A paraprofessional filed a grievance with her school district after her position as an office manager in the Food Services division was targeted for elimination for budgetary reasons. In her grievance, she stated that she believed her position was being eliminated because she had raised concerns about billings from Southwest Food Service ("SFE") and because she complained about a hostile work environment created by the SFE director. As a remedy, she asked that she remain employed with the district in the same professional capacity with no further contact with the the SFE director.
After meeting with the paraprofessional about the concerns at a Level I hearing, the interim chief of Human Resources concluded that the complaint had been resolved because the paraprofessional was offered a position as an elementary case services worker, classified as the same pay grade as her prior position with the same compensation, but working 14 fewer days, and she would not be supervised by the SFE director. The paraprofessional did not agree that the complaint had been resolved and appealed the Level I decision, objecting that the relief she requested had not been granted.
The interim superintendent dismissed the appeal, stating that the paraprofessional had accepted the offered position, and therefore, the grievance had been resolved. The paraprofessional then filed a Level III appeal notice stating that her grievance was wrongfully dismissed, as her new position was a demotion, and said she wanted a hearing before the board of trustees. However, the district failed to set a hearing date for the Level III appeal, saying that the original complaint had been resolved and if the paraprofessional wanted to have a hearing before the board, she had to file a new grievance about her new position.
The paraprofessional filed an appeal to the commissioner of education, who noted that the Texas Education Code requires a school board to have a process whereby district personnel may obtain a hearing before the board regarding a complaint. By filing a grievance and following the grievance procedures, an employee is given the opportunity to present issues before the board of trustees. Therefore, the paraprofessional was entitled to have a grievance hearing before the board.
The commissioner also examined the district's argument that the paraprofessional's remedy had been granted and concluded that it had not. Although the paraprofessional's pay was the same, pay is not the only factor that determines whether two positions are within the same professional capacity. Duties and responsibilities must also be considered. The paraprofessional's complaints about her new position did relate to her original grievance.
The commissioner of education ordered that the paraprofessional's appeal be granted and ordered the board of trustees to hold a hearing regarding the paraprofessional's grievance as soon as possible.
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