• Court Finds School District Improperly Classified Teachers Hired for Categorically Funded Programs
  • March 8, 2012 | Author: Joseph Sanchez
  • Law Firm: Best Best & Krieger LLP - San Diego Office
  • A California appellate court ruled last week that a school district had misclassified certain categorical employees as temporary employees, and therefore failed to follow the layoff procedures which should have applied to probationary employees. In Stockton Teachers Association v. Stockton Unified School District, the Court of Appeal held that a school district may only classify teachers employed in categorically funded positions as temporary under Education Code Section 44909 if the employee is hired for the term of a categorically funded project and the employee is terminated at the expiration of the project. The court concluded that teachers hired for more or less time than the categorically funded program term have the same rights as probationary employees with respect to seniority, tenure, layoff procedures, and rehire after layoff. The ruling impacts K-12 agencies, community college districts and county education offices, including those contemplating staffing changes for the 2012-2013 school year.

    Based on this decision, school districts may need to alter the way they classify and layoff certificated employees working in categorically funded positions. Under the Stockton decision, in order to demonstrate employees are appropriately classified as temporary under Section 44909, districts must: (1) show the employee was hired to perform services under a contract with public or private agencies or categorically funded projects; (2) identify the contract or project for which the services were performed; (3) establish that the contract or project expired; and (4) demonstrate that the employee was hired for the term of the contract or project.

    While we disagree with the court’s interpretation of Section 44909 and anticipate that this decision will be appealed to the California Supreme Court, at this time it represents the only published appellate decision. Therefore, we recommend that agencies review their list of certificated temporary employees to ensure they are properly classified in light of the Stockton case and revisit their certificated employee layoff and release procedures before the March 15 deadline for teacher layoff notification.