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Patrick, Esq.
Patrick, Esq., Lawyer
Category: Employment Law
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My question: I worked at USD 286 in Sedan, KS. I was

Customer Question

My question: I worked at USD 286 in Sedan, KS. I was terminated on 5-23-16 I found out the Supervisor was keeping some of my personal information an unlocked file cabinet in the cafeteria for anyone to access.
I want to know if I have any civil rights in this case?
Also there are problems in the cafeteria. I have gone thru the chain of command and nothing has been done. The Supervisor, Principal and the Administration are allowing a hostile environment to exist in the work place. I and another worker deal with this on a daily basis. The Supervisor has NO leadership she is immature and can not be objective because she is friends with the problem employees.
My e-mail address is***@******.*** and my phone number is(###) ###-#### ***** you please help me?
Linda M. Chase
Submitted: 9 months ago.
Category: Employment Law
Expert:  Patrick, Esq. replied 9 months ago.

Hello Linda,

I am very sorry to hear about this situation and I can completely empathize with your frustration. What personal information of yours were you concerned about being exposed? Also, when you say "hostile work environment" what do you mean exactly? Are you experiencing harassing that relates to your race, religion, disability, sex or something along those lines? I very much look forward to helping you on this matter.

Customer: replied 9 months ago.
She had a review of mine and a reprimand.
I have also been lied to by the Superintendent. I gave him documentation of things going on in the cafeteria since 1-27-16. Told me it was all trivial stuff. I stated that when it happens on a daily basis it is NOT!
I was called into a meeting on 5-23-16. The Principle was also there. He told me that they had been reviewing the problems in the cafeteria. And that next school year a new system was being installed. He then paused. He then said my job had been "eliminated". I said are you telling me that I am fired? He put his head down again and paused again. Then said your job has been eliminated.
My job title was Food Service Clerk.
The only thing that was changing with the new system is that there would not be the paperwork as before. Someone still has to be there for the breakfast and lunch when the students come thru. You have to see that they are getting the right amount of food required.
I asked why couldn't the substitute be let go? He stated she only works 2 hours. I told him he needed to check her time card because she comes in EVERY day. He said he would have to check into it.
He stated he would get a Para or a teacher to do it. The principle never said a work the whole time I was there. I said I will see you and the next Board Meeting and walked out.
I sent an e-mail to the Board Clerk about getting copies of my personal. When I received the copies I went home to see what all was in there and on the first page was a paper that was dated 5-23-16, the same day I was in the meeting. It stated I was terminated and for me to turn in my keys. It was signed by Superintendent and below his signature was a line for the employees signature. It said "refused to sign" and HE witnessed his own signature! The Principal also witnessed. How can you be a witness to your own signature?
I went right back to the District office and confronted him. I said where did this paper come from? He said it was right in front of me when I was there. I said NO it was not. He smiled and looked away and said Linda yes it was. Again I said NO it was not.
I asked again about the substitutes hours. He told me he okayed them. So when did he okay her hours. Just 9 days before he thought she was only working 2 hours?
To me I am being harassed bullied what ever you want to call it IT IS WRONG. I have no one to help me in this situation. I have gone thru the chain of command. But they are all covering for each other. The Principal also has a brother that is on the School Board. I love my job and I was good at it. And the kids loved me too. You can ask anyone and they will tell you I am a easy persona to get along with. There is another co-worker that is having the same problem. I know that when school starts again in August that SHE will be the next one. She has been there going on 12 years. She has the most seniority then me the supervisor and the other employees that are part of the harassing/bullying.
Expert:  Patrick, Esq. replied 9 months ago.

Thank you very much. This all sounds incredibly frustrating and unfair. I am truly sorry.

Unfortunately, though, I must respond honestly to your question. I say "unfortunately" because the news I have to give is not favorable to your circumstances. I hope that you will understand I am simply trying to answer your question and that I do not control the law.

With regard to the reprimand and review in the unlocked cabinet, that is not illegal because employees have no legally enforceable privacy interest with regard to their employment. Your employer could have left these documents on a desk in open view and it still would not violate any law.

With regard to being let go under the circumstances you describe, it is very unfair but the law does not require employers to be fair. Employment is "at will" absent an agreement to the contrary and as such can be terminated for any reason not amounting to discrimination on the basis of a legally protected trait (race, religion, gender, etc.) or retaliation for engaging in certain forms of legally protected conduct (filing a wage claim, taking FMLA leave, etc.). It doesn't matter whether the basis for termination is fair, reasonable or even true. Thus, it would not matter from a legal standpoint that you were first told your position was eliminated and then later told you were fired, or that the substitute was not let go instead. While unfair and indicative of poor management and judgment, these things are not illegal. Further still, it is not illegal to state that one witnssesed their own signature (technically true). Stating that you refused to sign papers might be defamation if you could prove that it was false, but the problem is connection that defamation to damages. What damages did you suffer as a result of it being alleged that you did not sign termination papers? I can't think of any. I also think you would have a very hard time proving that the statement is false because it would come down to word against word.

I truly wish that I had better news to give, but again, I am constrained by the law and am trying to be straight forward with you rather than mislead you for the sake of falsely raising your hopes about a claim. I hope you will appreciate my candor. If there is anything else I can do to assist you, just let me know. I truly wish you the best moving forward here.

Customer: replied 9 months ago.
In the 04-11-2016 in the Board minutes it states that I was hired again for the 2016-2017 school year. How can the Superintendent do that? I was hired by the Board.
Customer: replied 9 months ago.
07 June 2016 04:48
In the 04-11-2016 in the Board minutes it states that I was hired again for the 2016-2017 school year. How can the Superintendent do that? I was hired by the Board.
Expert:  Patrick, Esq. replied 9 months ago.

I do not know what the exact power dynamics are between the board and superintendent in your ditrict, but usually the superintendent has authority to make hiring and firing decisions. It may also be that he got the board's approval to let you go after they had decided to rehire you back in April. It certainly wouldn't hurt to write the board and ask them whether the superintendent was acting within his authority by letting you go, but the mere fact there is a discrepancy with the board minutes and what the superintendent told you would not give rise to any sort of legal claims.

I hope this clarifies things. Again, if there is anything at all I can do to assist you further just let me know.

Best,

Patrick

Expert:  Patrick, Esq. replied 9 months ago.

Was I able to answer your questions here?