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Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Changing a Connecticut teacher’s professional obligation from full-time to part-time not a “termination” requiring a pre-termination notice and hearing


Changing a Connecticut teacher’s professional obligation from full-time to part-time not a “termination” requiring a pre-termination notice and hearing
Mirabilio v Regional School District 16 [Connecticut], USCA, Second Circuit, Docket #13-4156

A tenured teacher sued the school board alleging that the board had violated her due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment and Connecticut General Statute §10-151 when it failed to provide her with “notice and a hearing” before reducing her full-time position to a half-time position.

The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the district court's dismissal of her action, ruling that neither notice nor a hearing was required where the change in the teacher’s terms and conditions of employment only involved a reduction in hours and salary as such a change “did not constitute a ‘termination’ under Connecticut law.”

In contrast, the Decision of the Commissioner of Education in the Appeal of Morehouse, Decisions of the Commissioner of Education #13,896, suggests that the change of a position from full-time to half-time creates a layoff situation as the full-time position “is abolished,” which results in the termination of the least senior tenured incumbent.

The Board of Education had reduced Morehouse’s full-time technology teacher position to a half-time position and he continued serving with school district as a half-time technology teacher. Subsequently the half-time position was “taken over” by a BOCES and Morehouse’s half-time position was abolished.

When the school board later announced a vacancy for a full-time technology teacher, Morehouse “made a claim to that position pursuant to Education Law §§2510 and 3013,” contending that his full-time position had been partially abolished and that he was entitled to the position because of his status on the preferred eligible list.

The school district argued that its changing the full-time position to a part-time position did not entitle Morehouse to have his name placed on a preferred eligible list and, in any event, he lost any such right when the program in which he taught was transferred to BOCES pursuant to Education Law §3014-a and he taught full time in that position.

Although the Commissioner dismissed Morehouse’s appeal, the decision points out that   “Assuming, without deciding, that [Morehouse] became entitled to a position on the preferred eligible list as a result of [the school district’s] reduction of his position from full time to half time on June 18, 1992, [Morehouse’s] retirement from the teaching profession at the end of the 1995-1996 school year effectively removed him from such list” [emphasis supplied].

The Commissioner noted that “Neither party has submitted any authority on the precise effect of retirement on one's rights to be continued on a preferred eligible list. I find that retirement should have the same effect as a resignation with acceptance of termination benefits. In this particular case, petitioner changed employers in 1993 pursuant to a statutory provision, worked full time for several years, and then formally retired, apparently without consulting respondent with respect to any effect that his retirement would have on his rights, if any, in the district. These actions amount to a formal, presumably permanent, withdrawal from the teaching profession, and justify respondent's hiring of a different candidate. I also note that 8 NYCRR §80.35(a)(6) restricts the employment of retired person generally to situations where no other qualified person is readily available. This policy would be difficult to advance if retired persons were allowed to remain for extended periods on preferred eligible lists.

The Commissioner then commented “If I were not dismissing on this ground, I would dismiss for petitioner's failure to provide any proof that the position which became available in 1997 was "similar" to the full-time position he previously held. While petitioner alleges such similarity, respondent denies it, and petitioner provides no evidence of similarity."* 

This dicta**generates some speculation that had Morehouse not retired from his position with BOCES, the Commissioner may well have concluded that his rights to reinstatement from the school district’s preferred list for technology teacher may have survived for the seven-year period mandated by law notwithstanding his employment by BOCES.

* In order to establish entitlement to appointment to a new position under §§2510 and 3013, the petitioner must first establish that the two positions are in the same tenure area (see Kelley v. Ambach, 83 AD2d 733);

** The term dictais applied to statements by a judicial or quasi-judicial body that do not embody the resolution or determination of the specific case before the tribunal.

The Mirabilio decision is posted on the Internet at:

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The Layoff, Preferred List and Reinstatement Manual - a 645 page e-book reviewing the relevant laws, rules and regulations, and selected court and administrative decisions. For more information click on http://booklocker.com/books/5216.html
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Handbooks focusing on State and Municipal Public Personnel Law continue to be available for purchase via the links provided below:

The Discipline Book at http://thedisciplinebook.blogspot.com/

A Reasonable Penalty Under The Circumstances at http://nypplarchives.blogspot.com

The Disability Benefits E-book: at http://section207.blogspot.com/

Layoff, Preferred Lists at http://nylayoff.blogspot.com/

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