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New Jersey high school rowing coaches fight school board firing

February 21, 2014

Many fired Bergen County workers feel their terminations were unfair. An unfair firing may get you the sympathy and jobless benefits, but it may not result in a damage award. For a wrongful termination claim to be approved in court, a public or private employer must break a New Jersey or federal employment law.

A man with 18 years’ experience coaching rowing teams is going to court against his former employer. The lawsuit’s plaintiffs include an ex-crew coach and a female assistant coach, who were told by the Teaneck Board of Education in December that their contracts would not be renewed.

The board voted unanimously to terminate both coaches, in part because the high school’s crew team was involved in a near-accident last spring. The April incident involved two sculls, one containing the high school crew, which almost hit but never collided on Overpeck Lake. There were no injuries.

School officials also noted the crew coach, a Lutheran church pastor, was unavailable for crew training on Sunday mornings. The complaint noted the coach had been a pastor, with the same weekly obligations to his congregants, the entire time he was employed by the high school. He was hired in 2008. The Sunday rowing sessions apparently were covered by the assistant coach.

The lawsuit named the school superintendent, the board, individual board members and the high school director of athletics. The claim for $50,000 in damages alleges the board broke multiple state employment laws by dismissing the coaches, including civil rights violations. Parents of the ex-coaches’ crew supported the fired employees and promised to file grievances with state education officials.

New Jersey plaintiffs who can prove they were victims of a wrongful termination may be entitled to recover pay, compensatory and punitive damages and gain reinstatement. A law must be broken for a claim to be valid. Employment law attorneys assess cases and advise clients on a complaint’s viability.

Source: Teaneck Suburbanite, “Former crew coach files suit against Teaneck BOE” Megan Burrow, Feb. 13, 2014

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