LFT counsel: Lafayette can’t fine teachers who resign

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UPDATE: Under intense pressure from teachers, Superintendent Cooper pulled his proposed new policy from the agenda at the May 7 school board meeting. However, the superintendent inflamed educators by saying that he’s “alarmed” by stories that teachers abuse sick leave to go on cruises. Cooper said he wants a new process for the introduction of major agenda items at school board meetings.

(Baton Rouge – May 7, 2014) The Lafayette Parish Superintendent of Schools probably has no legal authority to fine teachers who submit resignations before the end of the school year, says a legal expert consulted by the Louisiana Federation of Teachers.

According to Federation General Counsel Larry Samuel, Louisiana employment law says that employers are not allowed to write contracts that penalize employees for resigning.

Superintendent of Schools Pat Cooper will reportedly propose a policy requiring teachers to pay a $2,000 penalty if they resign prior to March 15, and $1,000 if they resign after March 15 but before the end of the school year.

Samuel said that Louisiana Revised Statute 23:634: Contract forfeiting wages on discharge unlawful seems to prohibit just such a policy.

The full text of the section reads “No person, acting either for himself or as agent or otherwise, shall require any of his employees to sign contracts by which the employees shall forfeit their wages if discharged before the contract is completed or if the employees resign their employment before the contract is completed; but in all such cases the employees shall be entitled to the wages actually earned up to the time of their discharge or resignation.”

In defending his proposal, Cooper told reporters that over the past two years, about 300 Lafayette teachers have resigned before the end of the school year.

Instead of seeking to punish teachers for leaving the school system, LFT President Steve Monaghan said, Cooper should ask himself if there is a reason for what seems to be a large turnover.

“Are more teachers seeking to leave Lafayette schools than in the rest of the state?” Monaghan asked. “If so, why? Wouldn’t it make more sense to resolve issues that teachers face, rather than come up with a potentially illegal scheme to penalize them?”

Monaghan said that on behalf of the LFT members in Lafayette Parish, the Federation will oppose adoption of Cooper’s plan.