Legal Question in Administrative Law in California

So, I am a teacher. About 4 months ago, in April, I applied for a teaching position with a charter school. Since then we have had meetings, I have been working on lessons, labs etc etc. I signed a formal contract stating that my official start date is August 1st, and will last for 180 school days. (Which means I would be paid the end of August all the way until the end of May). However, about a month ago, we learned from the CEO of the charter that the school site did not have proper zoning permits, and the city was fighting the school from opening. The CEO claimed that he was going to the school board to seek an exemption (which the school board has the authority to do). However, in the meeting, it became very clear from the city attorney, and from the board, that the CEO was being negligent, both in not working with the city to get the proper zoning and permits, but also in not telling us as teachers the situation that he was aware of when he hired us. When the CEO hired us, we did NOT have an actual school site apparently. We did not have any application to open a school within the city, and even up until last week, we didn't even have proper fire code permits. In addition, we learned that the city had told the school to stop all construction within the site we did have, and the school disobeyed that order (we teachers were not aware of any of this, but were told to continue working on curriculum and that everything would be fine).

In the end, the zoning exemption was denied (and as much as I wanted the school to open, I completely agree with the board) and we do not have a school site, with school technically starting next Tuesday. I am a new teacher, I have tens of thousands of dollars of student loans starting to be due next month, I moved to this area for teaching positions. I turned down other interview offers for other school districts because I had already signed a contract with this one, and it is FAR too late to apply for a teaching position a week before the school years starts. I do not know the laws, but I'm afraid that the Charter will not be paying me at all, despite having signed a contract. A contract that I signed when the CEO knew full well of the situation. Any help or advice you can give would be appreciated. I do not want to give full information out of protection for the other teachers and administrators.

I should say that the school charter itself is not shady. They have 2 other schools with very good track records with the cities. They are also a non-profit, and do not make any money off of the school. I looked into the school before signing the contract. I in fact knew other teachers who worked at the other schools and said they loved it, so I had every feeling that the school would be fine. The thing that concerns me is the fact that they did not have a school site before offering positions. A question that did not even cross my mind when signing as I would have thought that it was illogical to do anything without one.

Asked on 8/27/13, 10:47 am

2 Answers from Attorneys

Terry A. Nelson Nelson & Lawless

If you have a properly written and enforceable contract to be paid a specific amount for a specific time frame, and the agreement does not have any 'conditions' allowing cancellation or modifications for the circumstances you described, then you could consider filing suit for the year's pay. Your claim would be that he misled you into the contract and defrauded you into not accepting other jobs that were available, and now you can't get other work this late in the year.

If serious about pursuing this, feel free to contact me.

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Answered on 8/27/13, 2:13 pm

Bryan Whipple Bryan R. R. Whipple, Attorney at Law

I'm in general agreement with Mr. Nelson, but I'd advise (1) look for other work or take other steps to "mitigate your damages", and (2) check the ability of the charter school to respond in damages if you win (depth of pockets, likelihood of bankruptcy, etc.). You don't want to lose a half year's work, spend money on lawyers and court costs, only to find out you can't collect from the defendant, or that your damages are set very low.

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Answered on 8/28/13, 7:58 am

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