EMPLOYER DISCRIMINATION; DISCRIMINATION – In General; Elements of Prima Facie Case
Single Topic for Decision 1945E
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501.01000 – In General; Elements of Prima Facie Case
Contents of a letter to parents did not directly address any issues relating to the teachers’ interests as employees. The teachers did not state how their complaints impacted their working conditions, or how their concerns would advance their interests as employees. Without such evidence, the Board found distribution of the letter was not protected activity. The evidence fails to show how a letter was specifically and directly related to work conditions, treatment of teachers as employees, job cancellation or labor relations problems. As the letter did not state matters of legitimate concern to the employees as employees, the teachers did not engage in activity protected by EERA when they distributed the letter. Three teachers engaged in protected conduct when they sought the assistance of the Association and decided to join the union. The Board found there was insufficient evidence to support an inference that a charter school was unlawfully motivated to discriminate against three teachers because of their participation in protected union organization activities. The decision not to renew three teachers’ contracts followed closely after the teachers’ second meeting with an Association representative in which they voted to become part of the District’s faculty bargaining unit. However, timing alone, without more, does not demonstrate the necessary nexus between the protected act and the adverse action. One of the factors that can be used to establish nexus is employer animosity towards a union activist. A charter school was aware of the teachers’ union organizing effort, but there is no evidence that it ever tried to frustrate, thwart or discourage their attempt. Nexus can be proven by evidence of the employer’s inconsistent or contradictory justifications for its actions. However, the record is devoid of evidence that a charter school’s justification for its action was inconsistent or contradictory. A charter school did not give a clear reason to teachers for its non-renewal of their contracts. Nevertheless, the totality of the circumstances indicated that a charter school did not renew the teachers’ contracts because they distributed a letter. The Board was unable to draw a reasonable inference of unlawful motivation based solely on the proximity of the charter school’s action and its failure to give the teachers a clear justification for their decision. The Board found that a charter school did not to renew teachers’ contracts due to the contents of a letter they distributed rather than the teachers’ attempt at union organization. There was insufficient evidence to show a charter school was unlawfully motivated to discriminate against three teachers because of their expressed intent to form and join a union. Accordingly, the Board concluded the Association did not sustain its burden of proof that the charter school discriminated or retaliated against three teachers for their participation in protected activity.