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Pitfalls and Precautions: A contract is a contract

April 9, 2019 Cory Schoffer, ATA Secretary to Professional Conduct Committees

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.

A Professional Conduct Committee recently heard the case of a teacher who failed to fulfill her contractual obligations to her employer by providing less than 30 days’ notice of her intent to resign her position.

The committee heard that the teacher had accepted a teaching position in another province, and that the start date of the new contract was scheduled to be within the 30-day notification period. The new employer was unwilling to hold the position to allow for the teacher to meet her statutory obligations to her Alberta employer. Her Alberta employer was unwilling to provide mutual release from her contract prior to the end of the 30-day notification period. Nevertheless, the teacher accepted the out-of-province position and left her position in Alberta prior to the end of the contract.

The School Act requires 30 calendar days' notice for teachers to terminate their contract, unless the teachers are released through mutual consent.

The teacher was found guilty of unprofessional conduct. The teacher received a reprimand and a fine of $200. Should the teacher fail or refuse to pay the fine, the teacher would be declared ineligible for membership in the Alberta Teachers’ Association.

Teachers need to be mindful of the details in their individual contracts of employment and in statute. Often teachers are unaware that there are requirements and obligations around resigning their contracts. These same obligations exist for employers with respect to notice required to terminate a contract. The Association has a high expectation that employers will adhere to these requirements, and thus extends that high expectation to its own members when they are terminating their contracts. If mutual consent to terminate a contract without 30 days' notice is not provided, teachers have the duty to complete their contract through to the end date or legal date of resignation. ❚

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