Lawsuit filed over sick leave policy for New Mexico teachers

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A lawsuit has been filed alleging New Mexico has a policy of penalizing public school teachers in their evaluations if they take more than six days of sick time over the course of the school year, even if their contracts allow for more.

The lawsuit was filed March 30 on behalf of Logan Municipal Schools teacher Angela Medrow and seeks class-action status, The Albuquerque Journal reported (http://bit.ly/2pa1k8F). It names the New Mexico Public Education Department and Department Secretary Hanna Skandera as defendants.

Earlier this month, Skandera and Gov. Susana Martinez announced that teachers will be able to take six sick days before it impacts the attendance portion of their evaluations.

That is fewer than the maximum number of sick days allowed for teachers under the Logan district's policies. Teachers for the district can earn one day of sick leave per month for up to a total of 90 days, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit claims sick leave is private property that cannot be taken without just compensation.

"As with every other employee in the state, whether public or private, sick leave and personal leave days are part of their compensation and benefits," said Attorney Warren Frost, who is representing Medrow and the other class-action plaintiffs.

Frost is asking the court for an injunction to stop the department from considering sick leave in teacher evaluations.

The lawsuit also seeks damages for all plaintiffs "for the value of their earned leave that they were deprived of."

It is not clear who the rest of the plaintiffs are in the class-action lawsuit, but Frost noted in the complaint that the department identified 21,800 teachers who were subject to the evaluation system during the 2014-15 school year.

Skandera issued a statement Friday saying the department is reviewing the lawsuit.

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Information from: Albuquerque Journal, http://www.abqjournal.com


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