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Restraint of Trade Lawsuit Filed Against Griffin-Spalding Schools

GAE members Nikita Jones and Cheryl Clark allege the Griffin-Spalding school system unlawfully deducted $750 from their paychecks to penalize them after they found jobs in other school systems.

“I was only doing what’s best for my newborn baby,” said Ms. Jones. In January 2017 Ms. Jones told her principal that she was looking for a teaching position to take care of her brand-new baby. As soon as she received a job offer, Ms. Jones notified her principal and was given well wishes. In spite of Ms. Jones maintaining the highest professional and ethical standards by informing her principal at the earliest possible timeframe that she needed to resign to be near her infant, the school district chose to penalize Ms. Jones by wrongfully applying an illegal, invalid penalty provision and denying her rightful wages earned from her 2016-2017 school year contract. “I’m grateful for the opportunities afforded me by Griffin-Spaulding Schools. However, I need the $750 to provide for my family,” said Ms. Jones.

Despite her numerous accolades as an outstanding educator and leader, the system has failed to promote Ms. Clark or provide her with promotional opportunities year after year despite her repeatedly applying for leadership positions. Worse, they made it impossible for Ms. Clark to be recruited to other school districts to obtain promotional opportunities during the normal hiring season by locking her into a contract early on each year, preventing her from taking advantage of career opportunities at other districts. “My principal congratulated me for getting a promotion in Carroll County Schools. Why should the school system penalize me and my family financially?” said Ms. Clark.

According to GAE legal counsel Mike McGonigle, “in addition to being illegal, these contract provisions are counter-productive by lowering educator morale. There are more efficient ways to retain high quality educators such as better pay, reducing class size, providing a safe work environment.”

GAE filed a lawsuit against DeKalb County Schools concerning their 2014-2015 liquidated damages provision and we successfully settled the lawsuit. Under the terms of the settlement, the school district paid a total of approximately $160,000 to reimburse all 150 educators that had $750 deducted from their final paycheck in addition to reimbursing the $50,000 in attorney fees expended on behalf of two (2) GAE members. “To its credit, DeKalb Schools have not reinstituted the liquidated damages provision,” stated McGonigle.

To read the lawsuit click here.