Despite many attempts to undercut it, section 3020-a of the State Education Law provides for due process before a tenured teacher or pedagogue can be disciplined or terminated, including for charges such as incompetence, corporal punishment, insubordination or sexual or financial misconduct.
If the DOE serves you with disciplinary charges under section 3020-a, you should immediately go to your UFT borough office. You will be assisted in filing the necessary forms and arrange, if you choose, for you to be assigned legal counsel from NYSUT. A hearing officer (neutral arbitrator) jointly agreed upon by the UFT and the DOE will conduct a hearing, and if you are found guilty of any of the charges, discipline may be imposed. The discipline can range from a written reprimand to a monetary fine, suspension without pay to the loss of your job. If you are terminated, you will lose your New York City teaching license(s). However, your permanent state certification cannot be revoked without another hearing.
In some cases, teachers who are awaiting disciplinary charges are removed from their schools. Teachers can be reassigned to a DOE administrative office, given an administrative assignment within their school or in rare cases (i.e. sexual or financial misconduct) suspended without pay until the investigation is completed or the 3020-a hearing is finished. Unless there are unusual circumstances, allegations being investigated by principals will not result in a teacher being removed from their school. For those allegations not being investigated by principals, the Office of Special Investigations (OSI) will conduct the investigation. OSI must make every effort to complete investigations within 60 days. If a teacher is being investigated by the Office of the Special Commissioner of Investigations (SCI), the DOE is required to notify the teacher.
Further, teachers must be formally charged under section 3020-a within 60 days from being reassigned for misconduct if the investigation is being conducted by OSI. If you are being investigated by SCI for either financial or sexual misconduct, you must be formally charged within 15 days of the report being issued. If teachers are returned to their school, the DOE may still bring disciplinary charges. If teachers have not been charged within the requisite time frame and have not been returned to their school, they should speak to their chapter leader and district representative who can help them file a grievance.
You are paid while you are reassigned except if you were found guilty or pled guilty to any felony. The DOE can request a special hearing before an impartial arbitrator to determine whether there is sufficient evidence (probable cause) that you engaged in serious misconduct to warrant a suspension without pay for up to two or three months.
For more information, see Article 21C of the contract.
As a result of the 2018 Department of Education - UFT contract negotiations, paraprofessionals can no longer be indefinitely suspended while an investigation is pending. The DOE Office of Personnel Investigations (OPI) must first conduct an individualized review of the allegations to determine whether the allegations constitute “serious misconduct” or “sexual misconduct” as defined by the Teachers’ Contract. If OPI determines the allegations constitute “serious" or “sexual misconduct,” the paraprofessional may be removed from payroll for up to two months. If the DOE seeks to extend the suspension for an additional month or to suspend a para for another type of significant violation, a probable cause hearing before a neutral arbitrator must take place. If the arbitrator finds the DOE does not have probable cause, the paraprofessional remains on or is returned to payroll. Like teachers, a paraprofessional who has been convicted of or has pled guilty to any felony that does not constitute “serious" or "sexual misconduct” can be suspended without pay, pending final disciplinary action by the DOE.
If the allegations against the paraprofessional are unsubstantiated and no further disciplinary action was taken based on the same conduct at issue in the investigation, within 30 days, the para will receive back pay and be made whole for the time of the suspension. If allegations are substantiated, the DOE has the right to impose discipline. However, any period of suspension will count towards the discipline.
With the ratification of the 2023 DOE-UFT contract, upon request, an employee will receive notification in writing of the determination of an investigation conducted by the DOE’s Office of Special Investigations or its Office of Equal Opportunity. Previously, the employee under investigation could be left in the dark.
Other updates from the 2023 contract:
Appointment of hearing officers
The DOE and the UFT will, by mutual agreement, assign hearing officers from the Administrative Trials Unit (ATU) and the Teacher Performance Unit (TPU) panels to conduct 3020-a hearings.
Remote Hearing Memorandum
The UFT and the DOE agree to incorporate the previously issued joint letter concerning witness instructions to the Remote Hearing Memorandum of Agreement.
Remote Hearing MOA
The terms of the Remote Hearing Memorandum of Agreement dated Sept. 20, 2020, will remain in effect through the end of the 2024-25 school year. Thereafter, these terms will continue for the remainder of the term of this contract unless either the DOE or the UFT gives notice no later than April 1 of each school year.
A pre-hearing conference must be held within 15 days (previously 10) of the DOE’s receipt of the request for a hearing from an employee brought up on 3020-a charges.