AEA Legal Services

AEA’s Legal Department provides legal assistance and support to AEA members and affiliates in conjunction with certain job-related disputes through the Professional Rights and Responsibilities (PR&R) Legal Services program. The program is intended to protect employment rights and privileges of members involved in adverse employment action. All active and education support members are eligible for legal services under this membership program.

For example, legal services may be available for: terminations, cancellations or suspensions; tenure issues; salary matters; demotions and promotions, and certificate revocations; on-the-job injuries and board adjustment claims; DHR charges of abuse; criminal charges related to corporal punishment; and transfers.

From passing laws to enforcing laws, AEA has the best legal team

AEA has the best and largest legal team in the state. In addition to the five full-time lawyers, AEA has experts on education and labor law, and a network of 50 of the best labor lawyers across Alabama, all ready to come to the aid of a member in need.

Below is a brief listing of some of the issues AEA assists members with. For more information on any particular issue, simply click on it.

What To Do / NOT To Do When Problems Occur on the Job

AEA is involved in every aspect of the legal system. AEA has experts and a lobby team to draft and pass legislation that protects teachers and education support professionals and attorneys to enforce the laws on behalf of educators. Having such a legal team on your side is a tremendous membership benefit. Why put yourself at risk by not joining?

The AEA strives to keep all of its members informed on the best way to protect yourself when difficult situations arise in the workplace. Following are some do’s and don’ts from us to you:

  • Do not resign.
  • Have an observer/representative at any conference called for disciplinary reasons.
  • Do not leave your job unless given a written directive to do so by your supervisor.
  • Do not rely on persons who know less about the law than you, but think they know more.
  • Do not enter into any agreements or sign any letters or statements until you have sought and secured proper legal advice.
  • Do not represent yourself.
  • Do not make any notations (marks) on correspondence received from the supervisor.
  • Do keep copies of all correspondence received from the supervisor.
  • Do keep notes of any event or situation which you may believe can have an impact on your employment status.
  • Do avoid public statements. They may not be in your best interest.
  • Do not admit to any accusation or charge brought to you about your job performance.
  • Do make a list of individuals who might have information which can help you.

Employment Discrimination

If you believe that you have been discriminated against by your employer on the basis of your race, gender, religion, national origin, or disability, AEA can assist you in ensuring that your rights are protected. To obtain assistance from AEA:
Contact your UniServ Director. You can obtain his or her contact information by clicking on “Contact Us” below. Tell him or her that you believe that you have been discriminated against. Then provide them with the information you have that you believe supports your case.

Your UniServ Director will then attempt to resolve this situation locally. This may or may not include filing a grievance on your behalf.

If attempts to resolve that matter locally are unsuccessful, your UniServ Director can assist you in submitting an Application for Support and Assistance to the AEA Legal Department.

Once your application has been received by the AEA Legal Department, it will be evaluated and the Associate Executive Secretary will be briefed on your case. The Associate Executive Secretary will then decide whether the case is appropriate for the assignment of legal counsel. You will be notified in writing of the Associate Executive Secretary’s decision.
Some important things to remember about employment discrimination are:

The law provides very strict time limits for filing a claim. Therefore, you should contact your UniServ Director immediately when you feel that you have been discriminated against.

Employment discrimination cases involve a very lengthy process. Federal law requires that the United States Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC) receive and review all discrimination complaints prior to the filing of a lawsuit. By law, the EEOC has at least 180 days to review the matter. Not until then can you request a right to sue notice from EEOC and file a lawsuit in federal court.

Under the rules of the PR&R Commission, the Associate Executive Secretary reviews these cases at every step of the process. If at any phase of the case, it is determined that your case lacks merit or has little likelihood of success, AEA can withdraw support.

If you have any further questions, contact your UniServ Director.

Terminations and Suspensions

If you have received a notice that the board intends to terminate you, or that you are suspended, you should follow the procedure below to obtain legal assistance:
Contact your UniServ Director immediately. Tell him or her what type of notice you received and the date you received it. You can obtain your UniServ Director‘s name and telephone number by clicking on UniServ District Information and selecting the number of your UniServ District.

Ask your UniServ Director for an “Application for Assistance and Support,” commonly known as a “PR&R Form.”

Complete the PR&R form (please print), sign and date it. Then fax it to (334) 834-7034, or mail it to AEA at P.O. Box 4177, Montgomery, AL 36103.

Your PR&R form will be reviewed by the AEA Legal Department. The Associate Executive Secretary will be briefed on your application, and a determination will be made regarding the assignment of legal counsel.

You will receive notice, usually within 7-10 business days, of the decision of the Associate Executive Secretary.
It is important to note that the law provides strict time limits for you to contest an adverse employment action against you. It is imperative that you contact your UniServ Director IMMEDIATELY upon your receipt of a notice of adverse employment action.

Attached Files For This Article: Questions and Answers About Tenure (320 KB Acrobat file)

Transfers

If you have received notice that you are to be transferred, you should follow the procedure below to obtain legal assistance:
Contact your UniServ Director immediately. Tell him or her what type of notice you received and the date you received it. You can obtain your UniServ Director‘s name and telephone number by clicking on “UniServ District Information” and selecting the number of your UniServ District.

Ask your UniServ Director for an “Application for Assistance and Support,” commonly known as a “PR&R Form.”

Complete the PR&R form (please print), sign and date it. Then fax it to (334) 834-7034, or mail it to AEA at P.O. Box 4177, Montgomery, AL 36103.

Your PR&R form will be reviewed by the AEA Legal Department. The Associate Executive Secretary will be briefed on your application, and a determination will be made regarding the assignment of legal counsel.

You will receive notice, usually within 7-10 business days, of the decision of the Associate Executive Secretary.
It is important to note that the law provides strict time limits for you to contest an adverse employment action against you. It is imperative that you contact your UniServ Director IMMEDIATELY upon your receipt of a notice of adverse employment action.

Attached Files For This Article: Questions and Answers About Teacher Tenure (320 KB Acrobat file)

Fair Dismissal Law Summary
Descriptions of Education-Related Laws

When a board proposes to terminate, transfer or otherwise discipline a non-probationary support person, the following action is required:

  • A notice of proposed personnel action must be sent by the local board of education to the employee.
  • The notice must be delivered by hand delivery or certified or registered mail.
  • The notice must inform the employee of the following.
  • The employee is entitled to know his or her right to contest the proposed action.
  • The notice must contain detailed reasons for the proposed action.
  • The notice must contain the facts upon which such reasons are based.
  • Once an employee receives notice of proposed employment action by the board, the following action by the employee is required.
  • The employee must submit to the board written notice of his or her intent to contest the proposed action and request for a hearing.
  • The employee must file the notice to contest within 15 days from his or her receipt of the notice of the proposed employment action.
  • The employee must deliver the notice to the local board by hand delivery or certified mail. Certified mail, return receipt requested, is advised.
  • Upon receipt of the employee’s notice of the intent to contest the proposed employment action, the board must hold a hearing.
  • The employee is entitled to know the reasons for the proposed employment action.
  • The employee is entitled to written notice of the charges against him or her.
  • The employee may be represented by counsel at the hearing.
  • The employing board must render its decision, by a majority vote of the board, within five (5) days of the hearing.
  • If the employing board renders an adverse decision, the employee is entitled to appeal to an Employee Review Panel under the Fair
  • Dismissal Act by complying with the following requirements.
  • The employee must file his or her notice of appeal for an Employee Review Panel within 15 days after receipt of the board’s decision.
  • The notice must be in writing.
  • The notice must be served on the superintendent. Hand delivery or certified mail, return receipt requested, is advised.
  • Once an employee has contested the board action, the parties select an Employee Review Panel.
  • The employee and the employer may mutually agree upon one person to hear and rule on an employee’s appeal.
  • If the parties are unable to agree on one person, the employee and employer each select one representative for a three-member review panel.
  • Thereafter, the Probate Judge of the county submits three names to the parties. The employer will strike one name. The employee will strike one name. The remaining name is the third member of the panel.
  • The Employee Review Panel conducts the hearing in the following manner.
  • The employee may be represented by counsel.
  • Upon selection, the Panel has 10 days to set the date, time and place for the hearing.
  • The hearing date shall be no later than 60 days from the decision of the local board.
  • At the hearing, the parties are permitted to present witnesses and documentary evidence, as well as cross-examine the opposing parties’ witnesses.
  • After the hearing, the Employee Review Panel must render its decision in the following manner.
  • The decision must be rendered within 45 days from the panel hearing.
  • The decision of the Panel is final and binding upon the parties.

Probationary Employees

Probationary employees must be given at least 15 days notice of termination prior to the effective date of termination.
The courts have held that employees achieve non-probationary status under the Fair dismissal Act after three years of service.
Unless otherwise provided, Alabama law allows probationary employees’ contracts to be non-renewed (not canceled) without the employer giving the employee any reasons. Therefore, unless an employee can convince a court that his or her contract was non-renewed by the employer for legally impermissible reasons, (such as religion, race, sex, exercise of free speech, free association or breach of contract), a probationary employee has little or no recourse against dismissal. Failure to evaluate or evaluate in accordance with local or state policy does not give probationary employees the right to re-instatement. Any probationary employee whose contract is changed or canceled during the term of that contract, unless such is done by mutual consent, is entitled to a hearing.

Brief Summary of Wage and Hours Issues

Most education support employees are covered under the FLSA. There are a few ESP who are exempt. (Teachers, principals, librarians, counselors, etc. are exempt.) Those ESP exempt under the FLSA are:

  • Supervisors of two or more employees with primary duties that include planning and assigning work, disciplining and evaluating employees, and interviewing, selecting, and training employees. (Ex. Transportation supervisor)
  • Administrative employees that regularly and directly assist the superintendent with carrying out the policies of the system. (Ex. Business manager)

The FLSA requires minimum wage and overtime compensation to employees.
The FLSA requires monetary payment or compensatory time to employees for all time worked over 40 hours each week. The payment or compensatory time must be 1½ times the regular hourly rate or 1½ times the hours worked.
Any time an employer permits or requires an employee to work must be compensated.
There must be a written policy or employer/employee agreement in advance of the work to state whether the overtime compensation will be monetary or compensatory time.
The maximum amount of comp time that can be accumulated before payment is required is 240 hours (160 hours of actual time).
Employees must be compensated for all “waiting time” unless the employee is completely relieved from duty and is allowed to leave the premises and use the time as the employee sees fit. If the employee must remain on the employer’s premises, then the time is compensable working time.
An employee cannot “volunteer” to do the same type work for his employer that he normally performs for the employer. All work done must be compensated.
Employees whose work requires them to regularly be on call should be provided with beepers at the employer’s expense.
Meal times are compensable unless they are:
a. at least 30 minutes long
b. the employee is relieved of all duties, including answering the phone
c. the employee is free to leave the duty post
Break times and meal times are not required under the FLSA.
Bus drivers’ hours worked include pre-trip inspection.
Training time must be compensated if it is training required by the employer.
Traveling from one worksite to another worksite is compensable time.
Employees that work two or more different jobs for the same employer must be paid overtime for all hours worked over 40 hours in the combination of the jobs.
Whenever an employee terminates employment, he must be paid for unused comp time.
Back pay for violations of the FLSA may be received for 2 years (3 years if it can be proven that the employer knew of the violation).
For an intentional violation by the employer the judge may double the damages.

OJI – On the Job Injuries

If you have been injured on the job, AEA can assist you with obtaining relief. Here are some things to keep in mind.

To obtain assistance from AEA contact the AEA Legal Department at (800) 392-5839. Tell the person you speak with that you have been injured on the job. You will then receive instructions on how to obtain an Application for Assistance and Support.

To increase your chances of recovery, make sure that there is an incident report that details the circumstances of the injury, i.e. time, place, conditions, etc. You should also keep all of the receipts and bills you accumulate relating to your injury.

Because the worker’s compensation law does not apply to the state, any recovery you receive will come from the Board of Adjustment, a body created by the legislature. The Board of Adjustment process is very slow (up to 3 years) and provides for a limited recovery (your out-of-pocket expenses only).

The Board of Adjustment process has very strict time limits that can completely bar recovery. It is very important for you to contact AEA as soon as possible after the injury so that we will be in a better position to assist you.