San Antonio Employment Law Blog

Hurricaine Katrina led to wrongful termination of teachers

It’s unlikely that east Texas residents will soon forget the effect that Hurricane Katrina had on New Orleans. Lingering problems resulting from the deadly storm may have gone unnoticed in Texas, however. For example, many teachers have been fighting legal battles for years, arguing that their layoffs constituted wrongful termination. A recent ruling may help many of these teachers recoup their lost wages.

On Jan. 16, an appeals court judge ruled that teachers in New Orleans who were removed from their positions after Katrina were indeed wrongfully terminated. The ruling stated that these teachers should receive back pay for around two to three years’ worth of work. The decision, which has been reached after years of fighting in the courts, affects over 7,000 teachers. The potential damages could total up to $1.5 billion. They had originally been fighting for five years of missed pay in addition to fringe benefits. The recent ruling only awarded benefits to those who were participating in them before Katrina.

Before being laid off, many of the teachers were put on disaster leave for which they would receive no pay. The court ruled that the terminations were improper because the teachers were not given preference when it came time to refill the positions. According to a New Orleans newspaper, the teaching force in the city has changed significantly since the disaster. Younger teachers from all over the country began taking teaching positions, often through organizations such as Teach for America. Some feel that these outside teachers do not understand the culture of the local students.

While Texas teachers may not have lost their jobs due to the hurricane, wrongful terminations can occur for a variety of reasons. Anybody that feels they have had their livelihood taken away unfairly may want to speak with a legal professional to determine if a case could be established.

Source: San Francisco Bay View, “Appeals court rules 7,000 New Orleans teachers unfairly laid off post-Katrina” Julianne Hing, Jan. 31, 2014

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