Michigan Teachers and Tenure Act Rights Attorney
For Michigan teachers, so-called "tenure rights" are a fundamental part of job security as well as academic freedom. School districts in Michigan grant newly-certified teachers tenure after they have completed four years of probationary service in an appropriate position and have received satisfactory ratings from the district. Once a Michigan teacher has achieved tenure, special rights to stability and job security apply. The frontline to protect those rights is generally filled by the teacher union, but is sometimes handled by private attorneys working for the individual teacher or handling the case for the union. If you are represented by a teachers union, the first step is to contact your union. At Nacht Law, our education lawyers work for individual Michigan teachers personally, or through the teacher's union, to protect Michigan tenure rights -- at the tenure commission and in court.
RIGHTS OF TENURED TEACHERS
If you have tenure and are discharged, demoted, or suspended without pay for more than three days, you have a right of appeal to the State Tenure Commission. The School Board has no specific obligation to hold a hearing or hear witnesses; the board only has to consider the charges and record a vote to proceed upon the charges. When a school board votes to forward the charges on, a Michigan teacher must file a claim of appeal within 20 days of receiving notification. A Michigan teacher cannot be discharged unless and until the school board's decision is upheld. In the meantime, the board can suspend with pay. Unless there is an appeal, the school board's decision will stand, and the teacher will lose a job and possibly the career to which they dedicated their life. The stakes cannot be higher.
TENURE COMMISSION APPEALS
If a Michigan teacher appeals to the Tenure Commission on time, the Tenure Commission will assign an Administrative Law Judge to conduct a hearing. The hearing may be public or private at the teacher's option. The teacher can and should be represented by counsel. In many cases, the teacher's union will provide a representative free of charge. Michigan teachers have a right to present their case through the testimony of witnesses and the submission of documents. The school board will be responsible for proving that (1) misconduct occurred, and (2) that the misconduct was just cause for the penalty imposed. Just cause includes incompetence, insubordination, unprofessional conduct, absenteeism, crimes against the Employer, intoxication, or other violations of the teacher code of conduct. At Nacht Law, our education law attorneys not only can offer assistance in tenure proceedings for K-12 teachers, but can also represent teachers and professors at all public and private Michigan colleges and universities, including: University of Michigan, Eastern Michigan University, Albion College, Washtenaw Community College, Concordia University, Michigan Technological University, The Art Institute of Michigan, Wayne County Community College, Wayne State University, and Jackson Community College.
TENURED TEACHER LAYOFFS
Tenured teachers may be laid off for economic or administrative reasons. A Board's decision to lay off a tenured teacher can be appealed only on the grounds that a reduction in personnel was (1) not necessary, (2) arbitrary, (3) in bad faith, or (4) subterfuge for discharge. The Tenure Act does provide the right to recall to a suitable vacancy for three years after the initial layoff. The Tenure Act does not recognize seniority principles except that tenured teachers have priority over probationary teachers, and qualified teachers have priority over unqualified teachers. However, many collective bargaining agreements will have detailed provisions covering layoffs and recall which can be enforced through the grievance procedure. Of course, most of the employment rights applied in the private sector also protect tenured teachers from wrongful discharge.
New teachers who receive a notice of non-renewal from the school board have only 20 days to file a Claim of Appeal with the Michigan Tenure Commission. The Commission's review is limited to the timeliness and adequacy of the notice, e.g. it cannot review explanations for an unsatisfactory rating. Generally, a probationary teacher can be discharged for any reason (so long as the discharge is not discriminatory or retaliatory or otherwise illegal). If a teacher in probationary period faces a discharge, demotion, or an unpaid suspension of more than three days and he or she feels wrongly penalized, then he or she has the right to appeal this decision to the Tenure Commission. The probationary teacher must file a claim of appeal within 20 days of receiving the notification (of e.g. discharge, demotion) from the School Board. The time limit is very strict, and if one does not appeal in time, the school board's decision will stand.
At Nacht Law, our education lawyers take the rights of teachers seriously. Nacht Law lawyers are prepared to stand up for Michigan Tenure rights and advocate for the best interests of Michigan teachers whether at a Tenure Commission hearing or in the courtroom. Our job is to defend the right to continue practicing in the career to which you have dedicated yourself. If you are a Michigan teacher facing tenure action, contact the education lawyers at Nacht Law to arrange an initial consultation today.