Occasionally a Department of Education employee is sued (for example, by a parent) because of something he or she allegedly did at work. When the New York City Corporation Counsel finds that the employee broke no rules or laws in carrying out their duties at work, it will provide legal representation to the employee and, if the employee is found financially liable, will reimburse the employee the amount he/she is required to pay.
In order to be entitled to this defense, the employee must provide to Corporation Counsel a copy of the summons, complaint, notice, demand or pleading within 10 days after the employee is served with any of these documents and then fully cooperate with Corporation Counsel in its defense. Corporation Counsel may refuse to provide representation until any disciplinary action is resolved and the employee has been exonerated.
The DOE's Office of General Counsel acts as a go-between for Corporation Counsel to determine if it will provide you with representation. If you are being sued, you must complete a form and give it to your supervisor with the relevant papers. Your principal should obtain the form from the DOE Office of General Counsel. In many instances, you only have 20 days to file an answer to the lawsuit, so, if you are a UFT member, you should also contact your UFT district representative about the possibility of a NYSUT attorney obtaining an extension of time for you.
Another situation in which UFT members may be provided union representation is if a member is facing criminal charges as a result of disciplinary actions taken against a pupil while the member was doing his or her job. You should immediately contact your UFT district representative or UFT borough office for assistance in this situation.
There’s one additional step worth taking. At the same time that UFT members contact the DOE and Corporation Counsel, they should get an application for the NYSUT Legal Defense Fund. Contact the office of the NYSUT Secretary-Treasurer by calling 800-342-9810 for the form. If a UFT member is fully exonerated of all charges, the fund will reimburse the member for up to $25,000 in legal fees.