Updates to our Terms of Use

We are updating our Terms of Use. Please carefully review the updated Terms before proceeding to our website.

Monday, May 27, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

School Principal Claims Unfair Firing After DUI

(CN) - A former elementary school principal says in a federal lawsuit that shortly after she was fired for failing to disclose a pending DUI charge, her male boss was only suspended after he was arrested for aggravated DUI and leaving the scene of a property damage accident.

Former Shikellamy, Pennsylvania School District principal Holly Judge, who started working for the district in October 2011, says that although she was allegedly fired for a pending charge that had not yet been finalized, "school board members only imposed a 20-day unpaid suspension" on District Superintendent Patrick Kelley for his criminally charged conduct.

Judge sued Kelley along with the Shikellamy School District, board members and officers in Federal Court last week.

Judge says that not only was she treated unfairly compared to Kelley, whose blood alcohol content was above the highest penalty range in both Pennsylvania and the New York, where he was arrested, but that the alleged reason she for which she was fired does not actually exist in the district's employee handbook or school code.

Judge also claims that one of the real reasons she was fired was because she placed a certain teacher, who was favored by members of the board, onto a performance improvement plan that, if the teacher did not meet, could have resulted in the teacher's termination.

"In fact, when said teacher failed to comply with the teacher improvement plan in a timely manner, defendant Kelley excused the failure by extending the time for her to comply with the plan and removing the matter from plaintiff's authority to monitor," Judge says in her complaint.

She adds that her "adverse action with respect to this teacher resulted in the retaliatory discharge of plaintiff on the pretext she had violated a non-existent school policy with respect to reporting a first pending DUI charge to the school district."

On June 19, 2014, Judge claims she was "summoned to a meeting with defendant Kelley at 3:00 p.m. with no advance notice as to what the purpose of the meeting was."

According to the complaint, "Upon arrival at the meeting, she was handed a letter dated June 19, 2014 addressed to her from Kelley and told by Kelley that because she had failed to disclose to Kelley that she had been involved in a traffic stop based upon suspicion of driving under the influence and had a blood alcohol test, she had until 12:30 p.m. the next day within which to resign from her position as elementary principal or she would be terminated with such termination having an adverse impact on her status with the Department of Education."

Judge says she was forced to resign "under protest" the next day.

According to the complaint, there "is no provision in Shikellamy's policy the school code that mandates that an employee must notify an employer for a first pending DUI charge, which was the reason for the alleged termination of Judge."

Judge continues: "As set forth in the Department of Labor & Industry Office of Unemployment Compensation Benefits notice of determination, which awarded plaintiff unemployment compensation benefits, Judge was constructively discharged for actions that did not show a disregard of standards of behavior that Shikellamy School District had the right to expect of plaintiff, the decision again noting that there is no provision in the employer's policy or the school code that mandates that an employee must notify the employer for a first pending DUI charge."

The former principal is suing for due process and equal protection violations and breach of contract.She is represented by Donald Brobst and Thomas Campenni of Rosenn, Jenkins & Greenwald in Wilkes-Barre, Pa.

Categories / Uncategorized

Subscribe to Closing Arguments

Sign up for new weekly newsletter Closing Arguments to get the latest about ongoing trials, major litigation and hot cases and rulings in courthouses around the U.S. and the world.