In PA, a school employee fired for incompetence can still get unemployment

It is not new law, but a recent case reminds us that just because a teacher is incompetent as a teacher, once that teacher is fired he or she can still get unemployement compensation. 

What was kind of unfortunate is that it looks like the school administration in that recent case realized that an employee would be eligible for unemployment if fired for incompetence (probably when it got around to consulting with its counsel) but that realization only occurred after firing her.  So the court decided that when the administration told the employee "You are being terminated for being incompetent in you[r] job," that they pretty much meant what they said.

This despite the fact that the school also had evidence that the employee had also been terminated for wilfull refusal to accomplish assigned tasks.

Lesson to be learned?  School administrations would be best served to consult with counsel before taking steps to terminate employees.

The recent case -- which really does not break any new ground -- is the Hamburg Area School District v. UCRB and can be found at here.

Fired Intelligent Design proponent says not a religious view

There is no direct school link, but I was reading a news item about a JPL (you know, "Jet Propulsion Labratories") employee who claimed he was fired for espousing his intelligent design beliefs at work.  Naturally, JPL denies the allegation, but the more interesting thing is that during opening statements at the trial, the attorney for the fired employee said that intelligent design is not a religious view.  This despite the central notion that an intelligent being directed the way that the cosmos evolved.

Of course, most readers will have at least heard of the Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District case.  There, Pennsylvania showed itself as a leader: first to adopt a policy allowing intelligent design to be taught as science, then first in the nation to have that policy struck down by the court.  Good going Pennsylvania.  What Judge Jones ruled was that intelligent design is a "religious view, a mere re-labeling of creationism, and not a scientific theory."  It therefore should not be taught as science in our public schools.

This case was not appealed, so it remains just that one lonely 100+ page decision.  Clearly, it did not influence the attorney arguing for the fired JPL employee.


PA's Right to Know Law: can you keep it private if the exclusions don't quite fit?

What is an agency's Open Records Officer to do?  The exclusions in the PA RTKL are supposed to be "narrowly construed," but sometimes the information requested clearly SHOULD be protected.

This issue came up recently in front of the PA Commonwealth Court.

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