Public, Municipal, & Education Law
Public, Municipal, & Education Law
Attorneys Ready to Assist in All Areas of New York State Public Law, Municipal Law, and Education Law
Coughlin & Gerhart is proud to offer municipal clients in New York State a full range of legal services. In providing “Public Law”, “Education Law”, and “Municipal Law” services, we provide the full spectrum of legal services to our clients, both as general legal counsel and as special counsel.
We act as general legal counsel to your municipal boards: School Boards of Education, Fire District Boards of Commissioners, Town & Village Boards, Zoning & Planning Boards, and County executives and legislatures.
We also provide legal services for all of your special municipal needs: bonding, contract negotiations, competitive bidding and the new piggybacking bid process, litigation, real estate and land use law, reserve accounts, and employment/labor law including civil service law assistance and discipline, among your other needs. With our firm’s team of attorneys with diverse and extensive experience, we are uniquely positioned to meet the needs of municipalities throughout our region.
Our firm has seven offices across New York’s Southern Tier and Northern Pennsylvania to make access to our experienced lawyers and legal team as convenient as possible, regardless of your location.
A Broad Range of Services, Tailored to Each Client’s
We regularly represent municipal entities and related entities (including but not limited to municipal governments, towns, villages, counties, zoning boards of appeals, planning boards/commissions, schools, fire districts, fire departments, emergency/ambulance companies and other boards and entities) both as general counsel and on a special counsel basis to address complex matters, including:
- Personnel, union, labor & employment matters and disputes, including negotiations
- Disciplinary matters, including:
- Employees, teachers, and students
- Resolutions, charter amendments, and local legislation, including:
- Noise and road preservation local laws
- Capital Projects, including:
- Financing, competitive bidding, prevailing wage, and related disputes/litigation
- Land Use & Zoning applications and disputes, including:
- Variances, special use permits, site plans, subdivisions, and comprehensive plans
- SEQRA (State Environmental Quality Review Act) analysis and procedures
- Open Meetings Law complaints and questions
- FOIL (Freedom of Information Law) complaints and questions
- Ethics opinions
- Planning for and responding to effects of industry development on a municipality’s
infrastructure and resources
- Oil and Natural Gas-related matters, including:
- Drilling permits, pipelines, and compressor stations
- Special Education needs, manifestation hearings, and impartial hearing requests
- Commissioner of Education matters
- Civil rights claims defense
- Municipal-related litigation, including:
- Personal Injury
- Workers’ Compensation
- Labor matters
- Article 78 proceedings
- Tax Assessment defense:
- SCAR (Small Claims Assessment Review)
- Article 7 matters and litigation
- Franchise Agreements
NYS Supreme Court Affirms Coughlin & Gerhart Client’s Open Meeting Practices, Budgeting, and Employment Decisions
The New York State Supreme Court, Broome County issued a sweeping decision early last week affirming that a school district’s Board of Education properly conducted meetings, appropriately addressed budgetary concerns, and made rational employment decisions. This decision affirms numerous municipal practices, including discussion during meetings and executive sessions of employee issues, fund management, and hiring policies. Coughlin & Gerhart’s team of attorneys were led by Robert H. McKertich and Nathan D. VanWhy, who are based out of the firm’s Binghamton, New York office.
In the suit, Coughlin & Gerhart, LLP represented a Board of Education against a parent organization alleging violations of the New York State Open Meetings Law and Real Property Tax Law, and breach of fiduciary duty. The New York State Supreme Court held (1) that it was appropriate for a Board of Education to enter into executive session to discuss employee issues and to utilize a multi-year plan of spending to reduce budget surpluses, (2) the Court is without jurisdiction to remove Board of Education members, (3) there was no evidence of waste or illegal conduct by the Board or administration, and (4) there was no basis to conclude that the Board acted in an arbitrary and capricious manner.
The Court’s decision affirms numerous municipal practices by boards across New York State, and should act as a guidepost for all municipalities when considering best management practices, and a reminder that executive sessions must specifically state the reason for which they are entered, and discussions during them must remain focused solely on those topics. A copy of the decision in the case, School Transparency Organization for Parents v. Harpursville Central School District, is available here for review.
Coughlin & Gerhart has numerous attorneys experienced in municipal law and litigation, and stand ready to assist all municipal clients.
Contact Coughlin & Gerhart
Our Public Law Practice Group is composed of 13 of our firm’s highly experienced attorneys. To arrange a consultation with one of our firm’s attorneys, contact our firm via email or call our Binghamton headquarters at (607) 821-2202, toll free 800-646-3420.
Municipal Law FAQ
What are the legal requirements for conducting open meetings and public hearings in New York municipalities?
New York State Open Meetings Law (OML): The Open Meetings Law applies to all public bodies at the state and local levels in New York, including municipalities. It requires that meetings of public bodies be open to the public and that notice of meetings be given to the public in advance.
Notice Requirements: Public bodies must provide notice of the time, date, and location of their meetings to the public and the news media. If a meeting is scheduled at least one week prior, then the notice should be given at least 72 hours before the meeting. The notice should be posted in a designated location, given to the news media, and, if the public body maintains a website, it must be posted on the website as well.
Agenda Requirements: Open Meetings Law does not require that an agenda be prepared or that a prepared agenda be followed. Public bodies can adopt their own rules or procedures about preparation and use of an agenda.
Executive Sessions: Public bodies are allowed to enter into executive sessions under certain circumstances, such as discussing matters that involve personnel, litigation, or real property transactions. However, specific procedures must be followed for entering and exiting executive sessions.
Public Participation: The public has the right to attend and observe meetings, but public bodies are not required to allow public participation. However, many public bodies do provide a period for public comments or questions during their meetings.
Minutes: Minutes of the meetings must be taken and made available to the public. The minutes should include a record of all motions, proposals, resolutions and any other matter voted upon and a record of the vote of each member.
Public Hearings: Public hearings are specific types of meetings held to gather public input on particular issues, such as proposed laws, regulations, or projects. Adequate notice of public hearings must be given, and the public must be provided an opportunity to comment.
The above points provide a general overview of the New York State Open Meetings Law and its requirements. The law can be complex, and municipalities may have additional local laws or regulations that further define how open meetings and public hearings are conducted. To get the most accurate and up-to-date information, you should seek legal advice from experienced counsel such as Coughlin & Gerhart.
How can a municipality navigate the legal aspects of land use planning and zoning regulations in New York?
If a local government previously adopted zoning local laws, they should make sure that they are using their own local laws and those laws and regulations of New York State. Also reviewing and updating their comprehensive plan and zoning local law are key. The Code/Zoning Officer, and members of any Planning Boards and Zoning Board of Appeals should take zoning/planning trainings and keep up to speed on laws and trends in land use developments in New York State. Some local governments find it is helpful to have legal counsel present at Planning Board and Zoning Board of Appeals meetings, especially if there is concern over environmental impacts or a large or complex proposed land use.
If a local government has not yet adopted zoning, the village or town board should consider if zoning is a good fit for their locality. That should include seeking input from the public and other stakeholders. There are professionals in zoning and zoning law, who can assist the drafting and adoption of zoning laws. Your County Planning department also is a source for valuable input. If a zoning local law is determined to be appropriate for a local government, it should be crafted and customized for the specific locality.
What are the legal obligations and liabilities related to municipal contracts and procurement in New York?
Local governments must comply with both New York Law and their own procurement policy. This includes procurement of goods and services. There are many laws that are involved with procurement, but the goals are to ensure fair and open competition, avoiding fraud and favoritism and protecting the interests of the taxpayers and residents of the local government. Procurement can be done via a variety of ways including using lowest responsible bidding, best value, an RFP/RFQ, cooperative purchasing (aka piggybacking) or using NYS awards. There are monetary thresholds or other factors that may trigger higher obligations in procurement. Seeking legal advice or advice from the New York State Comptroller’s office when there is a complex procurement or a large capital project is suggested.
How does New York law address the issue of public records and Freedom of Information requests for municipalities?
FOIL Access: New York’s Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) provides citizens, media, and organizations the right to access government records, including those held by municipalities, promoting transparency and accountability.
Request Process: Requesters can submit written FOIL requests specifying the records they seek. Municipalities are generally required to respond within a defined timeframe, providing the requested records or explaining denials based on specific exemptions.
Exemptions: FOIL includes exemptions that allow certain records to be withheld, such as personal privacy, law enforcement investigations, and trade secrets. Denials must be justified based on these exemptions.
Records Access Officer (RAO): Each municipality designates a Records Access Officer (RAO) responsible for managing FOIL requests, coordinating responses, and ensuring compliance.
Appeals and Remedies: Requesters can appeal denials to the agency head or appeals officer. If unsuccessful, they can seek a review from the New York State Committee on Open Government or pursue legal action.
Electronic Records and Fees: FOIL covers various formats, including electronic records, and agencies may charge reasonable copying fees. Fees shouldn’t act as deterrents to access.
Understanding FOIL’s mechanisms, designating a Records Access Officer, and adhering to its requirements are crucial for municipalities to maintain compliance and uphold transparency in responding to Freedom of Information requests.
What are some of the main legal considerations in New York for municipal employment, including hiring, termination, and discrimination laws?
- Hiring Process:
Equal Employment Opportunity: Municipalities must adhere to federal and state laws that prohibit discrimination in hiring based on factors such as race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, and age.
Job Postings: Job postings should be clear and inclusive, avoiding language that could be interpreted as discriminatory.
Interview Process: Interviews should be conducted fairly and consistently, focusing on job-related qualifications and avoiding inappropriate questions.
- Termination and Employment-at-Will:
Employment-at-Will: New York generally follows the employment-at-will doctrine, which means that employers can terminate employees for any reason, as long as it’s not prohibited by law or in violation of an employment contract. However, certain statutes, such as Section 75 of the Civil Service Law, modify the employment-at-will doctrine for municipalities.
Contractual Obligations: Some municipal employees may have employment contracts that outline specific terms of employment and conditions for termination.
- Anti-Discrimination and Harassment Laws:
Federal and State Laws: Municipalities must comply with federal laws such as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and state laws like the New York State Human Rights Law that prohibit discrimination and harassment in the workplace.
Reasonable Accommodations: Employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities, unless it causes undue hardship.
Sexual Harassment: Municipalities are required to have policies and procedures in place to address and prevent sexual harassment in the workplace.
- Family and Medical Leave:
Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA): FMLA requires eligible employers, including municipalities, to provide eligible employees with job-protected leave for certain family and medical reasons.
- Wage and Hour Laws:
Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA): Municipalities must comply with federal and state wage and hour laws, including minimum wage, overtime, and record-keeping requirements.
- Retaliation Protection:
Whistleblower Protection: Municipal employees who report illegal activities or misconduct by the employer are protected from retaliation.
- Collective Bargaining and Union Contracts:
Public Employee Relations Act: Municipalities with unionized employees must comply with the New York State Public Employee Relations Act, which governs collective bargaining and labor relations.
Navigating municipal employment law requires a clear understanding of these considerations. Consultation with legal experts and keeping up with changes in laws and regulations is crucial to ensure compliance and protect both the municipality and its employees.
What are some legal considerations for municipal liability and insurance coverage in New York?
- Governmental Immunity:
Municipalities in New York generally have governmental immunity, but this does not apply to all situations. Immunity may be waived in cases of negligence or other wrongful acts, leading to potential liability.
- Types of Liability:
Municipalities can face liability in various areas, including personal injury, property damage, civil rights violations, employment disputes, and more.
- Tort Claims Act:
The New York State Tort Claims Act outlines procedures for filing claims against municipalities for personal injury, property damage, and other torts. There are specific notice requirements and limitations on damages.
- Insurance Coverage:
Municipalities typically obtain insurance coverage to protect against various risks, such as general liability, property damage, professional liability, employment practices liability, and more.
- Sovereign Immunity Limits:
While municipalities have governmental immunity, there are limits. For example, municipalities may be held liable for the negligent actions of their employees or for dangerous conditions on public property.
- Police Liability:
Police departments and municipalities may face liability in cases of excessive use of force, false arrest, civil rights violations, and other misconduct.
- Employment Liability:
Municipalities can be held liable for violations of employment laws, including discrimination, harassment, wrongful termination, and failure to provide a safe work environment.
- Contractual Liability:
Contracts entered into by municipalities may expose them to liability if they fail to fulfill contractual obligations.
- Environmental Liability:
Municipalities may face liability for environmental violations, contamination, and failure to comply with environmental regulations.
- Risk Management:
Municipalities should have risk management strategies in place to identify potential liabilities, mitigate risks, and ensure compliance with laws and regulations.
Education Law FAQ
How does New York law address the legal obligations and procedures for special education evaluations and Individualized Education Programs (IEPs)?
School districts in New York must adhere to these legal obligations and procedures to ensure that children with disabilities receive appropriate special education services.
- Child Find:
School districts in New York have a legal obligation under IDEA to identify, locate, and evaluate children with disabilities who may be eligible for special education services. This process is known as “child find.”
Upon referral or suspicion of a disability, the school district must conduct a comprehensive evaluation of the child’s strengths and needs. The evaluation assesses various areas of development, including cognitive, academic, social, emotional, and physical.
- Consent and Timelines:
Before conducting an initial evaluation or reevaluation, the school district must obtain written consent from the child’s parent or legal guardian. IDEA sets specific timelines for completing evaluations and obtaining consent.
- Individualized Education Program (IEP):
If a child is found eligible for special education services, an IEP is developed. The IEP is a legally binding document that outlines the child’s educational goals, services, accommodations, and modifications.
- IEP Team:
The IEP is developed and reviewed by an IEP team, which includes the child’s parents or guardians, special education and general education teachers, related service providers, and other individuals with expertise.
- Content of the IEP:
The IEP includes information about the child’s present levels of performance, annual goals, services to be provided, placement, and how progress will be measured and reported.
- Least Restrictive Environment (LRE):
IDEA requires that children with disabilities be educated in the least restrictive environment appropriate for their needs. This means that whenever possible, children should be educated alongside their typically developing peers.
- Procedural Safeguards:
New York provides procedural safeguards to ensure that parents are informed and have the opportunity to participate in the evaluation and IEP process. Parents have the right to due process if disagreements arise.
- Transition Planning:
Beginning at age 14 (or younger if appropriate), the IEP must include transition planning to help the student transition from school to post-school activities, such as employment, higher education, and independent living.
IDEA requires that children with disabilities be reevaluated periodically to determine continued eligibility for special education services and to assess their progress toward meeting their goals.
What due process rights do general education and special education students have when they are faced with student discipline in New York public schools?
- General Education Students:
Notice: Students must be provided with notice of the alleged misconduct and the disciplinary action being considered.
Opportunity to Respond: Students generally have the right to provide their side of the story and explain their perspective.
Timely and Fair Hearing: If a suspension of more than five days is being considered, the student has the right to a timely and fair disciplinary hearing. This may involve presenting evidence and witnesses.
Representation: Students may have the right to be represented by an attorney or advocate, but this can vary based on the severity of the disciplinary action.
Appeal: Students have the right to appeal the outcome of the disciplinary hearing if they disagree with the decision.
- Special Education Students (IDEA Protections):
Special education students are entitled to the same due process rights as general education students, with additional protections under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
Manifestation Determination: If a special education student faces a suspension of more than ten days in a school year, or a change of placement, a manifestation determination review must be conducted. This review determines if the behavior is related to the student’s disability.
Functional Behavioral Assessment (FBA) and Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP): If a student’s behavior is a result of their disability, the IEP team must review and revise the student’s plan, which may include an FBA and BIP.
Stay-Put Provision: If there is a dispute about a disciplinary action, the student’s current placement generally remains unchanged until the dispute is resolved.
Timelines: IDEA specifies specific timelines for conducting manifestation determination reviews and disciplinary hearings involving special education students.
How does New York law address student privacy and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)?
- Student Education Records:
FERPA defines “education records” as any records, files, documents, or other materials that contain information directly related to a student and are maintained by an educational agency or institution.
- Consent Requirement:
FERPA requires schools to obtain written consent from a student’s parent or eligible student (18 years or older or attending postsecondary education) before disclosing personally identifiable information from the student’s education records, with certain exceptions.
- Directory Information:
Schools may disclose directory information (e.g., name, address, phone number) without consent, but they must notify parents and eligible students about their right to opt out of such disclosures.
- Access to Records:
Parents and eligible students generally have the right to access and review the student’s education records. Schools must comply with requests within 45 days.
- Amendment of Records:
If parents or eligible students believe information in education records is inaccurate, misleading, or violates privacy rights, they can request the school to amend the records. Schools must provide an opportunity for a hearing if the request is denied.
- Limitations on Redisclosure:
FERPA imposes limitations on the redisclosure of education records by parties who receive them. Recipients must have a legitimate educational interest or obtain written consent.
- Enforcement and Penalties:
Noncompliance with FERPA can result in the withholding of federal funds from educational institutions. Parents and eligible students can file complaints with the U.S. Department of Education.
- Special Education Records:
The privacy rights of students with disabilities are further protected under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and its confidentiality provisions.
- New York State Education Law:
New York State has laws that align with and complement FERPA, reinforcing the protection of student privacy and the confidentiality of education records.
What are the legal obligations and procedures for addressing bullying and harassment in New York public schools?
- Dignity for All Students Act (DASA):
DASA is a New York state law that aims to provide a safe and supportive school environment free from discrimination, harassment, and bullying. It applies to all public schools, including elementary, middle, and high schools.
DASA defines harassment as unwanted conduct, including verbal, nonverbal, or physical behavior, that is based on a student’s actual or perceived characteristics, such as race, color, national origin, religion, sex, gender, sexual orientation, or disability. Bullying is considered a subset of harassment.
- Reporting and Investigation:
Schools are required to establish procedures for reporting incidents of harassment and bullying. Students, parents, and staff should be informed about how to report such incidents.
Schools must promptly and thoroughly investigate reports of harassment and bullying, taking appropriate steps to address the behavior and prevent recurrence.
- School Response:
When harassment or bullying is substantiated, schools must take disciplinary and corrective action against the perpetrators. This may include counseling, education, intervention, and appropriate consequences.
- Prevention Programs:
Schools are mandated to implement programs that promote positive school climate, prevent harassment and bullying, and provide education on respecting diversity and differences.
School staff, including teachers, administrators, and support personnel, must receive training on how to identify, address, and prevent harassment and bullying.
DASA includes provisions to address cyberbullying, which is bullying or harassment conducted through electronic communication.
- Retaliation Protection:
Students who report incidents of harassment or bullying and those who cooperate in investigations are protected from retaliation.
- Reporting to the State:
Schools are required to report incidents of harassment and bullying to the New York State Education Department for data collection and analysis.
It’s important for students, parents, and school staff to be aware of DASA’s requirements and procedures for addressing harassment and bullying in New York public schools. Schools should have clear policies in place, provide education on bullying prevention, and ensure that students know how to report incidents. For the most current and detailed information, refer to the New York State Education Department and relevant legal resources.
What are some of the main legal considerations for student discipline and code of conduct in New York schools?
- Due Process Rights:
Students have constitutional due process rights, which means they are entitled to fair and consistent treatment when facing disciplinary actions. This includes notice of allegations, an opportunity to respond, and, in some cases, a hearing.
- Code of Conduct:
Schools are required to develop and implement a code of conduct that outlines expected behavior, disciplinary procedures, consequences, and student rights.
- Prohibited Actions:
The code of conduct should explicitly define prohibited behaviors, such as bullying, harassment, violence, drug use, and other violations of school rules.
- Equal Treatment:
Discipline must be administered without discrimination or bias, ensuring that all students are treated fairly regardless of their race, gender, disability, or other protected characteristics.
- Zero Tolerance Policies:
While New York law does not require zero tolerance policies, schools must ensure that disciplinary measures are proportionate to the severity of the offense.
- Suspension and Expulsion:
The use of suspension and expulsion must adhere to due process requirements. Longer suspensions and expulsions generally involve more formal procedures, including hearings.
- Alternative Education:
When students are suspended or expelled, schools are responsible for providing educational alternatives.
- Special Education Students:
Students with disabilities are entitled to additional protections under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Schools must consider a student’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) when imposing discipline.
- Behavioral Interventions:
Schools should emphasize proactive measures, such as behavior intervention plans, counseling, and support services, to address underlying issues contributing to student misbehavior.
- Parental Involvement:
Schools must involve parents or guardians in the disciplinary process, including providing timely notice of disciplinary actions and opportunities for meetings.
- Reporting and Documentation:
Schools must maintain accurate records of disciplinary actions and report certain incidents, such as violent offenses, to appropriate authorities.
- Search and Seizure:
Student searches and seizures should be conducted in accordance with the Fourth Amendment, which protects against unreasonable searches and seizures by school officials.
- Cyberbullying and Online Conduct:
Schools should address cyberbullying and online misconduct in their code of conduct and address off-campus conduct that has a substantial impact on the school environment.
- Free Speech Rights:
Schools must balance disciplinary actions with students’ First Amendment rights, ensuring that discipline is not imposed solely based on protected speech.
What is the procedure for short term and long suspension of students in New York public schools?
Short-term suspension typically refers to suspensions that last for up to five school days.
Notice: The student and the student’s parent or guardian must be provided with written notice of the proposed suspension, including the reasons for the suspension.
Opportunity to Respond: The student and parent have the right to an informal conference with school administrators to respond to the allegations before the suspension takes effect.
Decision: After considering the evidence and the student’s response, the school administrator determines whether the suspension is warranted.
Written Decision: The school must provide a written decision to the student and parent, explaining the reasons for the decision and any appeal rights.
Long-term suspension refers to suspensions that exceed five school days and can lead to the loss of educational programming.
Notice: Similar to short-term suspension, written notice must be provided to the student and parent, including the reasons for the suspension and the right to a hearing.
Hearing: A formal hearing is typically required for long-term suspensions. The hearing provides a more comprehensive opportunity for the student to present their case, including witnesses and evidence. The hearing may be conducted by a hearing officer.
Decision and Appeal: After the hearing, the school administrator makes a decision. The student and parent have the right to appeal the decision to the school district’s board of education.
Board of Education Review: The board of education reviews the appeal, considers the evidence, and makes a final decision.
Written Decision: A written decision is provided to the student and parent, explaining the outcome and any appeal rights.
It’s important to note that the specific procedures for short-term and long-term suspensions may vary based on the school district’s policies and guidelines. Schools should ensure that they adhere to due process requirements, provide timely notice, and offer opportunities for the student and parent to be heard. Consultation with legal counsel is recommended.
In New York public schools, what due process rights or other employment rights do tenured teachers have?
- Tenure Acquisition:
After a probationary period a teacher may be granted tenure. Tenure provides a higher level of job security and requires a formal evaluation process.
- Due Process for Dismissal:
Tenured teachers are entitled to due process before they can be dismissed or have their employment terminated. This includes the right to notice, a hearing, and the opportunity to challenge the reasons for dismissal.
- Notice of Charges:
Before dismissal proceedings begin, the teacher must be provided with written notice of the charges against them and the grounds for dismissal.
- Right to a Hearing:
Tenured teachers have the right to a formal hearing, often before an impartial hearing officer or panel, where they can present evidence, witnesses, and arguments in their defense.
- Legal Representation:
Tenured teachers may choose to have legal representation at the dismissal hearing.
- Decision and Appeal:
After the hearing, a decision is made regarding the teacher’s employment. The teacher has the right to appeal the decision, which may involve seeking legal remedies.
- Grounds for Dismissal:
Dismissal of a tenured teacher can only occur for specified reasons, such as incompetence, insubordination, misconduct, or other justifiable cause.
- Progressive Discipline:
Before initiating dismissal proceedings, schools may be required to demonstrate that they attempted progressive discipline, which involves addressing performance or behavior issues through counseling, guidance, and other interventions.
- Right to a Review:
If a tenured teacher receives an unsatisfactory evaluation, they often have the right to a formal review of the evaluation process.
- Seniority and Layoffs:
In cases of budget-related layoffs, seniority is often a consideration in determining which teachers are retained or laid off, with tenured teachers generally having more protection.
- Whistleblower Protection:
Tenured teachers, like all employees, are protected from retaliation if they report illegal or unethical activities within the school or district.
In New York public schools, what due process rights or other employment rights do non-instructional employees have?
- Equal Employment Opportunity:
Non-instructional employees are entitled to equal employment opportunities regardless of race, color, national origin, gender, age, disability, or other protected characteristics.
- Anti-Discrimination and Harassment Protections:
Non-instructional employees are protected against workplace discrimination and harassment based on protected characteristics. They have the right to report such incidents without fear of retaliation.
- Whistleblower Protection:
Non-instructional employees have the right to report illegal or unethical activities within the school or district without facing retaliation.
- Due Process for Disciplinary Actions:
Non-instructional employees are entitled to due process before any significant disciplinary actions, including suspension or termination, are taken against them. They may have additional rights under their collective bargaining agreement and/or New York State Law.
- Notice and Opportunity to Respond:
Before disciplinary actions are taken, non-instructional employees typically have the right to receive written notice of the allegations and an opportunity to respond to the charges.
- Right to Representation:
Non-instructional employees may have the right to be represented by a union representative or advocate during disciplinary proceedings or meetings with administrators.
- Progressive Discipline:
Schools may follow progressive discipline procedures, which involve addressing performance or behavior issues through counseling, warnings, and other interventions before more severe actions are taken.
- Grievance Procedures:
Many non-instructional employees have access to grievance procedures outlined in their collective bargaining agreements or employment contracts. These procedures provide a mechanism for resolving disputes or concerns.
- Layoff and Recall Rights:
In cases of budget-related layoffs, non-instructional employees may have rights related to seniority and recall rights if positions become available again.
- Workplace Safety and Health:
Non-instructional employees are entitled to a safe and healthy working environment, and schools must comply with occupational health and safety regulations.
- Family and Medical Leave:
Non-instructional employees who qualify under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) may be entitled to unpaid leave for certain medical and family-related reasons.
- Wage and Hour Protections:
Non-instructional employees are protected by federal and state wage and hour laws, including minimum wage and overtime requirements.
It’s important to note that the specific rights and protections for non-instructional employees may vary based on their job classification, union representation, collective bargaining agreements, and other factors. Consultation with legal counsel is recommended.