Posts

MRR School Alert: Teacher’s Failure to Enter Grades Constitutes Good and Just Cause for Termination

By: Stacy V. Pollock

Ever since the Ohio General Assembly amended the state’s teacher termination statute (R.C. §3319.16) years ago to reference a “good and just cause” standard, school boards have struggled to understand what constitutes “good and just cause.” Last week, an Ohio state court of appeals confirmed that a teacher’s failure to enter her student’s final grades constitutes “good and just cause”, and thus is a terminable offense under R.C. §3319.16.

In Thomas v. Dayton Pub. Schools Bd. of Edn., 2018-Ohio-4231 (2nd Dist., Oct. 19, 2018), the Board of Education initiated termination proceedings against a teacher on four counts including a count of failure to enter final grades for her students. Pursuant to her statutory rights, the teacher demanded an administrative hearing. A Referee took three days of testimony and evidence, and ultimately recommended no termination on all counts except on the charge that the teacher failed to enter final grades for her students.

The Board reviewed the hearing transcript and evidence, rejected the recommendation on the first three counts, and found that all counts were sufficiently supported so as to constitute good and just cause for termination under R.C. §3319.16. As she was permitted to do, the teacher appealed the Board’s decision to the common pleas court. The teacher argued, in part, that the intent of §3319.16 is not served if the Board can reject the Referee’s findings without an explanation.   The trial court may only reverse a board’s order of termination of a teacher’s contract where it finds that the board’s termination order is not supported by or is against the weight of the evidence. The trial court vacated the Board’s Order as to each of the charges except the charge relating to the teacher’s failure to enter final grades.

The trial court affirmed the Board’s decision to terminate based upon the charge of her failure to enter her students’ final grades. The Ohio Second Appellate District reviewed the trial court’s decision to ensure that the trial court had not abused its discretion. The Second District held that the trial court had not abused its discretion.

Like the Referee, the Board and the trial court, the Second District determined that the teacher’s failure to enter final grades into the school’s electronic grading system was sufficiently good and just cause for termination. The evidence did not support the teacher’s explanation that she was unfamiliar with the electronic system used for grades and was therefore unable to submit the grades. The teacher knew that the grades were due, knew that the final grades were critical to students, and she knew that the grades would be due a month before their due date.  Yet, she made scant effort to input the grades on time.

While this matter ultimately was determined in favor of the Board (pending any possible appeal by the teacher to the Ohio Supreme Court), the Board spent over two years of energy and possibly significant financial resources defending the termination. Boards are encouraged to stay apprised of court decisions that assist in defining the §3319.16 “good and just cause” standard.  Mazanec, Raskin & Ryder (MRR) will continue to keep an eye on any other noteworthy cases and report them, accordingly.


For more information on this matter or any other school law questions, contact Stacy at spollock@mrrlaw.com or 614.324.0163.

Stacy is a Partner in MRR’s Columbus office and is a certified specialist in employment and labor law, in addition to a certified Professional in Human Resources. She has considerable experience in education law, representing schools and school administrators involving employee and student disciplinary matters. Stacy also advises public and private employers in matters involving leave and discipline issues, personnel policy matters and labor negotiations and arbitrations.

 

MRR Attorneys named to 2019 Best Lawyers in America® list

Mazanec, Raskin & Ryder Co., LPA (MRR) is pleased to announce that seven attorneys have been named to the 2019 Edition of Best Lawyers®, the oldest and most respected peer-reviewed publication in the legal profession. Lawyers on The Best Lawyers in America© list are divided by geographic region and practice areas. They are reviewed by their peers on the basis of professional expertise.

MRR would like to congratulate the following attorneys named to the 2019 Edition of The Best Lawyers in America© list:

Todd M. Raskin (Cleveland), Civil Rights Law

John T. McLandrich (Cleveland), Civil Rights Law

Thomas S. Mazanec (Cleveland), Product Liability Litigation – Defendants

Joseph F. Nicholas, Jr. (Cleveland), Transportation Law

George V. Pilat (Cleveland), Insurance Law

Elisabeth “Lisa” Gentile (Columbus), Medical Malpractice – Defendants

Stacy V. Pollock (Columbus), Education Law

 

About Best Lawyers®

Since it was first published in 1983, Best Lawyers® has become universally regarded as the definitive guide to legal excellence. Best Lawyers lists are compiled based on an exhaustive peer-review evaluation. Over 79,000 leading attorneys globally are eligible to vote, and we have received more than 12 million votes to date on the legal abilities of other lawyers based on their specific practice areas around the world. For the 2016 Edition of The Best Lawyers in America©, 6.7 million votes were analyzed, which resulted in more than 55,000 leading lawyers being included in the new edition. Lawyers are not required or allowed to pay a fee to be listed; therefore inclusion in Best Lawyers is considered a singular honor. Corporate Counsel magazine has called Best Lawyers “the most respected referral list of attorneys in practice.” For more information, visit bestlawyers.com.

Six MRR Attorneys named Best Lawyers in America 2018

Mazanec, Raskin & Ryder Co., LPA (MRR) is pleased to announce that six attorneys have been named to the 2018 Edition of Best Lawyers®, the oldest and most respected peer-reviewed publication in the legal profession. Lawyers on The Best Lawyers in America© list are divided by geographic region and practice areas. They are reviewed by their peers on the basis of professional expertise.

MRR would like to congratulate the following attorneys named to the 2018 Edition of The Best Lawyers in America© list:

Todd M. Raskin (Cleveland), Civil Rights Law

John T. McLandrich (Cleveland), Civil Rights Law

Thomas S. Mazanec (Cleveland), Product Liability Litigation – Defendants

Joseph F. Nicholas, Jr. (Cleveland), Transportation Law

George V. Pilat (Cleveland), Insurance Law

Stacy V. Pollock (Columbus), Education Law

 

About Best Lawyers®

Since it was first published in 1983, Best Lawyers® has become universally regarded as the definitive guide to legal excellence. Best Lawyers lists are compiled based on an exhaustive peer-review evaluation. Over 79,000 leading attorneys globally are eligible to vote, and we have received more than 12 million votes to date on the legal abilities of other lawyers based on their specific practice areas around the world. For the 2016 Edition of The Best Lawyers in America©, 6.7 million votes were analyzed, which resulted in more than 55,000 leading lawyers being included in the new edition. Lawyers are not required or allowed to pay a fee to be listed; therefore inclusion in Best Lawyers is considered a singular honor. Corporate Counsel magazine has called Best Lawyers “the most respected referral list of attorneys in practice.” For more information, visit bestlawyers.com.

Department of Labor Informal Guidance on Joint Employment and Independent Contractors Withdrawn

Employers employing independent contractors, temp workers, and other individuals potentially involved in joint employment relationships should be breathing a bit of a sigh of relief these days.  On June 7, 2017, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) withdrew guidance that had been in place since as early as 2015.  This guidance, developed under the Obama Administration, emphasized a broad interpretation of the Fair Labor Standards Act and supported prior efforts to crack down on employers potentially classifying employees and not complying with wage and hour laws.  Not surprisingly, this withdrawal of the guidance creates a more employer-friendly environment.

Effectively, this should not change how employers operate.  This withdrawal does not mean that employers can be lax in complying with federal wage laws.  In announcing the withdrawal, the DOL made it a point to state that it will continue to fully and fairly enforce all laws within its jurisdiction.  This withdrawal, however, potentially signals that the Trump Administration will be focusing its enforcement on other areas of the law.  MRR will continue to monitor the DOL for any new guidance on these subjects.

Stacy V. Pollock is an Associate in MRR’s Columbus Office. For more info, contact her at spollock@mrrlaw.com.

 

Two MRR Attorneys Set to Speak at OACTA Seminar

On August 26, 2016, at the Quest Conference Center in Columbus, Ohio, two MRR attorneys will serve as seminar speakers at the Ohio Association of Civil Trial Attorneys (OACTA) continuing legal education program, “Governmental Liability Seminar.”

Jeffrey T. Kay (Cleveland) presents a “Primer & Update on Ohio Political Subdivision Roadway Liability.” The session will provide an overview of the applicable sections of the Ohio Revised Code and recent court interpretations involving those sections. Jeff focuses his practice on civil rights and governmental liability, business and commercial law, and appellate law, with a concentration on civil litigation defense. He represents insurance companies/risk pools and their insureds with respect to both first and third-party claims, including employment discrimination, professional liability, municipal liability, automobile negligence claims, general commercial matters, bad faith claims, uninsured claims, products liability, wrongful death claims, commercial premises liability claims, and property and casualty claims.

Stacy V. Pollock’s (Columbus) presentation is entitled, “Degrees of Care: How Careful Does a Political Subdivision Need to be to Retain that Immunity.” Stacy will analyze Ohio Revised Code Chapter 2744 immunity with an emphasis on the lesser-understood exceptions. She focuses her practice on employment and labor law, advising both public and private employers in matters involving leave and discipline issues, personnel policy matters, and labor negotiations and arbitrations. She also has considerable experience in education law, representing schools and school administrators on employee and student disciplinary matters. Prior to working in private practice, she worked as a staff attorney with the Ohio Legislative Service Commission in its state and local government section.

To view the seminar brochure, please click here.

For registration and additional information about OACTA, please visit their website at www.OACTA.org

MRR Article: When an Injury at Work is Not a Workplace Injury – Strategies to Further Protect Your Business’s Bottom Line in Ohio

By: Stacy V. Pollock, Esq.

Workers’ compensation premiums can be an expensive and frustrating cost of doing business. Ohio’s Workers’ Compensation is a no-fault system, meaning employees nearly always are going to be eligible for benefits, even if they, themselves, are at fault for their injury. However, there is a small caveat to the law that few businesses understand, but could potentially save tens of thousands of dollars in unnecessary increased premiums if businesses recognize the issue and timely dispute the claim with the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (“BWC”).

Claimants, meaning injured employees, are not permitted to recover benefits in limited circumstances. Some such situations include injuries incurred during a recreational activity (ie. using the company-owned weight room) if the employee signed a C-159 form, or for injuries from horseplay or intoxication, when the business has the appropriate procedures in place. Claimants are also not entitled to benefits for idiopathic injuries.

Idiopathic injuries are injuries that arise from circumstances unique to the individual. In the context of workers’ compensation, idiopathic refers to a claimant’s preexisting physical weakness or disease which contributes to the accident. For example, a diabetic claimant has neuropathy of the leg, unexplainably falls and sustains an injury from the fall. Unless the claimant is able to demonstrate that the diabetic neuropathy was not the reason for the fall (for example, there was water on the floor that caused her to slip), she should not be entitled to any workers’ compensation benefits.

One limitation to the idiopathic injury exception involves claimants with pre-existing conditions who are exposed to a heightened risk or hazard because of their employment. For example, an employee with a history of seizures works with a welding machine. While on-duty, he has a seizure and falls onto the machine, sustaining an injury from the machine. The welding machine is an added risk or hazard to the employment and therefore makes the injury eligible for workers’ compensation benefits even though the reason for the fall was the claimant’s seizure. However, if that same seizure-prone employee walks down the hall, has a seizure and hits his head on the floor, the floor is not an added risk or hazard to the employment. The individual could have had a seizure and hit his head on the floor anywhere outside of employment. As such, his injury from hitting the floor is not compensable.

Businesses should be mindful of this caveat in workers’ compensation laws. Many idiopathic injuries tend to involve serious injuries that drive up premiums once the claim is allowed. The BWC ordinarily will tentatively allow the claim without any investigation into the cause of the accident. Businesses are only permitted to contest whether or how an accident occurred prior to the BWC allowing the initial claim. Thus, it is critical that businesses assess each workplace injury immediately after the accident to determine whether such injury was actually received in the course of, and arises out of, the employment. If the accident is of some unexplained origin, businesses should explore with legal counsel the possibility of disputing the claim.

In sum, businesses need to take an active role in investigating and questioning workplace injuries, particularly when injuries occur to employees with a pre-existing condition. Businesses must contest those claims within fourteen days of the BWC’s tentative allowance of the claim. Failure to do so will forever bar the business from arguing that the medical conditions and wage loss claims on the claim should not be paid because the accident was caused by the claimant’s own medical condition.

For more information about this matter or any workers’ compensation matter, please contact MRR Columbus Attorney Stacy Pollock at spollock@mrrlaw.com.

MRR Ohio Legislation Updates: January 1, 2016 – January 14, 2016

Notes from the House of Representatives:

  • H.B. 423 was introduced to specify that an order for active military service or other documentation regarding the call to order of an individual in the Armed Forces of the United States or the Ohio organized militia is not a public record
  • H.B. 424 was introduced to specify that military records provided by an officer or employee of a township or municipal corporation to the township or municipal corporation for personnel matters are not public records

Notes from the Senate:

  • S.B. 258 was introduced to establish the duties and authority of the Attorney General to investigate and prosecute cases relating to the death of a person caused by a peace officer

For questions or more information on MRR’s Ohio Legislation Updates, contact:

Stacy V. Pollock  – MRR Columbus
Phone: 614.324.0163
Email: spollock@mrrlaw.com

 

Save

MRR Ohio Legislation Update: December 18, 2015 – December 31, 2015

Notes from the Senate:

  • S.B. No. 256 was introduced to generally require law enforcement agencies to maintain a policy designed to eliminate biased policing and status-based profiling

For questions or more information on MRR’s Ohio Legislation Updates, contact:

Stacy V. Pollock  – MRR Columbus
Phone: 614.324.0163
Email: spollock@mrrlaw.com

Stacy Pollock 8860

Save

MRR Ohio Legislation Updates: December 4, 2015 – December 17, 2015

Notes from the House of Representatives:

  • H.B. No. 403 was introduced regarding the financing of capital improvement projects in this state by another state or a political subdivision of another state
  • H.B. No. 407 was introduced to require law enforcement agencies that use body cameras to adopt written policies for operation of the cameras and to require agencies to make the adopted policies available to the public
  • H.B. No. 207 was passed by the House, to allow a state fund employer to have a workers’ compensation claim that is likely to be subrogated by a third party paid from the surplus fund account in the state insurance fund rather than charged to the employer’s experience
  • The House approved the Senate’s amendments to H.B. No. 259, which regulates certificates of insurance prepared or issued to verify the existence of property or casualty insurance coverage, updates prompt payment requirements, and requires the administrator of Workers’ Compensation to reduce the transfer of negative experience to a successor employer under certain circumstances
  • The House approved the Senate’s amendments to H.B. No. 340, which extends the operation of the Local Government Innovation Council until December 31, 2019, and modifies political subdivision eligibility for the Local Government Safety Capital Grant Program
  • The House approved the Senate’s amendments to H.B. No. 56, which prohibits public employers from including on an employment application any question concerning the criminal background of the applicant, prohibits a felony conviction from being used against an officer or employee when a public employer is undertaking certain employment practices, unless the conviction occurs while the officer or employee is employed in the civil service, removes the bar against sealing a conviction record when the victim is 16 or 17 years old, and provides that certain independent providers are not employees of the state or a political subdivision
  • H.B. No. 413 was introduced to add to the purposes for which a board of township trustees may go into executive session, to permit a township to charge for recycling services, to reduce the population threshold for a township to adopt a limited home rule form of government, to authorize a township to purchase, lease, or provide underwater rescue and recovery equipment for fire and rescue purposes, to authorize boards of township trustees to pay for group life insurance for any employee, to make other changes to the township laws, to allow taxing units to use the proceeds of a fire, police, or emergency services tax levy to pay costs related to the service for which the tax is levied, and to expand the public infrastructure improvements townships, municipal corporations, and counties may pay for using money from their public improvement tax increment equivalent funds
  • H.B. No. 415 was introduced to create the business linked deposit program, to permit credit unions to participate in that program, to permit credit unions to participate in the agricultural linked deposit program, and to make other changes to the linked deposit law
  • H.B. No. 416 was introduced to enable state colleges and universities to establish joint self-insurance pools

Notes from the Senate:

  • S. B. No. 250 was introduced to prohibit community schools from using state moneys to pay for advertising, recruiting, or promotional materials
  • S. B. No. 251 was introduced to regulate the use of drones for gathering evidence and information by law enforcement officers in Ohio
  • The Senate approved the House’s amendments to S.B. No. 223, which makes changes to the health coverage benefit limits and coverage exclusions for life and health insurance guaranty associations, amends the law relating to reinsurance contracts, updates prompt payment requirements, and makes changes to the effective date of a provision relating to subrogation

For questions or more information on MRR’s Ohio Legislation Updates, contact:

Stacy V. Pollock  – MRR Columbus
Phone: 614.324.0163
Email: spollock@mrrlaw.com

Stacy Pollock 8860

Save

MRR Ohio Legislation Updates: August 20 – September 16, 2015

Notes from the House of Representatives:

  • H.B. 304 was introduced to repeal O.R.C. §743.50 to eliminate the law authorizing the maintenance of buffers around municipal water reservoirs by contiguous property owners. (Introduced 8-25-15)
  • H.B. 311 was introduced to enact O.R.C. § 3305.063 to base the percentage of an employee’s salary that must be contributed to the State Teachers Retirement System on the average percentage used to reduce the Retirement System’s unfunded actuarial accrued pensions liabilities, the purpose being to mitigate the effect of an employer’s participation in an alternative retirement program. (Introduced 8-31-15)
  • H.B. 330 was introduced to amend O.R.C. § 4117.08 and enact several new sections of the revised code to require an individual or entity to obtain an equal pay certificate when submitting a bid for a state contract or applying for a grant from a state agency. It would also require state agencies and political subdivisions to establish a job evaluation system to identify and eliminate sex-based wage disparities and prohibit an employer from retaliating against an employee who discusses their salary or wage rate with another employee. (Introduced 9-14-15)
  • H.B. 333 was introduced to amend O.R.C. § 5575.01 to increase the monetary threshold above which competitive bidding is required for township road, construction, repair or maintenance projects. It would also increase the monetary threshold above which a force assessment is required for a township road project. (Introduced 9-16-15)
  • H.B. 279 was referred to the committee on Government Accountability and Oversight. H.B. 279 would make county humane societies political subdivisions, with approval of appointments of agents needed by the county commissioners, instead of the probate judge. (Referred to committee on 9-16-15)

Notes from the Senate:

  • S.J.R. No. 3 was referred to the Committee on Rules and References. S.J.R. No. 3 would enact section 2t of Article VIII of the Constitution of the State of Ohio to permit issuance of general obligation bonds to fund sewer and water capital improvements. (Referred to committee 8-31-15)
  • S.B. No. 210 was introduced to amend O.R.C. § 5575.01 to increase the monetary threshold above which competitive bidding is required for township road, construction, repair or maintenance projects. It would also increase the monetary threshold above which a force assessment is required for a township road project. (Introduced on 9-14-15)

For questions or more information on MRR’s Ohio Legislation Updates, contact:

Stacy V. Pollock  – MRR Columbus
Phone: 614.324.0163
Email: spollock@mrrlaw.com

 

Save