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Public Employee Press: PEP Talk

DOE ordered to reinstate Local 372 member with $207K reward


An impartial arbitrator sided with DC 37 and Local 372 in two grievance wins that order the NYC Department of Education (DOE) to immediately reinstate a member and pay more than $207,000 in back pay after a school principal wrongfully suspended and fired the union member.

Both cases were won in 2021, but DOE took 13 months to comply with the Office of Labor Relations’ (OLR) mandate to rehire and pay the outstanding award.

“This is one of the biggest windfall payments to a member of New York City Board of Education Employees Local 372 on record,” said Local 372 President Shaun D. Francois I, also President of DC 37. “We are very pleased with the outcome. I want to thank the member for standing strong, and Council Rep Latreva Scott and DC 37 Assistant General Counsel Onya Brinson for their uncompromising diligence in defending the member’s job and the union contract.”

Four years ago, Scott initiated six grievances in response to the new school administrator’s escalating course of discipline against a Local 372 member who had a spotless employment record. Two of the grievances Scott filed to reverse the principal’s five-day suspension and later termination of the veteran school employee went to arbitration. The union member requested anonymity for this story.

“The principal improperly suspended the grievant with no valid proof to back up her allegations of insubordination,” said Scott, who kept copious notes from every labor-management meeting. “I told the principal and DOE attorney they were going to lose if we went to arbitration, and they did.”

Brinson brought the two grievances before the OLR in virtual hearings held in the spring of 2021 and submitted Scott’s journal. The union argued that the employer did not have just and sufficient cause for either the suspension or the firing.

“The member had letters of support from parents and teachers that exonerated the member of the principal’s allegations,” Scott said. “The principal did not do her homework. She had no proof or witness statements that we asked for prior to the hearings. She didn’t lead proper investigations and failed to follow the school chancellor’s guidelines.

“In addition to the solid and convincing evidence presented to the arbitrator, it was clear from the testimony of two assistant principals that the grievant was well-liked and well-respected, and they had a great working relationship,” Brinson said. “For unknown reasons, the principal held some type of animus toward our member.”

DOE’s case was largely based on hearsay from the principal, who did not file investigation case numbers or present any documents to establish the alleged misconduct. The arbitrator found inconsistencies in the principal’s testimony and the DOE’s case fell apart.

“The DOE must have good and sufficient reason to suspend or terminate our members in accordance with the collective bargaining agreement,” Brinson said. “This grievance is a prime example of why belonging to a union is so important to workers. The union makes sure employers abide by all terms of the contract, and DOE is no exception.”