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Pitfalls and Precautions: Honouring contract terms a professional obligation

August 29, 2017 Gaylene Schreiber, Secretary to ATA Professional Conduct Committee

Pitfalls and Precautions is a series that aims to educate teachers on professional conduct issues by highlighting situations addressed by the ATA Professional Conduct Committee. The purpose of the series is purely educational, so some non-essential information from the actual case may be omitted or changed.

Section 101(3) of the School Act requires that teachers provide 30 days’ notice to terminate a temporary employment contract. Article nine of the Professional Code of Conduct requires that teachers “fulfill contractual obligations to the employer until released by mutual consent or according to law.” In a recent case, a teacher was found guilty of unprofessional conduct for failing to fulfill his contractual obligations.

In this case, the teacher had verbally accepted an offer of temporary employment some months prior to the commencement of the contract, but failed to sign the contract despite repeated requests to do so. At the beginning of the contract term, the teacher appeared at work for several days before resigning his position because he had found permanent employment elsewhere, providing the employer with only two weeks’ notice. The superintendent informed the teacher of his obligations, asked him to rescind his resignation and offered to extend the temporary contract for the whole school year, but the teacher did not reply to this request.

The hearing panel of the Professional Conduct Committee determined that the contractual relationship had been established and was in place at the commencement of the school year, and that the signing of the contract was a formality given that both parties engaged in aspects of an employment relationship. Given the teacher’s failure to honour requirements of both the School Act and the Code of Professional Conduct, the committee found the teacher guilty of unprofessional conduct and ordered a penalty of a letter of reprimand and a fine of $100.

In its order, the committee noted that a fine was in order because the young teacher understood his contractual obligation yet chose to ignore it, and it would also serve as a general deterrent for this type of behaviour. 

Read more Pitfalls and Precautions articles here.

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