On The Job Issues

On The Job Issues – Questions about working conditions and the Master Agreement.

  • What do I do if I have a problem with my supervisor?
  • What do I do if I have a problem with another employee?
  • What do I do if I have a grievance?
  • What do I do if I am injured on the job?
  • What do I do if someone under my care is injured?
  • What are my rights to speak on public policy?
  • What do I need to know about the ParaPro Assessment test?
  • Can I get overtime pay?
  • What can I do if a discipline problem is returned to my classroom?
  • Who sets mileage reimbursement rates?
  • What accommodations can I expect if I am disabled?
  • What limitations are there on parent visits to the classroom?
  • Should I be getting a morning and afternoon break?
  • Info on Teachers Returning from Leave
  • Info on Teacher Voluntary Transfers?
  • Info on Teacher Administrative Transfers?
  • Info on Surplussed Teacher Transfers
  • Info on Assistant Voluntary Transfers
  • Info on ESP Involuntary Transfers

 

What do I do if I have a problem with my supervisor?

First, talk to your supervisor. Explain how you see the problem. Try to reach a resolution.

Remember that your supervisor has his/her point of view, which may differ from yours. Get as much information as you can about how your supervisor understands the situation. With that understanding, you may be better able to propose a solution.

If the problem can’t be resolved, talk to your HCEA building rep and ask for your HCEA rep’s help in solving the problem. If you and the rep can’t get the situation resolved, contact the HCEA office for assistance at (410) 997-3440 or e-mail HCEA at staff@hceanea.org.

 

What do I do if I have a problem with another employee?

It is not uncommon to have an problem arise with a colleague. Because of the delicate relationships that often form at the work site, HCEA does not recommend that you automatically complain to your principal or supervisor.

MSEA/HCEA UniServ Staff are available to provide guidance in your particular situation. Training and advice on managing conflict is also available.

And remember, calls to HCEA UniServ are kept confidential.

 

What do I do if I have a grievance?

A grievance is a violation of the negotiated agreement.

If you believe a provision of the contract is not being followed, the first step is to point out the contract language to the individual whose directive or decision you believe violates it.

If you’re not sure whether a directive or decision actually violates the contract, call HCEA and speak with an HCEA staff member/MSEA UniServ Director. He or she can explain the contract language to you and discuss with you whether it applies to your situation.

If you point out the contract violation, and the violation is not corrected, call the HCEA office at (410) 997-3440. Speak to the appropriate HCEA staff and he/she will help you take steps to address the problem.

 

What do I do if I am injured on the job?

If you are injured on the job, you may qualify for Workers Compensation benefits. You must report the injury to an administrator within 24 hours and fill out a First Report of Injury within 48 hours.

If you need medical attention, report to Concentra Medical Center, if possible. (If you have problems with Concentra, please let HCEA know!)

Following treatment for the injury, call HCEA at (410) 997-3440. HCEA helps members fill out the Workers Compensation Claim Form in order to protect their rights to future claims.

 

What do I do if someone under my care is injured?

Assist the injured person in securing proper care immediately. This will include calling 911 if necessary. Inform both the school nurse and your supervisor of the injury.

If you are an HCEA member, call HCEA at (410) 997-3440 to file a report of the event.

MSEA’s legal program and NEA liability insurance protects you if you are an HCEA member. As a member, you can focus on assisting the injured, knowing you will be protected if any charges of negligence on your part would arise.

 

What are my rights to speak on public policy?

Public employees’ individual first amendment (freedom of speech) rights are more restricted than those of private employees. Case law states that your right to speak on matters of public concern is protected by the first amendment of the Constitution. HOWEVER, this protection is balanced against the employer’s need to promote efficiency of its operations and to avoid workplace disruption. Case law can constrain speech outside of work related to the public employer and its operation. (The right to speak about personal disputes and related activities is not protected.)

This is one of the important reasons to belong to your union. Your voice is heard through the union, which can speak on your behalf.

 

What do I need to know about the ParaPro Assessment test?

Under ESEA Title One (also called “No Child Left Behind”) instructional assistants working in Title One schools and programs must have the equivalent of two years of post-secondary education (48 credit hours in Maryland) or pass the ParaPro Assessment test by the end of this school year. (The deadline was originally January 8, 2006, but NEA advocacy succeeded in extending the time period.)

To learn about the ParaPro Assessment test, click here. From this site, you can click on “Find a test center” to locate other test centers in Maryland.

If you would like to talk to someone about your individual situation, call HCEA.

 

Can I get overtime pay?

The ESP Negotiated Agreement says that an ESP employee “required to work beyond his/her normal workday … shall be paid at his/her regular rate of pay.” After 40 hours, support professional are to be paid “time and a half,” 1.5 times their regular pay rate.

In addition, HCPSS must abide by the provisions of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)– provisions which changed as of August 24, 2004. The FLSA requires overtime pay in cetain circumstances — but only for covered employees. (Teachers are not covered.)

Most HCEA ESPs who make less than $23,600 are protected by the law. Questions about your particular circumstance should be directed to your UniServ Director at HCEA.

 

What can I if do a discipline problem is returned to my classroom?

State law says that if a teacher sends a student out of the classroom for disciplinary reasons, he/she cannot return until the teacher has had a conference with the principal. HCEA and MSEA fought to get this language into state law.

The HCEA teachers’ contract reflects and expands on this right. The contract says “…the student shall not return to the classroom activity, program, or area … until the teacher is satisfied that proper remedial action has been taken or until the teacher has had a formal conference with and a written and/or verbal reply from the principal or assistant principal.”

Any restrictions on how long a special education student can be out of the classroom do not relieve the principal of having a conference with the teacher. Even if a student has to come back into the classroom prior to a conference for some educational reason, the teacher can insist that a formal conference be held as soon as possible. A teacher who is not satisfied with a verbal response may ask for a written response. The teacher can also document the administrator’s verbal response with a follow-up letter expressing the teacher’s understanding of the verbal response. In problem cases, educators should keep a file of documentation about the classroom behavior and administrators’ responses.

The teachers’ contract also says the teacher should file written reports of physical or verbal abuse (or threats of abuse). There may be instances where an educator may first attempt to handle a problem through other means. However, this language is a tool that can be used when if the teacher feels that an administrator has not responded effectively to a discipline problem involving threats and/or abuse.

In such cases the contract gives the teacher the right to “request a conference with the Superintendent (or his/her designee) to discuss such an incident or corrective action taken.” This language provides additional leverage for making sure a situation is addressed.

The student code of conduct or disciplinary procedure of the school can also help educators promote effective response on disciplinary issues. If the principal is not holding a student to the student code of conduct, ask him/her to provide an explanation of why not.

If the student disciplinary procedure is not adequate to meet the problems that staff faces with students, the teachers’ contract provides remediation. That contract requires involvement of all members of the faculty and administration in development of an appropriate student disciplinary procedure, which must be communicated in writing to faculty and staff in September. It’s never too early to request – either directly or through your HCEA rep — that teachers and staff want to be involved in revising the policy for the up-coming year.

The rights that education employees have won under the law or through their union contract are not magic wands. They are tools that education employees can use to move administrators to address problem situations. In the end, it is the initial responsibility for student behavior, safety and conduct rests with the teachers. It is the responsibility of the principal to manage the school. His/hers is the final school building level authority for student disciplinary action. State law, the HCEA contract and HCEA staff support provide faculty and staff the back-up to make the administration responsible for doing so in a manner that is effective for both students and educators.


[1] COMAR, Maryland School Laws and Regulations, #7-305, (d)(4)(ii) – If the disruptive behavior results in action less than suspension, the principal or a designee of the principal shall confer with the teacher who referred the student to the principal prior to returning the student to that teacher’s classroom.

[2] HCEA Teachers’ Contract, Article IX, Section A – When, in the judgment of a teacher, a student is by his/her behavior seriously disrupting a school activity or instructional program to the detriment of other students, the teacher may temporarily, with notification to the principal, excuse the student from the activity and/or program and refer him/her to the principal or other school level disciplinary program(s) designed to assist such student(s). Except when necessary to fulfill other normal student responsibilities, the student shall not return to the classroom activity, program, or area where such disruption had taken place until the teacher is satisfied that proper remedial action has been taken or until the teacher has had a formal conference with and a written and/or verbal reply from the principal or assistant principal.

[3] HCEA Teachers’ Contract: Article IX, Section B – Any teacher threatened with physical abuse or is (sic) physically abused in connection with his/her employment shall immediately report the incident in writing to his/her immediate supervisor. Incidents involving verbal abuse shall be reported in a similar manner. The teacher may request a conference with the Superintendent or his/her representative to discuss such an incident or the corrective action taken.

[4] HCEA Teachers’ Contract: Article IX, Section D – The principal of each school will be responsible for the development of an appropriate student disciplinary procedure with the involvement of all members of the faculty and administration. … It shall be the principal’s responsibility to inform, in writing, the faculty and staff of the school disciplinary procedure. This shall be done in September of each year.

 

Who sets mileage reimbursement rates?

The mileage reimbursement rate for automobile use is set by the Internal Revenue Service — not by the local school system or through HCEA negotiations.

The IRS sets the rate to define what amount can be reimbursed to the employee without the employee incurring tax liability on what would otherwise be defined as “income.”

For rate information contact the HCEA office at (410) 997-3440.

 

What accommodations can I expect if I am disabled?

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits employers from discriminating against qualified individuals with disabilities.

A qualified employee or applicant with a disability is an individual who, with or without reasonable accommodation, can perform the essential functions of the job in question.

Under the Act, an individual with a disability is a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.

Examples of major life activies are functions such as caring for one’s self, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, and working.

Reasonable accomodations must be made for qualified individuals with disabilities. This could include

  • Making facilities accessible and usable.
  • Restructuring a job, modifying work schedules or reassigning the employee to a vacant position;
  • Acquiring or modifying equipment or devices.

An employer is required to make an accommodation if it would not impose an undue hardship on the operation of the employer’s business. Undue hardship takes into consideration the difficulty and expense of making accomodations.

If you are an HCEA member and have questions about your individual situation, please call HCEA. If you are not an HCEA member yet, you will probably want to speak to your personal attorney.

For a more detailed explanation of the above, download the document on this page. The EEOC also provides more information on its web site. See a brief review from the US Equal Employment Oppertunity Commission. For more information on accommodations.

 

What limitations are there on parent visits to the classroom?

It’s important to students and educators for parents to be involved in their children’s education. Parents and guardians need to be knowledgable about what is going on in the classroom.

Educators, however, must also consider student safety and minimizing disruption to the educational program. Rights guaranteed in Article 10.G of the teachers’ negotiated agreement help to achieve these aims:

  • Visitors must have the approval of an administrator before being permitted to enter the classroom.
  • A school administrator is to notify a teacher in advance, either verbally or in writing, before a visitor is sent to the classroom.
  • The teacher has the right to request that the visit be rescheduled “based on instructional needs and the best interests of the students.”

 

Should I be getting a morning and afternoon break?

As a result of the last round of HCEA negotiations, the Superintendent has reissued Circular No. 99 on “Employee Work Breaks,” which states: “[Administrators and supervisors] are urged to make efforts to provide reasonable periods of time during the workday for A.M. and P.M. work breaks for secretary/clerical personnel and assistants.”

It is HCEA’s position that time to relax for 10-15 minutes, gather thoughts, take care of personal business, share experiences with colleagues, etc., is necessary and makes an employee more effective on the job. Many schools are already providing support professional breaks. If your school isn’t and you need help in coming up with a solution to propose to your administrators, give HCEA a call at (410) 997-3440.

 

Info on Teachers Returning from Leave

The Human Resources Hiring Team places teachers returning from leave within their area(s) of certification. New personnel are not placed until involuntarily transferred and teachers returning from leave are placed.

The HCEA membership of teachers who return from leave is continuous. However, teachers who want to continue in the HCEA Sick Leave Bank must reapply for Sick Leave Bank membership.

 

Info on Teacher Voluntary Transfers?

Voluntary transfers – Requests must be received by the principal of each school of interest prior to 4:30 PM on Wednesday, March 1. You can request schools even though an open position is not available or anticipated. Transfer forms must be withdrawn in writing and given to the principal of the requested school by 4:30 PM on June 1st or the teacher must accept the voluntary transfer.

Use the paper transfer request form available at your school or on the HCPSS web site (employee link, procedures and forms). The white copy of the form goes to the principal, the canary copy to your subject/curriculm coordinator and the pink copy is yours. Human Resources does not get a copy.

Your current principal must sign the transfer request form before you forward it to the school(s) of interest. The receiving principal will acknowledge receipt of the transfer request form and consider your request after all involuntary (surplus) transfers and teachers returning from leave are placed. The receiving principal will return forms to teachers requesting transfer who were not chosen for transfer.

Assume you will continue in your present position until you are notified in writing by the superintendent or his designee.

 

Info on Teacher Administrative Transfers?

The principal is to notify any teacher of his/her recommendation for administrative transfer no later than February 15 to allow the teacher time to submit voluntary transfer requests.

The Superintendent of his designee will contact each involuntarily transferred teacher (this includes surplussed teahcers as well), provide a list of reported vacancies to date, and arrange for those teachers to submit involuntary transfer requests. (This form is the same as the voluntary transfer form but identifies the teacher as “involuntarily” transferred.)

These forms go to the principals of schools with vacancies for consideration.

 

Info on Surplussed Teacher Transfers

Surplussed teachers are considered “involuntarily transferred.” They file transfer request forms with schools of interest in the same process as voluntary transfers — just marking the forms “involuntary transfer.”

Following consultation, those involuntarily transferred teachers who are not placed in one of their schools of interest will be assigned to schools with vacancies in their area of certification.

 

Info on Assistant Voluntary Transfers

Assistant transfer requests — including transfers from split to full-time assignements — must be submitted in writing on an “Assistant Transfer Request Form” to the principal of each requested school. These requests may be submitted after October 1 and must be received by May 15th. Forms are available in each school and in the office of Human Resources.

The HCEA ESP Contract provides that assistants will be informed that their transfer request has been received.

August 15th is the last day for processing approved recommendation for assistant transfer requests. This date can be waived until September 1 with the approval of the releasing principal.

An instructional assistant may voluntarily transfer after October 1 during the school year providing “there is no disruption of the educational program as determined by the respective school principal.” Assistants will not be released until a replacement is found for the transferring assistant.

Assistants aren’t eligible to apply for advertised assistant vacancies.* Transfer requests submitted from October 1 through May 15 serve as the vacancy interest forms for positions advertised for the following school year.

*Assistants may apply for advertised positions if the position is an upgrade.

Voluntary transfers aren’t approved until all surplus assistants and assistants returning from approved leave have been assigned.

 

Info on ESP Involuntary Transfers

When the number of positions at a work site needs to be reduced, an employee in the affected position may be involuntarily transferred (surplussed).

First, however, volunteers from among those in the position to be surplussed will be given first consideration for transfer. Probationary employees will be considered before other employees in the position to be surplussed.

In the end, it is up to administration (the Superintendent or her designee) to make the decision of who is transferred. If more than one employee is to be involuntarily transferred, the order of transfer will be based on inverse seniority. In other words, if several people are transferred, the one with the most seniority will be considered first for placement.

In the end, it is up to administration (the Superintendent or his designee) to make the decision about placement of people who are involuntarily transferred. However, if administration feels that two employees are equally qualified, the order of placement will be based on seniority. In other words, if equally qualified, the most senior employee will be placed in a position.

Unless there are extenuating circumstance, an employee will be given 30 calendar days notice before being transferred.