Ohio public school employees who work under contracts for a set term have the right to keep working until the contract runs out, absent certain “extraordinary circumstances.”
But school districts that show exactly why an employee should be fired and give him or her at least an opportunity to argue against the move are on solid ground when it comes to a later lawsuit.
The school district in the following case did everything right.
Recent case: Steven Gebbie was an assistant technology director for the Licking Heights Local Schools. He worked in the nonteaching position under the terms of a two-year contract. His supervisor wasn’t pleased with his performance and issued a written reprimand for tardiness, absences, inefficiency, neglect of duty and dishonesty. Gebbie signed the reprimand.
The next day, Gebbie went back to the school district office after hours and used his keys to get inside. He entered the HR office to view his personnel file and apparently removed the reprimand. After finding out about the off-hours visit, the superintendent asked the school district to dismiss him for everything in the original reprimand plus the unauthorized entry.
Gebbie sued, alleging there were no extraordinary circumstances to justify the termination.
The court disagreed. It said Gebbie had a chance to defend himself when he got the reprimand—and the unauthorized entry added even more legitimacy to the termination. (Gebbie v. Licking Heights Local Schools Board of Education, No. 2008-CA-48, Court of Appeals of Ohio, 2008)
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