Members of Liebert Cassidy Whitmore's consortiums are able to speak directly to an LCW attorney free of charge to answer direct questions not requiring in-depth research, document review, written opinions or ongoing legal matters. Consortium calls run the full gamut of topics, from leaves of absence to employment applications, student concerns to disability accommodations, construction and facilities issues and more. Each month, we will feature a Consortium Call of the Month in our newsletter, describing an interesting call and how the issue was resolved. All identifiable details will be changed or omitted.
ISSUE:An employee was terminated the week before winter break. She had in her possession some school property, and she also said there was personal property of hers in the classroom andher office. She wanted to come to campus the first Saturday of break to go through her belongings. She said it would likely take several hours. The school wanted to know what its duties were for allowing her to come when she requested (over break, on aweekend) and for supervising her during the potentially hours-long process.
RESPONSE: The LCW attorney told the client that while it is certainly inconvenient to allow the employee to come on the day she picked, it might be in the school's best interest for a few reasons. First, there will be less disruption having a terminated teacher on campus at a time when there are no students or other faculty or staff present. While it would be preferable if she would come after school during a time when the campus is open, this alternative is better than having her there during school hours. Next, the school should make sure to have an inventory of all school property the teacher must return, including her laptop, keys, or other school items. Make sure she is informed beforehand that the school expects she will bring the items to campus with her. In terms of retrieving her own property, it seems unrealistic that it should take several hours to go through her room and office, but the school should ensure that an administrator is there to supervise the entire process. The school does not want a situation where the employee ends up taking school property from the room or office because no one was watching, or accesses a computer or other device in the room. Finally, allowing the weekend pick up during break ensures the employee cannot complain that the school is "keeping" her property for several weeks after firing her. If she has personal items in the office or room, she is entitled to have those back, and the school could risk angering her by denying her those items for several weeks during break. So, although it might not be very convenient, it is likely the best decision to allow the employee to pick up her items as requested, and have an administrator there to monitor her during this time.