Wednesday, November 21, 2012

It Takes a Village? Or a Lawsuit...

Both northwest Alabama men were young teachers and both used legal means in an attempt to secure a job they thought was unfairly taken from them. What did they accomplish? Let’s see...

Ben attended a local university that turned out teachers. He was very good at what he did and had in fact won many competitions in the world of music. Not only was Ben accomplished, he was handsome and used to getting what he wanted out of life. Upon graduation, he took a job teaching music in his hometown school system. Yes, he was moving up rapidly in education circles and he was attaining national fame in the music world as well. The only way to go was up.

Then the school system stated they had to make cuts. Just months short of having tenure, Ben was let go along with two other teachers. The school board’s system was not unanimous, and many, including scores of Ben’s music students, protested with some actually picketing the BOE. Why had the board selected Ben of all teachers to let go? Devastated, the newly married Ben began to ask questions.

It seems Ben had dated the daughter of one of the board members. The board member had even thought Ben would become a member of his family, but it wasn’t to be. When the board was faced with making cuts, this particular member immediately placed Ben on the list to get the boot. Was it fair? Of course not, but it does happen all the time in the world of small time politics. Ben sued for unlawful termination, but lost. After the suit, he found it difficult to find a job and his new wife left him. Things were moving rapidly all right...just not in the right direction.

Now ten years later, Ben has a great job, a certain amount of fame, and a loving wife. He’s probably better off than if he had remained in the local school system. Yet he wasted at least two years in trying to get back what he thought was taken unfairly from him.

Lenny’s case was slightly different. He had taught for several years in a local school system and was a competent and loyal employee. When the new job was posted, he had reservations. Lenny knew what the qualifications for the job should be, and he had them all. Yet listed with the educational requirements was another course under “the ideal applicant will have.”

The course wasn’t one that other school systems had required for similar positions, and only one current teacher in the system listed it on her resume’. Lenny immediately knew the job was probably going to go to this politically well-placed woman in the system, but he decided to apply just to see what would happen.

Four others sought the job, including the woman rumored to be the board’s choice. When the BOE’s pick was announced, no one was surprised that the well-placed teacher won the plum. Lenny had no intention of filing a grievance, but that didn’t stop him from telling other teachers in the system just what he thought of the whole rigged deal.

Word soon reached the teacher who received the promotion. Speaking to another woman she thought was her friend, she announced, “I don’t know why Lenny is so upset. If I hadn’t taken the job, he wouldn’t have even been the board’s second choice."

As most of our readers know, you can never really be sure who your friends are, and the woman’s statement soon made it back to Lenny. Now he was mad. He filed a grievance and accomplished part of what he wanted. Everyone in the system now knew of the board’s favoritism, but in the end he still didn’t get the job.

Did his grievance cause him to be passed over for future promotions? Let’s just say Lenny’s rise up the ladder of the school system was slow.

Is there a moral here? Perhaps Ben’s aunt said it best. Why would you want a job it takes a lawsuit to get?


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