“Why reinstate teachers fired for bad performance?”

by Walter Olson on February 14, 2011

An arbitrator has reinstated 75 teachers dismissed by the Washington, D.C. school system during their 2-year probationary period — not after achieving tenure — for such infractions as perennial absence or tardiness, “rude and aggressive” behavior and “sketchy or nonexistent lesson plans.” “[Arbitrator Charles] Feigenbaum said that the teachers had been denied due process because they were not given reasons for their terminations. It’s a mind-boggling decision that essentially affords probationary teachers some of the rights that protect tenured teachers.” [Washington Post editorial] For another indication of the legal constraints on employee selection faced by the D.C. schools, see this 2001 post.

{ 3 comments }

1 MJS 02.14.11 at 8:14 pm

Arbitrator decisions consistently have me scratching my head.

Their decisions seem to defy common sense and are anti-employer.

I know there was much hope that these panels would be more efficient but they seem anything but neutral.

2 kat 02.15.11 at 11:33 am

I’m unclear on the basis for the arbitrator’s decision. The cited editorial indicates the probationary teachers were fired “for cause.” If so, they are entitled to a minimal opportunity for a “name clearing” process to counter the allegation. Usually when firing a public entity probationary employee, you don’t provide any information as to the reason to avoid just that problem.

3 GregS 02.15.11 at 11:52 am

What the hell is the point of having a probationary period in employment if employees in probation have similar job security rights as employees out of probation?

The thing is that this sort of decision actually works against the employment prospects of many people because it makes hiring “questionable” people more risky. Employers are often willing to give someone a chance at a job because they know they have the escape hatch of the probationary period to terminiate them if they don’t work out. Without that escape hatch, employers will be more reluctant to hire such people.

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