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Pitfalls and Precautions: Obligations to employer intact during leave

May 10, 2016 Gaylene Schreiber, Secretary, 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 committee dealt with the following case during the 2015/16 school year.

A teacher was on a leave of absence from his school jurisdiction but continued to be in a contractual relationship with the employer. While on leave, the teacher engaged in tutoring students and coaching sports teams.

The deputy superintendent wrote a letter to the teacher, directing the teacher to stop both the tutoring and the coaching activities. The teacher acknowledged the directives but believed that since he was not getting paid, the tutoring was permissible. The coaching and tutoring behaviour continued intermittently over the course of several months, despite successive letters issued by the deputy superintendent providing direction to cease and desist any tutoring or coaching related to students of that jurisdiction. The teacher was charged with failing to follow the lawful orders of the board.

The Professional Conduct Committee found the teacher guilty of the charge noting “[the teacher] failed to follow lawful orders of the board [and this] blatant disregard of employer directives is behaviour unbecoming of a member of the teaching profession.”

The committee found that when the teacher had behaved in a way that undermined the employer’s confidence in teachers, it was deleterious to the profession. In ordering a penalty of a severe letter of reprimand, the committee noted that the profession has a right to expect that teachers will act in a manner that establishes and maintains a duty of fidelity between themselves and their employers.

Teachers may wish to review the Professional Code of Conduct for items that pertain to their obligations in relation to school authorities. Members are strongly encouraged to contact Association staff in Member Services regarding any directive provided by an agent of the employer prior to taking action contrary to the directive. ❚

Read more Pitfalls and Precautions articles here.

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