KBS Reference Desk: Medical Contract Abandonment

Q: Our district's Spanish teacher is on dialysis. Her request for intermittent Family Medical Leave has been approved and a schedule set to ensure that she can attend to her students and her health. On the third day of school, the teacher submitted her resignation stating she has been offered a job at a school district that will pay her more money and that is located closer to the facility that she receives her medical treatment. We are a rural school district and it is difficult to recruit qualified Spanish teachers. Is the District obligated to release the teacher from her contract? What if she stops coming to work?

A: No, the District is not obligated to release the teacher from her contract because the teacher resigned after the penalty free resignation date, which is 45 days before the first day of instruction, and therefore, acceptance and release from the contract is discretionary. If the school district does not accept the teacher’s resignation, SBEC has the authority to issue sanctions at the board of trustees’ request in accordance with Board Policy DFE (Legal).

Before SBEC will consider sanctions, it requires a board of trustees to issue findings under a properly-posted agenda that good cause did not exist for the employee to resign outside the penalty free resignation period. In determining good cause for abandonment, the board of trustees has wide discretion; however, the board’s action is not the final determination—the educator will be given the opportunity to present evidence to SBEC to overcome the board’s findings. While SBEC makes contract abandonment findings on a case-by-case basis, it consistently finds that getting a better job offer is not considered good cause. SBEC has not issued an opinion whether or not convenience of medical treatment warrants good cause.

In addition to finding no good cause, SBEC also requires the request for sanctions be addressed from the board, and submitted within 30 days of the first day the teacher ceased reporting to work. The correspondence must include 1) the employee’s resignation letter, 2) a copy of the employee’s contract, 3) any agreement concerning the effective date of separation of employment, if any, and 4) the board meeting minutes reflecting the board’s findings concerning good cause.

If the board does not have a meeting scheduled before the expiration of the 30 days, the Superintendent should send notice to SBEC of intent to seek sanctions and then supplement the notice with the board meeting minutes within 10 days of the date the board made its findings.