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Wife got fired for "insubordination" ... because we took a vacation (1 Viewer)

Bossman

Footballguy
My wife has worked as a behavior therapist for a local school system for the last decade. Almost never takes a personal time or sick days (she doesn't get sick. Essential oils or some other witchcraft} 

Pretty crap job too with having to deal with the worst of the kids in high school, spitting, hitting, throwing desks, ... and all the verbal stuff. She's trained in personal restraining and she can hold herself. 

Every year she puts in for a week of vacation time so we can get a break from the long cold New England winter.

In October she put in her request for a week in Feb, same as every year. This time they asked her where she was going.

Jamaica. ... the school superintendent denied her request in a letter stating that Jamaica was too high risk for covid.

So we changed our vacation destination to St.Lucia.

2nd request denied stating covid risks due to travel. On that same day she was denied, she was bitten by a student and had to rip his head off of her. She was furious. 

She took 4 personal days and we went anyway. We followed all Massachusetts travel guidelines getting our negative covid test results before leaving, and getting our covid test at the resort to have our negative results for returning home.

She went back to work for 2 weeks and then was given her termination letter stating "insubordination" due to the fact that she took time off / traveled.

She's so mad that he would do this to her. No consideration for her work ethic, reliability, and the stellar job she's done for the 10 years that she's worked there. Her co-workers are screwed. There is no one to fill her position (they've already been trying to hire another at that position) and they'll be left having to deal with the mess. 

She was given 2 weeks notice and has already had a job offer for a private in-home company so money isn't the issue.

Just the fact that someone that doesn't know her .... or even knows what she does, can cut the cord like that because he was butt hurt she took a vacation after he said no.

My wife has to start over somewhere else, the kids that she serviced will suffer, the teachers and assistants will suffer, ... and the rest of the kids in the classroom when the troubled ones act up and no one is there to correct it ... not because we took a vacation ... but because we took a vacation during covid. Regardless of the fact we were returning with negative test results.

 

jobarules

Footballguy
Serious answer. If she traveled for a week wouldn't that mean she would have to quarantine when she got back and missed another 2 weeks of work (so 3 weeks total?)

 

GroveDiesel

Footballguy
Did the teachers’ union agree to any sort of rules/guidelines for the school year? Was your wife part of the union and if so, would she have their backing?

 

fruity pebbles

Footballguy
Are you in an at will state? Think it’s dumb on their part and most definitely someone is butt hurt but they did reject the request and you went anyways. 

 

RUSF18

Footballguy
All the teachers I know have struggled to even get the Friday off before their wedding weekends. 

 

bigbottom

I put on my robe and wizard hat
Sounds like an easy lawsuit for salary and retirement $$.
Assuming she’s not covered by a collective bargaining agreement, what would be the basis for a lawsuit stemming from the termination?

She could possibly sue over the bite, however.

 

matuski

Footballguy
Assuming she’s not covered by a collective bargaining agreement, what would be the basis for a lawsuit stemming from the termination?

She could possibly sue over the bite, however.
They fired her for cause.. giving her the ability to fight back.  Or perhaps I do not have the state laws right.

 

RUSF18

Footballguy
You said that you've taken a week's vacation to escape winter every year. Was it ever/always at a point where she'd have to use personal days like for this one or did it fall on long weekends/breaks?

If it's the former, that could help her since it's something they were seemingly ok with before, Covid aside. 

But my guess is that it was more the latter because, again to my knowledge, a lot of teachers aren't allowed to take even consecutive personal days, much less 4 straight. 

 

bigbottom

I put on my robe and wizard hat
And I’m not trying to be unsympathetic here. I’m really sorry your wife lost her job. Sounds like it is the kids who will suffer the most and that’s really too bad. School administrator biting his nose to spite his face here. 

 

matuski

Footballguy
Generally, an employer doesn’t need cause to fire an at will employee. 
Right.  So they usually don't give cause.... when they give cause they open up the door for debate?  I guess I might be way off.

We would intentionally NOT give cause when we let people go, and I always understood this was why.

 

bigbottom

I put on my robe and wizard hat
Serious answer. If she traveled for a week wouldn't that mean she would have to quarantine when she got back and missed another 2 weeks of work (so 3 weeks total?)
I would think this potentially could have exacerbated the issue.  I know that if I made that same trip, I would not be permitted to set foot in my office building for two weeks, and I hardly have to interact with anyone face to face at my job. 

 

RUSF18

Footballguy
Can you also imagine how this would play out if they did nothing, and people found out?

Enraged school parent: "Why did you let one of your teachers travel abroad during all of this and let her show back up at school without quarantining? Are you incompetent?!?!?"

Superintendent: "But you see, we told her she can't go..."

 

bigbottom

I put on my robe and wizard hat
Right.  So they usually don't give cause.... when they give cause they open up the door for debate?  I guess I might be way off.

We would intentionally NOT give cause when we let people go, and I always understood this was why.
There are a number of reasons employers like to stay vague on the reasons for firing someone: (1) people don’t like confrontation, so they avoid listing out all the reasons why the employee is terrible and deserves to be fired - instead, they say something vague and ambiguous like “it’s not working out” or “it’s just not a good fit” (these vague and ambiguous statements are generally a horrible way to deal with the issue from a legal standpoint); or (2) they don’t want to commit themselves to a particular reason for letting the person go, because if it is shown that the proffered reason is false, that can be used as evidence of an unlawful motive (e.g., discrimination based on race, age, gender, etc.).

The above issues do not appear to be present here. The facts seem to be undisputed that her vacation request was denied, she took the vacation anyway, and was fired for it. Again, assuming at will employment, the employer doesn’t have to show that the reason for the firing is reasonable or fair.

 
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Ilov80s

Footballguy
Talk to the union rep but it that would have been more helpful before the trip. Though if your State is anything like Michigan, your wife will have a new job pretty quickly. The demand for staff, especially those with experience in the specialized area your wife works in, is always high 

 

Ghost Rider

Footballguy
Even in those times where we have a pandemic, is an employer allowed to ask an employee what they are doing with their time off they requested? When making the original request, couldn't your wife have just said that she is taking a week off and said she wasn't going anywhere?  

 

EYLive

Footballguy
Even in those times where we have a pandemic, is an employer allowed to ask an employee what they are doing with their time off they requested? When making the original request, couldn't your wife have just said that she is taking a week off and said she wasn't going anywhere?  
I was thinking the same thing. "I'm taking a mental health break" could work too.

 

Andy Dufresne

Footballguy
I dislike jobs and bosses as much as anyone.

But terms of employment involve having approval for time off. Hers was denied but you went anyway. I might have too.

In fact I did do it once. Time off denied. I said I was going anyway and did. I knew I'd be fired when I returned and I was.

What was expected in this situation? Did you think there'd be a finger wagging accompanied by a wink and a nod?

 

Bossman

Footballguy
Calling off after being denied a vacation request will get you fired lots of places.
Yes, she doesn't deny being "insubordinate" ... but the reason for denying her time off was flawed ... and the punishment didn't fit the crime.

According to their contract, teachers need to be caught drinking on the job three times before they can be fired. 

She's received the same punishment and lumped into the same category as staff that have done some heinous things.

 

Bossman

Footballguy
You said that you've taken a week's vacation to escape winter every year. Was it ever/always at a point where she'd have to use personal days like for this one or did it fall on long weekends/breaks?

If it's the former, that could help her since it's something they were seemingly ok with before, Covid aside. 

But my guess is that it was more the latter because, again to my knowledge, a lot of teachers aren't allowed to take even consecutive personal days, much less 4 straight. 
She has so many personal / sick days saved up it is ridiculous.

She would have to "request" the time off since she would take 3 or 4 in a row. 

And yes, we've done this every year that she has worked there and she's always been approved.

 

Juxtatarot

Footballguy
Yes, she doesn't deny being "insubordinate" ... but the reason for denying her time off was flawed ... and the punishment didn't fit the crime.

According to their contract, teachers need to be caught drinking on the job three times before they can be fired. 

She's received the same punishment and lumped into the same category as staff that have done some heinous things.
I look at it from the employer's point of view.  You can't have employees pulling stuff like this without severe consequences.  

 

Bossman

Footballguy
Do you think you put children's lives in any danger by taking this trip?
This is a great point and we did give this much thought ...

as it turns out, traveling is less risk than her going to work ... since everyone traveling is required to test negative.

 

Todd from Utah

Footballguy
Sucks that she was fired (and happy she already has other offers) but they're not being unreasonable, IMO.

Its nice that they've allowed her to take a week off in the middle of the term every year, but for a teacher/educator.....its not unreasonable for them to deny it. (especially given the current circumstances) It kinda seems like that's what summer and spring break are for.

I would agree that they're sort of cutting their nose in this situation (in that its a very challenging job that I can't imagine will be easy to fill) , but as others have pointed out, the school would catch a ton of #### if she came back from an overseas trip with COVID and transferred it to students.  I dont necessarily AGREE with their stance (about denying the time off) but I understand it. As others have said, you're essentially taking 3 weeks off at that point (if they insist on a 2 week quarantine) not 1.  Sucks, but that's the reality right now.

Reminds me of a woman I used to work with (not saying your wife is like this, just reminds me of the story). Her name was Bernice. It was my first job out of school and one of my colleagues was an African American woman in her late 50's/early 60's. She was very close to retirement and not especially great at her job (mostly just due to not caring so much, due to her upcoming retirement). Mid-december to early January is the busiest time of the year for our industry. Every team has to coordinate time off to make sure there is adequate coverage for any particular day/week. (even if you get your work done, deals can go South quickly. So someone needs to be there to adjust things)  People can still take off (and a lot do during the X-mas to NYE week) but you have to have cover and some years, you dont get to take many days. Usually its something like "well, I took the whole week last year, so maybe this year I only get to take 1 day".

Bernice....... did not subscribe to this theory. Every year, on ~December 18th or so, she would head down to South Carolina to spend 2 weeks with her extended family. Never put in for the time....never asked.....just left that afternoon (and made a BIG show of it... "BYE Y'ALL. SEE YA NEXT YEAR!!!!!!") and didn't come back until the new year. Our boss (a white guy of around the same age) was TERRIFIED of her personally (she had a short temper) and terrified of any sort of racial blowback (Not sure if this was real or imagined. I dont remember her ever playing the race card) so he just let it happen.  None of us liked having to cover for her, but seeing our boss (who nobody liked all that much) so brow-beaten and demoralized as she strolled out the door every year was worth having to do ~20% of her work for the holidays.

 

Zow

Footballguy
Calling off after being denied a vacation request will get you fired lots of places.
In addition, if I'm understanding the OP correctly, she said "I am going to do X," they said, "no, you can't do X," and she did it anyway. It certainly sounds like she's a dedicated teacher and I'm not sure if the firing was wise, but it does sound like insubordination. 

 

Juxtatarot

Footballguy
I know a lot of people here are bosses to other people.  What would you do if one of your employees called in "personal days" after you told them they couldn't go on vacation?

 

Zow

Footballguy
Even in those times where we have a pandemic, is an employer allowed to ask an employee what they are doing with their time off they requested? When making the original request, couldn't your wife have just said that she is taking a week off and said she wasn't going anywhere?  
I absolutely defer to @bigbottom but I don't see a reason that an employer cannot ask if an employee if traveling during his or her time off. In other words, not specifically ask for details, but ask whether they're traveling (if doing so means quarantine, risk, etc.). This seems very reasonable to me during Covid-19. 

My office has put in a policy whereby we all must get vaccinated by a certain date or we cannot return to the office full-time. 

 

Zow

Footballguy
I know a lot of people here are bosses to other people.  What would you do if one of your employees called in "personal days" after you told them they couldn't go on vacation?
I genuinely think I would consider whether my declination of the request was reasonable (and give some weight to the quality and previously established character) but, assuming my declination was reasonable, I'd be very upset and some significant sanctions would absolutely be called for and termination would be a thought. 

 

Zow

Footballguy
Sucks that she was fired (and happy she already has other offers) but they're not being unreasonable, IMO.

Its nice that they've allowed her to take a week off in the middle of the term every year, but for a teacher/educator.....its not unreasonable for them to deny it. (especially given the current circumstances) It kinda seems like that's what summer and spring break are for.

I would agree that they're sort of cutting their nose in this situation (in that its a very challenging job that I can't imagine will be easy to fill) , but as others have pointed out, the school would catch a ton of #### if she came back from an overseas trip with COVID and transferred it to students.  I dont necessarily AGREE with their stance (about denying the time off) but I understand it. As others have said, you're essentially taking 3 weeks off at that point (if they insist on a 2 week quarantine) not 1.  Sucks, but that's the reality right now.

Reminds me of a woman I used to work with (not saying your wife is like this, just reminds me of the story). Her name was Bernice. It was my first job out of school and one of my colleagues was an African American woman in her late 50's/early 60's. She was very close to retirement and not especially great at her job (mostly just due to not caring so much, due to her upcoming retirement). Mid-december to early January is the busiest time of the year for our industry. Every team has to coordinate time off to make sure there is adequate coverage for any particular day/week. (even if you get your work done, deals can go South quickly. So someone needs to be there to adjust things)  People can still take off (and a lot do during the X-mas to NYE week) but you have to have cover and some years, you dont get to take many days. Usually its something like "well, I took the whole week last year, so maybe this year I only get to take 1 day".

Bernice....... did not subscribe to this theory. Every year, on ~December 18th or so, she would head down to South Carolina to spend 2 weeks with her extended family. Never put in for the time....never asked.....just left that afternoon (and made a BIG show of it... "BYE Y'ALL. SEE YA NEXT YEAR!!!!!!") and didn't come back until the new year. Our boss (a white guy of around the same age) was TERRIFIED of her personally (she had a short temper) and terrified of any sort of racial blowback (Not sure if this was real or imagined. I dont remember her ever playing the race card) so he just let it happen.  None of us liked having to cover for her, but seeing our boss (who nobody liked all that much) so brow-beaten and demoralized as she strolled out the door every year was worth having to do ~20% of her work for the holidays.
:lmao:  wtf

 

Bossman

Footballguy
To be clear, she's not a teacher .. she's a behavioral therapist / special ed ... and not union.

She assists the teachers with students on IEP's ... collects data, develops plans and strategies for the teachers to use and the kids to follow.

She gets extra work done before taking the time off. No substitute needed.

 

Betterbelieveit

Footballguy
Just asking as I know for sure some of my employees have done this and I really don't care. Coming from a family of educators, it really doesn't matter if she is a teacher or not. My Mother who taught for over 40 years once had a kid chase her down with a fire axe. Teacher or not she still plays a similar role with the students. If she did not admit to traveling they really don't have a leg to stand on unless Dez is right and they found out otherwise.

 

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