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NSBA and IMLA Urge High Court to Hear Employment Case, Citing Operational Realities of School Boards

February 10, 2016

Alexandria, Va. (February 10, 2016) — The National School Boards Association (NSBA) joined the International Municipal Lawyers Association in filing a “friend of the court” (amicus) brief Monday in the U.S. Supreme Court, supporting the employer’s request for review in the case of City of Houston v. Zamora.

The brief urges the Court to consider whether—in a Title VII retaliation case—an employer that undertakes an extensive investigation and review process of alleged employee misconduct may be held liable for the discriminatory animus of lower-level employees who testify in hearings, resulting in employee discipline or termination. This case affects both private and public employers, including school boards.

The Fifth Circuit previously decided that an employer could be held accountable, despite the fact that the employer itself had no discriminatory motive and was unaware of the animus of the testifying employee.

“Such a rule levies an unfair and onerous burden on boards as employers given that no amount of internal process would protect them from liability if a jury later finds that the credited employee had a discriminatory motive,” said Thomas J. Gentzel, Executive Director, NSBA.

Since these school boards aren’t usually involved in the day-to-day management of employees, and rely on the recommendations and advice of superintendents, supervisors, and human resource employees in making employment decisions, most—if not all—school districts could be severely affected.

“Our goal is to inform the High Court of the practical realities of how school boards receive information, make employment decisions, and proactively address complaints of discrimination through established policy,” said Francisco M. Negrόn, Jr., NSBA Associate Executive Director and General Counsel. “The need for further review is important to school boards as the largest employer in the country.”

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The National School Boards Association (NSBA) is the leading advocate for public education and supports equity and excellence in public education through school board leadership. NSBA represents state school boards associations and their more than 90,000 local school board members throughout the U.S. Learn more at www.nsba.org 

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