Special Needs Educator Reinstated After Wrongful Termination



Special education teacher Bonnie Grant loved her work at Duncanville High School in Texas. When she needed to take some time off due to a medical condition, she requested leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act.

But one day while on leave, without warning, Bonnie was notified she did not meet the hours worked required to be eligible for the benefits afforded by the FMLA. To add to her dismay, the termination letter also informed her she would not be able to be re-employed by the school district. 

 

The impact was devastating, as Bonnie was the primary source of income for her household. In the months following her termination, financial hardships nearly resulted in her family being evicted from their home. She was able to find a part-time summer job taking care of special needs children in their homes; however, the wages she earned were substantially less than what she earned while employed with the school district. She also missed working with the students who she had invested in and who had become an important part of her life.

During this time, Bonnie suspected something was wrong and decided to do some research. She found a link to the department’s Wage and Hour Division on the Cedar Hill Independent School District website and contacted our Dallas District Office to ask for clarification. She filed a complaint and provided us with all relevant documents related to her case.

We opened an investigation, which found that the school had erroneously counted only the 10-month school year instead of the full 12 months Bonnie worked. Had the school counted all 12 months, it would have been evident that the hours she worked exceeded the 1,250 hour minimum required to be eligible for job-protected leave under the FMLA. The school recognized it made a mistake and agreed to retroactively approve Bonnie’s leave as well as to immediately reinstate her. What’s more, the school district agreed to pay her $12,864 in back wages and relocated her to Fairmeadows Elementary, a school closer to her home.

Today Bonnie is once again enjoying her work and is able to support her family. “I’m able to take care of myself, pay my bills, and have a place to live,” she said. She also encourages her coworkers to be knowledgeable about the school district’s policies.

For questions about the FMLA and other federal labor laws, learn more on the Wage and Hour Division’s website or by calling 1-866-4-US-WAGE (1-866-487-9243).

Editor’s note: The DOL Working for You series highlights the Labor Department’s programs in action. View other posts in the series here.

Betty Campbell is the Wage and Hour Division’s administrator in the Southwest.


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Comments

Thumbs up to Wage and Hour Division on the Cedar Hill Independent School District! Bonnie Grant: thanks for not giving up.

This article sheds light on researching policies on things that directly involve your livelihood and well belling on the job. It's unfortunate that, at times, Management does not have your best interest at heart.

This story cuts deep to the center of my heart because I experienced a similar situation. I served as a teacher to the physically and health impaired in special education through our county office of education. Unfortunately I did get injured but I kept working to keep everyone happy. I tried to schedule my therapy and dr. appts around school hours. After one year of working injured I had surgery. I could not wait until summer break because it was work comp. I was at home recovering a few weeks later when my program manager came to my house to have me sign a paper because they would not rehire me due to my injury and I could not lift yet. I told him that I was still recovering and he said it didn't matter and that I needed to sign it, that is why he drove to my house. I could not believe what was happening I had never received negative reviews until this happened. I asked what would happen if I didn't sign because I didn't agree or understand, he said it would still happen but it would look better if I signed. So I signed. After that my worker comp benefit stopped and I lost everything, and I am the sole income for my family. To this day I still am feeling the negative effects from it mentally, financially, and in many other areas of my life because the story is much harsher over a longer period of time.
I am just glad someone out there, especially a special education teacher received some justice because we are overlooked too frequently. We work very hard to become credentialed and then treated so unfairly while tarnishing our names and compromising future career options.

I advise all employees to become familiar with your employee handbook. If you are State, County, City, Federal or private nonprofit and receive funding from the state or federal government there must be safe guards in place to protect the employee. Know your Wage & Hour, EEOC, Commission on Human Relations contact numbers in your area.
If you do not have the information GOOGLE has it!

I was fired for my bipolar disorder. What can I do about it

Christy, if you believe that you have been discriminated against at work because of a disability, you can contact the EEOC: https://www.eeoc.gov/employees/charge.cfm.

So tough, how can someone make a huge mistake like this; most educators are under paid in the first place... How do we know if it was a mistake in the first place; perhaps this was an unlawful act-any lawyers in the house?

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