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I am a teacher being harassed by an administrator. I want to sue the principal and the district. I have an outstanding record

Los Angeles, CA |

I am being bullied on an almost daily basis. Fellow employees feel I am being treated as a four year old, "picked on" and "singled out" but i doubt would want to defend me for fear of retaliation against them.....What do I need to have a case? Would any attorneys be willing to pursue such an action on a contingency basis? This has been escalating for the past 7 years.

Attorney Answers 4


Being subjected to a terrible employer and an unfair work situation is not against the law. Working for a jerk does not provide a legal claim. The reality is employees and job applicants have very few employment rights, and employers have a lot of leeway in how they choose to run their businesses. In general, an employer can be unfair, obnoxious or bad at management. And an employer can make decisions based on faulty or inaccurate information. An employer has no obligation to warn an employee that he or she is not performing as the employer wants. It’s not a level playing field. An employer hires employees to provide work for its benefit, not for the benefit of the employees. Don't expect the employer to take care of its employees; it doesn’t have to and it rarely does.

There are some limitations on what an employer can do, mostly in the areas of public policy (such as discrimination law or whistle blowing), contract law, union-employer labor relations, and constitutional due process for government employees. Please see my guide to at-will employment in California which should help you understand employment rights: After you take a look at the guide, you may be able to identify actions or behavior that fits one of the categories that allows for legal action. If so, an experienced plaintiffs employment attorney may be helpful.

You mentioned harassment. Unlawful harassment is a form of discrimination. To be unlawful, the harassment must be must be based on a protected category, such as race, sex, religion, disability, age (40 and over), pregnancy, or genetic information. Harassment can include verbal conduct, slurs, derogatory comments, comments or questions about a person's body, appearance, religious, or sexual activity, or indication of stereotyping. Harassment can also include offensive gestures, sexually suggestive eye contact or looks, mimicking the employee in an insulting way, and derogatory or graphic posters, cartoons or drawings.

Harassment is unlawful when the conduct is either severe or pervasive enough to create an abusive environment. Severe conduct would include most physical contact and many types of threatening, vulgar or degrading conduct. Pervasive conduct is widespread, happens frequently and/or in many situations. One offensive statement is not pervasive, but the same comment made over and over again may be pervasive.

Employment rights come from the state and federal legislatures. One of the best things working people can do to improve their employment rights is to vote for candidates who have a good record on pro-employee, anti-corporate legislation. Another way to protect employment rights is to form or affiliate with a union, or participate in the union already in place.

I hope you can resolve your situation and wish you the best.

*** All legal actions have time limits, called statutes of limitation. If you miss the deadline for filing your claim, you will lose the opportunity to pursue your case. Please consult with an experienced employment attorney as soon as possible to better preserve your rights. *** Marilynn Mika Spencer provides information on Avvo as a service to the public, primarily when general information may be of assistance. Avvo is not an appropriate forum for an in-depth response or a detailed analysis. These comments are for information only and should not be considered legal advice. Legal advice must pertain to specific, detailed facts. No attorney-client relationship is created based on this information exchange. *** Marilynn Mika Spencer is licensed to practice law before all state and federal courts in California, and can appear before administrative agencies throughout the country. She is eligible to represent clients in other states on a pro hac vice basis. ***

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Thank you VERY much.........unfortunately, it may just be easier to retire. The news always broadcasts "bad teachers"...there are so many of us who work 60 hours a week, spend most of our savings and are still told "it's not enough"........thank you


Ms. Spencer is right on in her advice. Please remember that if you are a member of a union you may have some rights under your collective bargaining agreement that are more protective. You should consult your union representative right away if you are part of a union.

I wish you the best of luck.

Pedersen Heck McQueen, APLC is an employee rights law firm assisting employees in all Southern California counties.

This answer should not be construed to create any attorney-client relationship. Such a relationship can be formed only through the mutual execution of an attorney-client agreement. The answer given is based on the extremely limited facts provided and the proper course of action might change significantly with the introduction of other facts. All who read this answer should not rely on the answer to govern their conduct. Please seek the advice of competent counsel after disclosing all facts to that attorney. This answer is intended for California residents only. The answering party is only licensed to practice in the State of California.

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If you are a public school teacher in the LA district, you have a lot of rights to substantive and procedural due process, above and beyond what state and federal statutes provide. Contact your union rep immediately for a frank discussion of your need for union support.

Moreover, it is a little-publicized fact that LA often incentivizes a retirement of a teacher where regular retirement is fairly close and the relationship has soured. Don't -- DO NOT -- retire or quit without first talking with an attorney with specific experience in teacher discipline cases. Your union will provide you an opportunity for a no-cost consultation with a capable attorney for this purpose. What you want to talk about is not just your ability to defend against what is going on, but about whether you can negotiate an incentivized retirement package that will make you content to leave the dispute behind.

My responses to questions on Avvo are never intended as legal advice and must not be relied upon as legal advice. I give legal advice only in the course of an attorney-client relationship. Exchange of information through Avvo's Questions forum does not establish an attorney-client relationship with me. That relationship is established only by individual consultation and execution of a written agreement for legal services.

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As an attorney who specializes in Teacher's Rights, it sounds like your Principal is trying to set you up to get dismissed. Unfortunately, this happens all the time to many great teachers. The Principal, for whatever reason, singles out a teacher, and then goes on a rampage of conference meetings and conference memos to create a written trail of "evidence" against the teacher to be used in the dismissal proceeding. The teacher, in an attempt to defend himself/herself writes responses to these memos and sometimes ends up writing things that can and will be used against him/her during the dismissal process. The teacher is then placed on administrative leave and then dismissal proceedings are initiated against him/her. You have to immediately request a hearing and then file a Notice of Defense. The teacher is then banned from his/her classroom. For this reason, it is in your best interest to gather a list of teachers/parents/students with their contact information, in order to be able to contact them at a later time. THe District will then try to force you to resign. DO NOT SIGN a RESIGNATION form. I repeat, DO NOT sign a resignation form. THey will send them to you constantly. If you are a permanent certificated employee, Under the Education Code (Section 44944), you have the right to a hearing. If you sign the resignation, you will waive your right to a hearing and also any money that you may have received via a settlement/severance with the District.

You may also have a case against the DIstrict if they are discriminating/harassing you based on race, religion, sexual orientation, sex, disability, etc. You have one year from the last act of discrimination to file a claim with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing. You then have one year from the date of the right to sue letter to file a lawsuit in civil court. You should consult with an attorney before doing so, in order to get a sense of the likelihood of success and whether or not you have a valid claim.

I would be happy to provide you with a free consultation. I am available Tuesday afternoon. Feel free to contact me then (424) 249-3254.

The answer provided is not legal advice. It is for informational purposes only. It does not constitute an attorney-client relationship. You should not rely on the answer before consulting with an attorney during an official legal consultation.

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