consecutive school year from the same local school district, that teacher may not be demoted or non-renewed unless for a set of specific reasons. And if demotion or non-renewal occurs, those teachers are entitled to procedural due process which includes a non-renewal hearing. Good Georgia Lawyer has written extensively about teacher rights so to learn more about your rights to a non-renewal hearing, we recommend you read our article here. Also you can read here. And here as well.
The grounds for suspension or termination are listed in O.C.G.A. § 20-2-940 and include such reasons as: incompetency, insubordination, immorality, willful neglect of duties, inciting students to violate laws, failure to maintain educational training, reduction of staff due to loss of students or cancellation of programs, or any other good and sufficient cause.
Regarding the "reduction of staff" grounds for non-renewal, one small improvement to the law happened during this year's legislative session 2012. As a result of so many teachers facing layoffs due to our difficult economy, legislators added language which states that if non-renewal occurs due to reduction in staff (often known as "Reduction In Force" (RIF) ) due to no fault or performance issue, the local administration must specify in writing "that the termination or suspension is due to no fault or performance issues" of the employee. See: 2012 Georgia Laws Act 707 (S.B. 153).
Regardless of the reason, receiving a non-renewal letter can be a very painful and stressful experience. The important issue is deciding whether or not to choose to exercise your rights to a non-renewal hearing or not. If you are a certified teacher who is in their fourth consecutive year at a local school district, one of your decisions is whether to elect your right to the non-renewal hearing. Before you make your decision as to whether you wish to exercise your rights to such a process, it is important to seek counsel to be certain you are aware of all potential legal options.
Oftentimes, we have clients who have come to us with a certain set of facts and may not be aware that they may have various legal claims in addition to their right to a non-renewal hearing. Before you make such an important decision regarding your professional future, give us a call to obtain the legal advice you deserve.