CHICAGO (CN) – To save money, but in violation of a collective bargaining agreement, the Chicago Board of Education fired teachers who were on the verge of completing their 20th year in the system, two teachers say in a federal class action.
Named plaintiffs Barbara Ferkel and Adrienne Green-Katien sued the Chicago Board of Education and its eight members, alleging age discrimination, wrongful firing, breach of contract and violation of due process.
In June 2010, Ron Huberman, then-CEO of Chicago Public Schools, and the Board of Education “decided to lay off and ‘honorably terminate’ teachers whom defendants labeled as unsatisfactory,” according to the complaint.
Ferkel and Green-Katien say that “Huberman’s statements that the honorably terminated teachers were unsatisfactory are false.”
Ferkel and Green-Katien say they were told in August 2010 that “their positions were no longer available due to something titled ‘Redefinition’ and they would be honorably terminated.”
Ferkel worked for Chicago public schools for 19 years and says she received excellent and superior professional evaluations. She says she had informed the Board in February 2010 that she planned to retire in June 2011 with 20 years of service, “thus substantially increasing the pension and other benefits to which she was entitled.”
Also, “Retirement with 20 years of service would allow Ms. Ferkel to cash in all her 123.5 sick days. Retiring with less than 20 years of service would allow Ms. Ferkel to cash in only 40.5 sick days.”
Ferkel says that in April or May 2010, her principal at Ames Middle School, Thomas Hoffman, told her “that she was ‘too motherly’ to the students. Ms. Ferkel understood this to be a comment about her age.”
Green-Katien also worked for Chicago public schools for 19 years, and planned to retire after her 20th year. She too received excellent and superior evaluations during her tenure, except for the 2009-2010 school year, when Hoffman gave her a “‘Satisfactory’ rating, despite never conducting a formal observation of Ms. Green-Katien’s classroom or engaging her in the post-observation meeting required under the collective bargaining agreement,” according to the complaint.
She adds: “Of the 10 (10) teachers who received termination letters at Ames, at least half were over the age of forty (40).
“Of the ten (10) teacher who received termination letters at Ames, two teachers who were under the age of forty (40) and substantially younger and less senior than other terminated teachers were contacted and rehired by Hoffman. The newly rehired teachers were assigned classes that the senior and tenured teachers were qualified to teach.”
They claim the Board of Education violated its collective bargaining agreement with Chicago Teachers Union, Local 1, which required “that tenured teachers with appropriate certifications will be selected for retention based on seniority.”
They seek class damages for age discrimination, deprivation of due process, and breach of contract.
They are represented by Robin Potter.