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  1. #1
    Join Date
    May 2014
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    Default Threat of Termination if Employee Lobbies Against a Reduction of Hours

    My question involves labor and employment law for the state of: New Jersey

    Hi, hope I'm posting this in the right place. A teacher friend of mine who had worked at a school for a long time and has an excellent achievement record there, just received her employment offer for the 2014-2015 school year, and she is to be cut from full-time to part-time if she accepts, 3 classes a week plus any extracurricular stipends, no benefits. She was also told by the principal, just finishing his first year at the school, that if there is any campaign on her behalf to be restored to full-time, and they find out she's behind it, her offer for the fall will be rescinded. (She's a popular teacher there, so such a campaign wouldn't be out of the question, but I have a feeling the school would just say she was behind it whether it was true or not.) There are other teachers in other subjects at the same school who are also being cut to part-time, but I do not know if they received the same threat. This is a Catholic school, so it's a non-union job and there is no tenure, contracts are re-evaluated every year. Is there a whistleblower case here worth pursuing?

    On a related note, she was told earlier in the year that if attendance didn't increase in her classes for the upcoming fall that she would be cut to part-time. When she was told this, though, it was already long past the registration deadline for fall classes. There has also been a history recently of the Guidance Department sabotaging (for lack of a better word) her classes by telling students who wanted to register for her classes that they didn't want to take them, and either eagerly accepting transfers out of those classes well after the transfer deadline or just transferring the students themselves and not informing the teacher, while rejecting almost any request to transfer into the same classes even one or two days after the deadline. So it seems like the school had long-term plans going back to at least the beginning of this school year to set her up to fail. Is there cause for action here as well? In either situation, does the subject being taught matter at all?

    Thanks in advance.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jun 2006
    Location
    Massachusetts
    Posts
    24,131

    Default Re: Threat of Termination if Employee Lobbies Against a Reduction of Hours

    What whistle has she blown, that you believe that is the case here?

    On the surface of what you've posted, there is no case for anything here. Unless her contract specifically and in so many words guarantees automatic renewal of full time employment unless X and X has not happened, there is no legal obligation for them to offer her employment for next year at all. When a contract is up, it's up and everything starts fresh.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2014
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    7

    Default Re: Threat of Termination if Employee Lobbies Against a Reduction of Hours

    She hasn't blown any whistle as of yet, but there was a spoken threat as to what would happen if they believe she did. She was specifically told: No campaigns to save your job from anyone other than yourself, and you don't go over our heads to the diocese, or we rescind our offer for the fall. They know she's popular there and a lot of students and parents (and also other teachers and administrators) would be upset if she were cut, so it's certainly possible that somebody could organize a movement of some sort. But I swear it's almost like the school saying to her, you better go to everyone and tell them not to do or say anything for you or we're blaming it on you anyway, and not only will you not be back for us, but we will refuse to recommend you to any other districts. Like giving her a pre-emptive threat. We will ruin you unless you sit there and take it AND force your supporters to do likewise. (It may or may not be worth noting that the school has suffered from some bad publicity for other reasons this past school year, and the principal making these threats was an administrator at another school that was involved in a different scandal not long ago.)

    As far as the terms set for her to return full-time, true, there is nothing in the contract she signed a year ago about guaranteed automatic renewal if X is achieved or not. But it was specifically spoken to her during the winter that a minimum attendance across her classes must be reached or else she would be cut back. No other conditions, do that and we'll bring you back full-time for next year. However, when she was given that stipulation, it was absolutely too late to do anything about it, so they knew it was something that was never going to be achieved from the moment it was set (and even if it wasn't, it's almost assured that Guidance certainly would have taken pains to make sure she never got there).

    If not whistleblower, I can't help but think there has to be SOME legal recourse that can be taken.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
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    7,672

    Default Re: Threat of Termination if Employee Lobbies Against a Reduction of Hours

    Nope, none at all.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2014
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    7

    Default Re: Threat of Termination if Employee Lobbies Against a Reduction of Hours

    So crappy behavior by the school but it's all legal. Ah well, it was worth a shot. Thanks, appreciate the quick responses.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jun 2006
    Location
    Massachusetts
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    Default Re: Threat of Termination if Employee Lobbies Against a Reduction of Hours

    If she hasn't blown any whistle, then the reduction cannot be in response to whistleblowing. That's just common sense.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    May 2014
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    7

    Default Re: Threat of Termination if Employee Lobbies Against a Reduction of Hours

    Yes, but I didn't know if there was something that would help regarding a specific threat against potential whistleblowing, or if maybe should be going down another path and not whistleblowing. Thanks.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    Posts
    1,336

    Default Re: Threat of Termination if Employee Lobbies Against a Reduction of Hours

    When school is out for summer, she needs to apply for UI benefits. Her "reasonable assurance" letter doesn't meet the requirements to be denied benefits as a school employee on summer break.

    Reasonable assurance requires that she will be reemployed in the same capacity. For all practical purposes she is being fired from her existing job, and being offered a new one. She may chose that it's time to move on. At a minimum, she'll at least have a great summer vacation on the tab of the employer's reserve account, and having to foot that bill may make them reevaluate whether they want to do this.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2014
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    7

    Default Re: Threat of Termination if Employee Lobbies Against a Reduction of Hours

    Couldn't the school argue that if she turns down their offer for next year, she's then unemployed on her own accord, and therefore they have reasonable grounds to fight her being awarded UI benefits? Not to mention also following through on their earlier threats.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jun 2006
    Location
    Massachusetts
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    Default Re: Threat of Termination if Employee Lobbies Against a Reduction of Hours

    They could argue that, yes. And they might even prevail on that argument.

    However, that shouldn't stop her from filing. The worst that can happen is that she's turned down and in that case, she's no worse off than if she never filed in the first place. But, "the employer can argue that...(fill in the blank)" is never a good reason not to apply.

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