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Monday, August 03, 2015

Dismissed probationary teacher seeks damages for the employer’s alleged fraudulent inducement and breach of contract and for the union’s alleged breach of its duty of fair representation


Dismissed probationary teacher seeks damages for the employer’s alleged fraudulent inducement and breach of contract and for the union’s alleged breach of its duty of fair representation
2015 NY Slip Op 06331, Appellate Division, Second Department

The plaintiff [Probationer] commenced an action against the School District and certain named individuals [district defendants] and against the school district’s Teachers Association and New York State United Teachers [union defendants] .after her employment as a probationary teacher was terminated. Probationer’s amended complaint asserted causes of action to recover damages for the district defendant' alleged fraudulent inducement and breach of contract and a cause of action to recover damages for the union defendants' alleged breach of the duty of fair representation.

The Appellate Division ruled that Supreme Court properly granted the district defendants' cross motion to dismiss the amended complaint insofar as asserted against them. The court explained that a teacher's employment may be terminated during his or her probationary period for any reason, or no reason at all, unless the teacher establishes that his or her employment was terminated for a constitutionally impermissible purpose or in violation of a statutory proscription.

Here, said the court, the amended complaint failed to allege that Probationer’s employment was terminated for a constitutionally impermissible purpose or in violation of a statutory proscription. As Probationer was an at-will employee, whose employment could be terminated at any time during the probationary period, the Appellate Division said that “there can be no action alleging breach of contract, citing Havilland v Yonkers Public Schools, 21 AD3d 527.

In addition, the court commented that the amended complaint failed to establish that the Probationer reasonably relied upon the district defendants' alleged misrepresentations, which is an element necessary to the recovery of damages under a theory of fraudulent inducement.

Accordingly, the Appellate Division concluded that the amended complaint failed to state a cause of action against the district defendants.

Turning Supreme Court’s dismissal of the amended complaint insofar as asserted against the union defendants, the Appellate Division said that “Because the union defendants were unincorporated associations, and because the amended complaint failed to allege that the conduct complained of on the part of the union defendants was authorized or ratified by every one of their respective members, the amended complaint failed to state a cause of action against the union defendants.”

In Martin v Curran, 303 NY 276, the Court of Appeals held that a voluntary unincorporated association "has no existence independent of its members" and that "for better or worse, wisely or otherwise, the Legislature has limited . . . suits against association officers, whether for breaches of agreements or for tortious wrongs, to cases where the individual liability of every single member can be alleged and proven" it vacated the lower courts ruling. 

Although certain exceptions have been carved out from this general rule, the court said that one commentator has observed that, “although a claim of breach of the duty of fair representation may be brought either in court or before an appropriate agency (such as the Public Employment Relations Board), the reality in light of Martin is that most such claims must be brought before an agency to survive early dismissal," citing Rubenstein, Union Immunity From Suit in New York, 2 NYU Journal of Law & Business 641.

An abstract of the Rubenstein article is posted on the Internet at:

The Appellate Division’s decision is posted on the Internet at:

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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