True confession: despite being a lawyer and understanding the significance of “the fine print” I routinely check the “Agree” box on numerous documents and websites without reading what I have just agreed to. You can hardly navigate modern life in any other way. You certainly can’t see a doctor.
But an employment contract should be treated with more care. Consider what happened in La Villa ISD. Dr. Elizondo signed a contract with La Villa ISD that stated right at the top “Second Year Probationary Contract.” He had completed his first probationary year, and was renewed for a second year. A second probationary year.
At the end of that second year the board voted to terminate Dr. Elizondo’s service to the district. Since it was a probationary contract, the board did not have to offer Dr. Elizondo a hearing, but only had to give him timely notice, which the board did. Just three days later Dr. Elizondo filed a grievance over this, asserting that the probationary contract was issued in mistake, and that he should have been on a term contract. The board denied his grievance because it was untimely.
How could it be untimely when he filed the grievance just three days after being notified of his termination? The board reasoned that Dr. Elizondo should have filed the grievance within 15 days of the date when he was offered the contract. After all, his complaint was that it was the wrong kind of contract. But it clearly said “Second Year Probationary Contract.” The grievance policy, DGBA (Local) required that grievances be filed within 15 days “of the date when the employee first knew, or with reasonable diligence should have known, of the decision or action giving rise to the complaint or grievance.” Dr. Elizondo knew it was a probationary contract when it was presented to him, which was about a full year prior to the board’s decision to end his employment with the district.
The Commissioner agreed with the district on this one. The grievance should have been filed within 15 days of the issuance of the contract. By waiting a full year to grieve, Dr. Elizondo failed to comply with DGBA and his grievance was properly denied.
There was another reason for the decision in favor of the district. The Commissioner noted that Dr. Elizondo “waived his right to complain about the type of contract that Respondent issued him when he performed under that contract for a year and accepted its salary and benefits.”
This one is Elizondo v. La Villa ISD, decided by the Commissioner on February 22, 2022. It’s Docket No. 049-R10-07-2021.
DAWG BONE: READ THE CONTRACT. IF IT’S THE WRONG KIND, FILE A GRIEVANCE. NOW.
Got a question or comment for the Dawg? Let me hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org.