Here is Gilda Day’s Response Brief in her case before the Georgia Court of Appeals. Many Floyd County Association of Educator members have wished to see it. For easier viewing, click on the brief and you can view it on the Scribd webpage:
Georgia Education Lawyer Julie Oinonen is representing DeKalb County teachers and Georgia Association of Educators (GAE) members in a suit against DeKalb County School District. The lawsuit alleges strong-arm bully tactics by the school district. See the Courthouse News article on it here.
Good Georgia Lawyer contends that this issue is part of the ongoing war on teachers and public education that is driving educators out of the profession and further destroying teacher morale. Each year, educators move to different parts of Georgia transferring to other school districts for any number of reasons such as professional career opportunities, financial, health, or family reasons. The plaintiffs in the lawsuit had to move due to very important family needs. They notified their principals and gave the earliest possible notice. Then they helped find new hires to replace their position, thus causing absolutely no financial loss to the School District.
The District bullied the teachers by threatening their teaching certification which all teachers need to keep in good standing in order to teach and maintain gainful employment to provide for their families. The District claimed that it was a sanctionable action by the PSC (the Professional Standards Commission, the regulatory body for teacher certification.) The trouble is that wasn’t true and the District knew it. Paul Shaw, Director of the PSC had already advised them that for teachers to resign prior to June 1st would not be considered a sanctionable violation of the code of ethics.
The attack on public education and teachers is relentless and continues.
The source of these attacks come from the pro-charter corporate, big money anti-union movement that has swept the nation funded by hedge fund billionaires like the Koch Brothers, Bill Gates, the Waltons and more. Unfortunately both Democrats and Republicans have really drank the Kool-Aid on that one through Hollywood propaganda, Teach for America, and corporate lobby interests. It has especially been seen through Michelle Rhee (who is the former boss of the APS new Superintendent) and the movement to privatize public education by Board-TFA takeover. No political party has clean hands when it has come to buying into this propaganda. Sadly, slowly but surely teachers, parents, and communities are learning they have fallen prey to a giant bait and switch. Succumbed by promises of “local school governance” and “greater flexibility” they don’t realize what they’ve given up—necessary accountability and transparency which protects our students, teachers, and public schools—until it is too late.
The latest is the push is for districts to choose to become a charter system by June 2015. Charter advocates believe this is a good thing because it allows more flexibility. The problem is that it throws accountability out the window. Laws that regulate classroom size or teacher qualifications are good things not bad. Whether it is big banks that need regulation to protect consumers from subprime mortgage lending, or laws that protect kids from having oversized classrooms and unqualified teachers, rules are set in place to protect our schools and provide accountability.
Floyd County Board of Education Terry Williamson was sued this week for alleged violations of Georgia law. If you have information concerning this matter, please contact Williams Oinonen LLC at 404-654-0288.
To read the lawsuit you may view here:
Oftentimes, employees come to us because they believe they are being racially discriminated against and subjected to a hostile work environment.
Racial harassment is actionable (which means you can file a lawsuit because of it) under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 where the conduct is sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of employment and create an abusive working environment. See, e.g., Freeman v. City of Riverdale, 330 F. App’x 863, 865 (11th Cir.2009).
To establish a prima facie case of hostile work environment in the form of racial harassment, an employee must show that (1) he belonged to a protected group; (2) he was subjected to unwelcome harassment; (3) the harassment was based on his race; (4) the harassment was sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the terms and conditions of employment and create a racially abusive work environment; and (5) a basis exists for holding the employer liable. See Miller v. Kenworth of Dothan, Inc., 277 F.3d 1269, 1275 (11th Cir.2002).
The Georgia State Department of Education’s recent ruling that charter systems must comply with the Fair Dismissal Act was an enormous victory for Gilda Day and every educator throughout Georgia. Nevertheless, Northwest Georgia Superintendent Jeff McDaniel and his Floyd County local board’s choice to appeal this statewide decision by arguing that no civil right applies single-handedly places at risk the rights of all Georgia educators in threatening to strip vital constitutional protections throughout the state.
The key to the State Board of Education teacher victory was the State Board’s interpretation of the charter school statute, specifically the term “civil rights.” An excerpt from the actual decision states: “[, the] Local Board contends that since the Fair Dismissal Act, O.C.G.A. § 20-2-940 et seg., is within Title 20, that it is not subject to the Fair Dismissal Act. The Local Board’s assertion is without merit. O.C.G.A. § 20-2-2065(b)(5) provides that charter systems are “[s]ubject to all federal, state, and local rules, regulations, court orders, and statutes relating to civil rights.” The Fair Dismissal Act provides due process rights to certain school employees, which is a civil right. Thus, O.C.G.A. § 20-2-2065(a) cannot be read so broadly as to violate the due process rights of school employees who are entitled to due process.”
Mike McGonigle, Legal Services Director of the Georgia Association of Educators says the importance of this decision cannot be overemphasized in this new environment of charter-mania and he points out that GAE led the fight against the initial removal of fair dismissal and for its eventual restoration. “What fair dismissal means is the right for teachers, administrators, and support professionals to simply teach children in a learning environment that is free from the fear of retaliation and at-will termination. Contrary to what opponents have always said, fair dismissal does not provide lifelong employment opportunities for incompetent educators. Without fair dismissal protection, teachers are at will employees who could be subjected to reprimand and dismissal based on false or frivolous, unsubstantiated complaints or decisions. Fair dismissal does not protect bad teachers. On the contrary, it protects good teachers from discriminatory, biased reprimands, and unfair treatment,” he said.
One of the main reasons many of our new clients contact our law firm is because they have heard how we were able to help save a friend or family member’s job and they need the same type of help. Oftentimes, they believe their boss is about to fire them because they see the writing on the wall, for example, they have just been placed on a professional improvement plan or professional development plan and they know their boss is building a paper trail against them to set them up for termination.
If that describes your situation, one of the most important thing you can do is to retain legal counsel immediately. As we tell clients, it is often quite difficult to “unring the bell” once the bell has been rung, i.e. an employee has been terminated from their job. However, before this happens, there is often time enough for legal intervention.
As many of you know, Georgia is an “at-will” employment state also known as a “right to work state.” This is really a misnomer as it should be called a “right to fire at will state.” This means, barring a legal exception, your boss can fire you simply because he or she doesn’t like you. That is reason enough as long as they not liking you doesn’t have to do with them not liking a protected status, for example, your skin color or the fact you are pregnant. There are several federal civil rights laws that protect employees from such type of discrimination, the most well-known of course being Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which makes it an unlawful employment practice for an employer to discriminate against an individual regarding his employment because of an individual’s race, color, religion, or national origin. 42 U.S.C. § 2000 e-2(a)(1).
Many blog posts advise you to make sure that (1) you feel comfortable with the lawyer you choose and that (2) the lawyer you choose has sound experience and understanding in the area you need representation in. While all that is true, there is one area that also demonstrates the quality of representation you will be obtaining to handle your case: your lawyer’s willingness and ability to handle an appeal of your case in front of a higher court.
Foremost, you may not read a lot of blog posts that talk about handling an appeal of your case in front of higher courts, because that means something may have went wrong with your case in the lower court. But here’s the reality: when you are going up against cities, school districts; law enforcement officials; public officials; big corporations; and hospitals–whether you win or lose at the lower court (trial court), one party is going to appeal, or threaten to appeal the loss, to the higher court (Appeals Court).