In what is hoped to be a precedent setting case, MEA retained counsel Don Fontaine won an unemployment appeal for a probationary teacher who resigned rather than be non-renewed. MEA pursued the case after the school board denied unemployment benefits and gained nine-months back benefits for her.
"This was the first time I had heard of anyone being denied benefits under these circumstances, and with this decision, I trust it will be the last," says MEA General Counsel Shawn Keenan.
"Fontaine believes it does have precedential value on future claims by teachers facing non-renewal who want to preserve their professional record for future employment, because it reversed lower administrative hearing decision which held that a teacher who resigns in May when she is told that her contract will probably not be renewed when it expires at the end of August does not do so under threat of "imminent" discharge, as the statute requires.
"Normally, an employee who is to continue as an employee for three months into the future cannot immediately resign and claim that her resignation was coerced. This principal should control decisions in this setting in the future."
The case also provides a clear mechanism for teachers facing non-renewal: they can resign for "personal" reasons, thus maintaining an unblemished official record, while still getting unemployment compensation.