CEA Advisor: Special Edition - August 2018

6 CEA ADVISOR SPECIAL EDITION • AUGUST 2018 Teachers rarely imagine themselves in a situation where their reputation is at risk or their career is in jeopardy. But it happens more than you think, to some of the best educators. Facing false accusations, workplace illnesses or injuries, DCF investigations, or potential termination can be among the most devastating and frightening experiences of your professional life. “These cases are like lightning strikes,” says CEA attorney Melanie Kolek, “and it is critically important to know where to turn and how to respond.” With CEA’s legal team behind you, you will never have to go it alone. CEA’s Legal Team – clockwise from top, Rebecca Mitchell, Melanie Kolek, and Adrienne DeLucca. Your Union Protects Your Job Real cases—resolved by CEA’s legal team “I can’t say enough good about our CEA lawyers. They are phenomenal. They explore all avenues, really go searching, and identify dozens of witnesses. You know they’re there to help you. I have never seen lawyers as compassionate and competent. They do not give up. When you look at the services CEA provides, and when you see CEA come to your service with everything they’ve got, it’s so powerful. You get the CEAmembership card every year, but you don’t always realize the sheer strength behind it. It blows me away how prepared CEA’s attorneys are, and I’m blown away that every CEAmember has that same support.” Mary Ann Sporcic, Oxford teacher “None of us imagines that our careers could be in jeopardy due to work-related matters, but bad things happen to good people. With CEA, we are never alone. There is peace of mind that in our time of need, CEA has resources to help us with any legal or professional issue we may face. It is a good feeling to know that as we are doing our jobs teaching, CEA has a team of top- notch professionals who can provide us with critical legal assistance.” George Macary, Naugatuck teacher WORKERS’ COMPENSATION RESOLVED ISSUE: After 34 years in the classroom, Naugatuck teacher Mark Callahan suffered a tragic school accident that caused a traumatic brain injury, putting an end to the career he loved. CEA’S RESOLUTION: CEA’s legal team took on this complicated case, guiding Mark at every step and advocating on his behalf. They successfully resolved his workers’ compensation matter for close to $300,000. DCF SUBSTANTIATION REVERSED ISSUE: A teacher became ill in the classroom and proceeded to the bathroom in an emergency. Before doing so, the teacher left a student in the capable hands of a certified co-teacher, in a one-on-one situation. Nevertheless, allegations of physical neglect were brought against the teacher, and DCF investigators made a determination that the allegations were “substantiated”—a claim that can be devastating to an educator’s reputation and career. CEA’S RESOLUTION: CEA’s Member Legal Services team stepped in immediately, argued the case before the DCF principal attorney in the region, and had the wrongful substantiation reversed, sparing the teacher the angst of filing a lengthy formal appeal. CAREER RESTORED ISSUE: A highly regarded teacher and beloved coach in the midst of a family crisis was suspended after raising his voice to administrators. While the 20-year veteran teacher was on leave, the superintendent sought to have him fired from the job he loved. CEA’S RESOLUTION: CEA represented the teacher through the nearly 12-month termination process, conducting extensive interviews with fellow teachers, community members, and students. “They worked tirelessly combing through police and other investigatory statements,” he says, “finding discrepancies within those statements and preparing thoroughly for my case. They were caring, hard-working, honest, and ethical. Every decision in my case was a collaborative one and given serious consideration. Over the course of six hearing dates spanning four months, they cross-examined witnesses, showcased discrepancies and untruths, and questioned witnesses to highlight the important parts of the issue at hand to the impartial hearing officer.” CEA Member Legal Services brought dozens of character witnesses forward, using every instrument at their disposal to fight for the embattled teacher/coach and his career. After half a dozen hearings, CEA won the case for the teacher, who returned immediately to the classroom and his coaching duties. The teacher paid no attorneys’ fees, because CEA’s legal representation in cases like these is a free member benefit. “CEA provided me with strong legal representation in my fight to maintain my teaching position,” he says. “I would urge all teachers to join and support your union. I would have lost my career if not for my union’s representation. Know your rights and understand that being a tenured teacher does not ensure that your superintendent cannot attempt to terminate you from your teaching position. In my case, in my 20 years of teaching, I had never been disciplined for any reason. And I found myself with my job on the line.” “You don’t know howmuch you need the union until something terrible happens to you. I don’t knowwhere I’d be right now without CEA.” Mark Callahan SUSPENSION REVOKED ISSUE: A veteran teacher with an unblemished work history and no disciplinary record was called to the principal’s office. With no written or verbal warning, she was hit with a five-day, unpaid suspension: a loss of $2,100. Her offense? Posting two humorous quips on Facebook poking fun at general workplace dynamics. CEA’S RESOLUTION: A CEA UniServ representative sat down with the teacher, got to know her, discussed the specifics of her case, and successfully advocated on her behalf. Ultimately, CEA was able to show that the district failed to satisfy the requirement of just cause, bypassed two levels of progressive discipline, and issued a penalty that was not warranted. The teacher’s five-day suspension was overturned, all references to the suspension were removed from her files, and lost wages were repaid. “As devastating as this all felt, once I had CEA by my side, a weight was lifted off of me.”