June 26, 2014

Attaining tenure by estoppel or acquisition


Attaining tenure by estoppel or acquisition
Files v Department of Educ. of the City of New York, 2014 NY Slip Op 04713, Appellate Division, First Department

Typically a probationary teacher or administrator will attain tenure by estoppel or acquisition when a school board accepts the continued services of the teacher or administrator, but fails to take the action required by law to either grant or deny tenure prior to the expiration of the teacher’s or administrator’s probationary term.

The Appellate Division sustained a State Supreme Court decision rejecting a probationary teacher’s [Teacher] petition by which she sought a court order annulling her employer’s decision to deny her tenure and to terminate her employment, contending that she had attained tenure by estoppel.

As to Teacher’s claim that she had attained tenure by estoppel, the Appellate Division said the she had failed to demonstrate that she acquired tenure by estoppel or acquisition as the record demonstrated that she did not perform the duties of a teacher beyond her probationary term. The decision notes that Teacher’s employer made it clear to her that she would not be given tenure and, at most, would be offered an extension of her probationary period. Teacher, however, declined the offer to extend her probationary period.

Significantly Teacher was not placed in a classroom nor did she perform any traditional teaching functions immediately prior to the expiration of her probationary period. Rather, said the Appellate Division, the record demonstrates that she performed administrative tasks instead of traditional teaching duties.

The Appellate Division also rejected Teacher’s allegation that her employer had “engaged in bad faith when it terminated her employment” as the record indicated that Teacher had received “two letters of misconduct and an unsatisfactory performance rating.”

One exception to the general rule: In Mendez v Valenti, 101 AD2d 612 the Appellate Division held that as long as the termination of a probationer appointed to a position in the classified service is effected within a reasonable time after the end of his or her maximum period of probation, such as set to coincide with the end of the next payroll period, he or she does not attain tenure by estoppel or acquisition notwithstanding his or her continuation on the payroll. 
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