EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

July 6, 2013

Fired teacher wins back job

Andover ordered to reinstate Meagher

ANDOVER — The state Employment Relations Board has ordered the School Committee to rehire fired Andover High School English teacher Jen Meagher on the grounds that an email she sent resulting in her termination was ultimately protected union activity.

The school board has 30 days to appeal the ruling. Should the ruling stand, the committee must post a notice announcing it will not retaliate against Meagher for “engaging in concerted, protected activities,” and that it won’t “interfere with, restrain and coerce any employees in the exercise of their rights guaranteed under the law.”

Central to the decision was an email sent by Meagher, a former AEA vice president and chairwoman of its Action Committee, to high school faculty last June. In the email, she urged them to abstain from voting on high school re-accreditation reports because they were “the only leverage we have left at the bargaining table.” The district terminated her in September for sending the email, which the union filed a grievance against in October on the grounds that sending the email was protected union activity.

School Committee Chairman Dennis Forgue said the committee is disappointed by the decision because it “failed to acknowledge that a teacher shouldn’t be permitted to place the re-accreditation process at risk to create pressure for collective bargaining demands.”

“Encouraging other teachers to abstain put at risk the loss or delay of the high school accreditation, which would have had a direct, negative impact on students and their choices after high school, which to the School Committee is intolerable,” Forgue said.

The decision came after a two-day hearing before the Employment Relations Board last month. The board agreed with the union, saying that the School Committee “discriminated against Meagher based on her union activity in violation of (state law).” The decision was filed in a 53-page ruling on Tuesday, July 2.

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