New York City Teacher’s Petition for Reinstatement Claims Retaliation, Wrongful Termination

6180201424_a58c1f5d26_z.jpgA gym teacher at a Bronx school filed a petition in the Supreme Court for New York County challenging her “unsatisfactory” job performance rating and subsequent termination. Gaylardo v. City of New York, et al, No. 14/100400, verif. pet. (N.Y. Sup. Ct., N.Y. Co., Apr. 8, 2014). She alleged that she received an “unsatisfactory” rating based on statements made by a teacher who sought to retaliate against her for rejecting the teacher’s sexual overtures. While her petition included allegations of a sexual nature, the key legal issue involved wrongful termination. The case nevertheless sparked a substantial amount of media coverage, demonstrating the difficulty of asserting such claims in any sort of public forum. Several weeks after filing the petition, she reportedly dropped the case, at least partly due to the publicity.

The petitioner began working for the New York City Department of Education (DOE) as a physical education teacher in 2008, according to her petition. She began working at Riverdale/Kingsbridge Academy (RKA), a middle school and high school in the Bronx, in the fall of 2011.

During the summer of 2013, she claimed that the DOE’s Special Commissioner of Investigation (SCI) contacted her regarding her relationship with a student. She eventually learned that the SCI had searched both her and the student’s phone records and found more than 1,000 text messages sent between them during a one-month period in early 2013. The petitioner denied any impropriety, explaining that the student played three sports and sought her advice on “juggling the sports and her school schedule.” Pet. at 4. The student and the student’s parents reportedly corroborated the petitioner’s statements. SCI issued a report in September 2013 with no specific findings of misconduct. The petitioner alleged that the DOE terminated her in December 2013 based on that report.

At an administrative hearing for her appeal of her unsatisfactory rating in March 2014, the petitioner claimed that she learned for the first time of two witness statements provided to SCI from two other gym teachers, which reportedly triggered the 2013 investigation against her. The two statements were the only evidence against her regarding an alleged relationship with the student.

The petitioner claimed that one of the teachers had “propositioned” her to “engage in an inappropriate romantic and salacious relationship with her and her boyfriend,” id. at 6, about one month before she provided the witness statement to SCI. The petitioner therefore alleged that this teacher made false accusations against her because she had refused her advances. She asserted in her petition that her unsatisfactory rating and dismissal from RKA were based on unsubstantiated accusations and a report from SCI that failed to identify any misconduct.

In late April 2014, the petitioner reportedly dismissed her reinstatement case. She also resigned a coaching job at a school just outside of New York City, partly because of the publicity surrounding the lawsuit. Although the media coverage of the case tended to focus on the allegations regarding her co-worker’s sexual propositions, the lawsuit was not specifically about sexual harassment or wrongful termination. Rather, the suit alleged that the DOE failed to follow proper procedures for investigating alleged misconduct, and wrongfully dismissed her based on unsubstantiated or false accusations.

If you need to speak to an employment attorney in New Jersey or New York regarding wrongful termination or other employment issues, contact the Resnick Law Group at 973-781-1204 or 646-867-7997.

More Blog Posts:

Federal Judge Holds that Employment Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation Is Already Prohibited by Title VII, The New Jersey Employment Law Firm Blog, May 15, 2014
New Jersey Law Against Discrimination Now Protects Workers from “Salary Secrecy” by Prohibiting Retaliation for Inquiring About Wage Discrimination, The New Jersey Employment Law Firm Blog, March 31, 2014
Lawsuit Claims Employer Fired Plaintiff for Reporting Racial Discrimination, Sexual Harassment Within Company, The New Jersey Employment Law Firm Blog, March 28, 2014
Photo credit: courtneyism [CC BY-ND 2.0], via Flickr.

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