Will a discrimination complaint, drafted by an attorney on behalf of a paraprofessional, that a court finds to contain numerous errors and insufficiencies, be dismissed?

Yes. Barry Maynard, a paraprofessional at John F. Kennedy High School, commenced a discrimination action against the DOE and several named defendants including the principal, Lisa Luft. Maynard alleged, in his complaint, that after serving several years of satisfactory service “a female student told her guidance counselor that he had been harassing her and another student by asking the girls to spend time with him away from school.” During the investigation an OSI investigator allegedly told Maynard that “since Obama became President, you people think you can get away with anything.”

The investigation resulted in Maynard being dismissed.

The DOE and City moved to dismiss the complaint and the Court agreed.

The Court wrote, “Plaintiff’s complaint is no model of clarity. Plaintiff is represented by counsel, but I have received complaints from pro se plaintiffs that are more “professional.” For example, the Complaint in multiple instances describes Plaintiff–a male–with female pronouns. It refers to a gender discrimination claim, although Plaintiff only advances a race discrimination claim. I can read it clearly enough, however, to ascertain that it should be dismissed.”

The Court found numerous pleading errors and insufficiencies and dismissed the claim in its entirety.

Maynard v City of New York

Will a sexual misconduct complaint justify a 20 year tenured teacher’s termination?

Yes. Luis Villada, a tenured teacher assigned to Multicultural High School was the Chapter Leader at his school when he was charged with sexual misconduct upon a fellow teacher and interfering with an OSI investigation. The arbitrator, Haydee Rosario found that the allegations of hugging and kissing a fellow teacher on her mouth were substantiated. After applying the Pell v. Board of Education standard to the DOE’s request to terminate Vilada, the arbitrator found that while Vilada’s record was unblemished after over 20 years the harm that his sexual misconduct caused his colleague warranted his termination.

Justice Margaret Chan affirmed. She found that the penalty of termination did not shock the conscience or was arbitrary and capricious.

Luis Vilada v. City of New York

Can a paraprofessional accused and terminated for an alleged inappropriate involvement with a twenty year old special education student seek reinstatement when he appealed to court almost two years after his last day of work despite the UFT refusal to take his case to arbitration?

No. James Barnes, Jr., a paraprofessional at P 754X was accused of an inappropriate relationship with a 20-year-old female special education student on February 24, 2010. He was reassigned pending an SCI investigation. On October 7, 2010, a due consideration conference was held to give petitioner a chance to respond to the SCI report with his UFT representative present. Petitioner was formally terminated and placed on the “Ineligible Inquiry List” in a letter dated October 19, 2010. On October 21, 2010, petitioner filed his initial grievance appeal and a Step 2 grievance appeal conference was held on January 7, 2011. On January 21, 2011, the Chancellor’s Representative issued a grievance decision denying petitioner’s grievance, finding that “the grievant received due process and was properly terminated without contractual violations.” Petitioner appealed to the UFT union’s Ad Com Grievance Committee to take further action. In a letter dated June 8, 2010, the Committee denied the appeal and declined  to take any further action on petitioner’s behalf, stating “that the Union cannot overcome the Department of Education’s argument that you were terminated for good and sufficient reason and received due consideration.”

Barnes started his Article 78 petition on August 31, 2012.

The statute of limitations for Article 78 proceedings is 4 months and in termination cases the time starts to run from the petitioner’s “last day of work.” Barnes argued that the Union’s delay in deciding to take the matter to arbitration tolled or extended this limitations period.

Justice Alexander W. Hunter, Jr. disagreed and ruled that Barnes’ petition was untimely and dismissed his petition.

Barnes had also argued that the SCI investigator admitted he falsified telephone records which were used to establish Barnes’ alleged inappropriate relationship. Justice Hunter ruled that under Labor Law Sections 537 and 623 evidence from unemployment hearings is inadmissible in subsequent court proceedings.

In the Matter of the Application of James Barnes, Jr., Petitioner, For a Judgment Pursuant to Article 78 of the Civil Practice Law and Rules, -against- The Department of Education of the City of New York, Respondent, Index No.: 401944/12, SUPREME COURT OF NEW YORK, NEW YORK COUNTY, 2013 N.Y. Misc. LEXIS 268; 2013 NY Slip Op 30091U, January 16, 2013.

Does a felony conviction bar potential teachers from working for the Department of Education?

The Court of Appeals (our highest state court) has ruled that the DOE arbitrarily denied an applicant a security clearance to teach for a contracted employer. Madeline Acosta had applied for a position at Cooke Center for Learning and Development. She had been convicted of a 1st Degree Robbery, when she was 17, some 14 years before, and claimed to have been completely rehabilitated by earning a college degree and working as a paralegal.

Under the Correction and Executive Law it is unlawful for any public or private employer to deny any license or employment application “by reason of the individual’s having been previously convicted of one or more criminal offenses”

There are, however, two significant exceptions to this general prohibition. The first exception arises where “there is a direct relationship between one or more of the previous criminal offenses and the  specific license or employment sought or held by the individual” and the second exception allows for the adverse treatment of such applications where “the issuance or continuation of the license or the granting or continuation of the employment would involve an unreasonable risk to property or to the safety or welfare of specific individuals or the general public.”

It is the second exception that concerned the court.

There are eight factors that potential employers must weigh and while the court found that it would be improper for a court to re-weigh the factors it felt that the overriding public policy to encourage rehabilitation of convicted felons outweighed, in this instance, the concerns that the employer might have.

The court ruled that it was arbitrary for the DOE to deny the security clearance.

Acosta v. NYCDOE, 2011 NY Slip Op 2073; 16 N.Y.3d 309; 2011 N.Y. LEXIS 437; 31 I.E.R. Cas. (BNA) 1840, March 24, 2011