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Allen M., Esq.
Allen M., Esq., Employment Lawyer
Category: Employment Law
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Experience:  Employment/Labor Law Litigation
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I was the Vice Principal of a small private school this past

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I was the Vice Principal of a small private school this past year. About two weeks ago they called to say that they could not keep me because they could not afford to pay me (even though they have no one to replace me). They said that they would give me a great recommendation and that this had nothing to do with my performance. However, I know that the two people who essentially run the board of education for this school are extremely unprofessional and have lied at times. I was warned by a colleague and friend not to indicate anything about unemployment benefits or they would try to make it hard for me to find another job or would never hire me again or even contest my getting the benefits! I am terrified. Even after they laid me off, they continued to call me and tried to get me to do work for them for free. I gave whatever information I had and then I cleaned out my office and left. The day that they called me to lay me off, I was told to wait a few days and if they wanted to hire me as a teacher they would call. They never called except to get information about how to run the school that they claimed they didn't need me for (there is no actual principal, it was just myself and the Vice Principal of the elementary school). While there, I developed a new high school program that became really popular among other schools. The interim principal/board member continually tried to take credit for what I created. To prevent this, I had taken all of my files and literally put my name on them. Right on the title page. Whenever she needed them, I would only send a PDF so that she could not change them. When I left I turned over all of my files that were student document related but kept the ones that I created. I never heard anything about them again. However, in the high school where I worked it is not uncommon for teachers to quickly input lesson plans during the summer following the school year. That was my plan for this year as I was busy teaching six classes and running the high school by myself. After they laid me off I just never put them in because, well, they laid me off I was done anyway. I am now afraid that they will try to use that to contest my unemployment. Can they do that? What should I do?

Thank you for your question today, I look forward to assisting you. I bring nearly 20 years of legal experience in various disciplines.


On these facts, I see no basis for blocking your unemployment. They laid you off and didn't terminate you based on any sort of misconduct.


They'd have to show that you actually took school property rather than simply retaining your own personal work product.



Customer: replied 4 years ago.

I am more concerned about the issue with the lesson plans. Could they use the fact that after they laid me off I didn't turn them in as a reason to try and fight my unemployment?

Ok. They can certainly try. They can try almost anything they like, in terms of trying to establish some reason that you shouldn't get unemployment.


That being said, it is their burden to prove that you do not get benefits because you have engaged in some sort of misconduct. Not naming a "misconduct" based reason for your termination and documenting that with you really harms their position from the beginning.


Furthermore, they have to establish that this is something that they requested from you, as part of your job then, but you refused to do AND they have to explain why it would be necessary for you to establish your own lesson plans for classes that you were not brought back to teach.


Ultimately, the point is that they have the burden to prove a lot of things that I don't see that they can prove.

Customer: replied 4 years ago.

So basically, unless they can prove in writing that I was let go for misconduct I am ok? They laid me off by calling me to discuss meetings they wanted me to go do for them (that they were not paying me for) and then said "oh by the way" and then went on for about 20 minutes about how it was not my fault. A week before that they even gave me a gift card for "taking a job that no one else would touch." They never let me go in writing. I am just really intimidated by them because their reputation in the community is horrible. I have seen them call the employers of people who left over a year before to try and get them fired just because they are mad. I want to protect myself. What should I do to ensure I am ok?

No, that's not the standard, but yes they have an uphill battle.


These are facts that they won't have in their favor.


1. They didn't indicate that they fired you for misconduct.

2. They don't have documentation warning you about not doing to integral task to your job.


These are two facts that really would make a misconduct claim work. You begin with the right to unemployment and for it to be taken away, sufficient proof of misconduct has to be put forward.


Now, there isn't anything that you can do to protect yourself at this point. The facts are already in place. Anything you do at this point is happening after the fact and will not have any legal bearing on the question of misconduct at termination. It's not like there is any sort of form or letter that you can send to cut off their right to claim misconduct. You can't now send lesson plans and somehow change the fact that you didn't send them in the first place.


It is either misconduct or it is not. Based on the things that you've told me, I'm inclined to believe that they can't establish that it is misconduct, but there simply is nothing that you can do at this point about the issue. Wait to see if they fight your unemployment and if they do, THEN you'll be entitled to send some explanation of the facts to the unemployment office specifically in response to their allegations (because you'll actually have them rather than trying to guess what they might be).

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