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  Public Employee Press

PEP Feb 2014 Table of Contents
  La Voz

Public Employee Press

Job saved with back pay for School Aide

School Aide Theresa Ortiz was awarded $59,000 in back pay and got her job back after an arbitrator ruled recently that the Dept. of Education had fired her unjustly. Ortiz, who was working at the Queens High School of Teaching, Liberal Arts and Science, was terminated in 2011 by the school's principal.

Ortiz had gotten permission from management to take three unpaid personal days, but a new assistant principal at the school in District 26 alleged that she had taken three unauthorized sick days.

The Local 372 member contacted DC 37 Schools Division Council Rep Phyllis Wambser, who filed a grievance on her behalf. The grievance sought to have Ortiz reinstated with back pay and charged that management did not have sufficient reason to terminate her.

In a hearing on the grievance, Ortiz stated that she did have permission from management to take the days, and records showed that she had contacted the payroll department to inform them that she had been incorrectly paid for those three days, which she knew she was not entitled to. She had also trained another worker to handle her duties in her absence.

After step 2 of the grievance process, the matter was still not resolved, and the union brought the case to an arbitration panel, where DC 37 Assistant General Counsel Erica Gray-Nelson represented Ortiz. The panel ruled that management lacked "good and sufficient reason" to terminate Ortiz and ordered the DOE to reinstate her with full back pay.

"The DOE was wrong to terminate her," said Council Rep Craig Dickerson, who handled the grievance to the end. "The arbitrator made the right decision."

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