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BT Currents - Hot Topics in Employment Law
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31 Oct 2017 Attention, Class: Seventh Circuit Finds Preferred Teaching Methods Not Protected Activity Under ADA and Section 504

  A former special education teacher, who claimed to have engaged in a protected activity when she defended her teaching methods following a negative performance evaluation, could not show that the school district discriminated against her when it terminated her. Finding no evidence of discrimination, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of the school in Frakes v. Peoria School District No. 150.   After receiving an “unsatisfactory” rating based on several deficiencies,…

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22 Sep 2017 Teacher’s ADA, Age Discrimination Claim Given New Life by Sixth Circuit

  A school district’s decision to eliminate a teacher’s position while the teacher was out on Family Medical and Leave Act (FMLA) leave may have been pretext to disability discrimination, according to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.   While on approved FMLA leave, a high school economics teacher was notified by the school’s principal that the economics position would be one of several eliminated due to budget cuts. All teachers in the eliminated positions received notices that their contracts would be…

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03 Aug 2017 What’s Mine Is Not Yours! School Districts Reminded of FERPA’s Sole Possession Exception

  Many school districts throughout this upcoming school year will likely be faced with requests for student records from various sources. Student records are protected by one of the strongest privacy protection laws in the nation, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). All educational institutions that are recipients of federal education funds are required to adhere to FERPA’s strict regulations prohibiting the release of student information. While FERPA safeguards the release of student education records, parents essentially have an unhindered right to inspect…

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05 Jul 2017 Did a Lower Court Throw Schools an IEP Life Raft?

  In the wake of the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District, school districts are tasked with developing substantively appropriate Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) that will stand up to the court’s heightened scrutiny.  The only clear guidance provided from the court regarding how to meet this heightened standard is that an IEP must allow a child to make progress that is appropriate in light of his or her unique circumstances.   However, a recent decision from the U….

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22 May 2017 College Not Required to Alter Academic Program for Reasonable Accommodation

  After his requests for additional accommodations were denied, a student at the Lamar Institute of Technology (LIT) who had medical issues related to a brain injury withdrew from the institution and filed suit. After a recent loss in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, the student has petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court for consideration.   The student suffered from an anoxic brain injury that caused him to have memory problems. Similar to the accommodation analysis in an employment setting, the college…

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03 Apr 2017 Employer’s ‘Stirring Up’ Testimony Allows Plaintiff to Pursue Section 504 and ADA Claims

  A case out of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee provides a useful reminder that employers must exercise caution when responding to reports of potential protected activities. The case, Hicks v. Benton County Board of Education, involved a special education aide who spoke to special education parents about services their students failed to receive. Upon learning this information, the principal instructed the plaintiff to cease talking directly to parents concerning what was going on in the program and to instead…

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20 Feb 2017 Man’s Best Friend in School – What’s Next For Administrative Remedies?

  Do individuals have to exhaust administrative remedies outlined under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) prior to bringing suit for damages in federal court? That is the question asked of the U.S. Supreme Court in Fry v. Napoleon Community Schools during oral arguments at the end of October. The Supreme Court is expected to rule this summer.   The case arose when a student with cerebral palsy wished to use a service dog, which helped her live independently, at school. Initially, the…

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13 Jan 2017 Are Employers Required to Predict Employee Behavior? Wrongful Death Suit Sparks Discussion

  On Jan. 10, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit heard oral arguments involving a wrongful death suit that had been dismissed by an Illinois federal judge. The plaintiff, mother of the deceased victim, sued Home Depot USA Inc. and one of its garden suppliers for failing to protect her daughter from a series of abusive behavior directed at her by her supervisor, Brian Cooper, who allegedly used his superior position to coerce the victim into accompanying him to his sister’s wedding…

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