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Thursday, November 3, 2016

Hearings For School District Employees on Administrative Leave

On September 14, 2016, the Missouri legislature overrode the governor’s veto and passed House Bill No. 1432, a copy of which you can find here.  Under that bill, which was effective October 14, a school district employee, other than a probationary teacher, who is put on paid administrative leave must be given a hearing within sixty (60) days from the date the employee was placed on such leave if the employee is not removed from administrative leave within thirty (30) days after being placed on such leave.  Although the hearing can be continued for good cause, it cannot be continued for more than 180 days from leave commencement.  Further, within thirty (30) days of placing an employee on administrative leave any school district must inform the Board of Education of the reason or reason(s) for the employee’s placement on administrative leave.  Finally, the District must provide a writing to the employee the “general reason or reasons” for the leave.

These new requirements do not apply under circumstances where the employee’s misconduct is the subject of certain law enforcement investigations.

The practical effect of this statute is that school districts will be required to act quickly in connection with any investigation and decision after an employee (other than a probationary teacher) is placed on administrative leave.  Therefore, Districts may want to fully develop the facts before placing an employee on administrative leave if the employee is not creating a safety or health issue that requires immediate action.  Districts must carefully draft the “general reason or reasons” why the employee is placed on administrative leave because these reasons may bind the District in subsequent, such as employment discrimination, proceedings.  The statute likely will prevent Districts and the employee from agreeing to a long leave in lieu of a hearing on termination.  Therefore, Districts likely should promptly file charges to terminate permanent contracts and set the hearing within sixty (60) days of the date that the permanent teacher is placed on administrative leave.  In addition, employees who may not otherwise be entitled to hearings, such as classified employees, now are entitled to hearings under this statute.

Because the statute provides that a hearing “shall” occur, the parties may not be able to waive the hearing.  However, the statute does not describe the nature, extent or procedures of the hearing.

As always, the foregoing is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice regarding any particular situation and should not be relied on as such.  Please contact one of our labor and employment lawyers if you have any questions.

This update was prepared by Charles S. Elbert.


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