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Schools, get out your calendars: Teachers have up to three years to sue

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in Employment Law,Human Resources

A public school teacher who files an internal appeal over her pay or classification has three years after the final decision to file a lawsuit.

Recent case: Lori worked as a teacher for the Lake Elsinore Unified School District for several years. Then she resigned. A year later, she reapplied for any open position. The district hired her as a substitute teacher and paid her at the substitute rate for the year she spent replacing another teacher out on leave. Then, the following year, she obtained a permanent teaching position in part because those who work as substitutes have hiring priority.

Lori complained that not only should she have been paid as a regular teacher during her substitute year, but that she should have benefited from that year and been placed higher on the pay scale. She filed several internal appeals. Two years after the last one was rejected, she sued. The district said she was too late because three years had already passed since she first was paid less. But the court said that didn’t matter—the year her complaint was being handled internally stopped the ticking clock. (Edwards v. Lake Elsinore Uni­­fied School District, No. E057413, Court of Appeal of California, 4th Appellate District, 2014)

Final note: In the end, Lori lost the case. The court said the school district had been very clear that she was being hired as a substitute teacher and not as a regular one.

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