A state appeals court has upheld a lower court decision requiring the Garvey School District to hire a former teacher who claims that the district refused him a permanent job because he was involved in a grievance against it.
The 2nd District Court of Appeal earlier this month let stand a Los Angeles Superior Court ruling that Dean Grelling was entitled to full tenured status and back pay.
"It was an act of retaliation," Grelling said. "I feel that my case was right, and I should have won."
The ruling requires that the district pay Grelling what he would have made had he taught full time with the district since the 1983-84 school year, minus whatever income he made during that time as a substitute teacher. Grelling's attorney, Charles Gustafson, estimated that Grelling would have earned more than $23,000 a year teaching full time.
Garvey Supt. Andrew Viscovich placed much of the blame on clerical error and said the district has taken steps to remedy such problems.
"On our side, it was a clerical error, but the court didn't believe it," he said.
Grelling was hired on temporary status in the spring of 1982, and taught science for a year and a half at Fern Intermediate School in Rosemead. But he was not rehired for the 1983-84 school year even though he had received a letter the previous summer inviting him back.
The suit, filed on behalf of Grelling by the California Teachers Assn., claimed that he was not rehired because he had played a major role in a grievance between the teachers union and the district over temporary and permanent teaching status.
But the district contended that the decision not to hire Grelling in 1983 was based on a negative personnel evaluation by his superiors and had nothing to do with the grievance.
"Our position is that temporary teachers are temporary; they don't have a (guaranteed) right to come back to a job," said Roger Temple, deputy superintendent for personnel administration for the district.
The dispute began when the district failed to have an estimated 30 temporary teachers sign contracts for the 1982-83 school year, as required by state law. The Garvey Teachers Assn. lobbied on the teachers' behalf not only to get contracts but also to have the teachers placed on permanent status.
Most of the teachers signed retroactive contracts, and the district agreed eventually to permanently hire all the temporary teachers except Grelling, who did not sign a retroactive contract on the union's advice. Grelling was the only teacher to file a formal grievance against the district in the spring.
Grelling said the union used him as an example of a teacher whose status was in question because he had not signed a contract and had been listed as a probationary teacher on a evaluation form filled out by his principal that year. Teachers who are hired for permanent jobs are listed as probationary employees for two years.
"I was the one they (the union) were using to pressure the district to (permanently) hire the temporary teachers," he said.
The district claims that the probationary listing was accidental.
"We have better regulations and we have a much-improved evaluation form now," Viscovich said.
Grelling said he had assumed that he would be rehired along with the other teachers. He received a letter from the district in the summer of 1983 inviting him to return in the fall, but when he arrived for work, he was told that the position had been filled by someone else, he said.
The district contends that it did not intend to hire Grelling for the 1983-84 year and that the letter was sent as the result of a computer error.
Grelling and Gustafson contend that the district did not bring Grelling back because administrators were prejudiced against him because of the grievance.
The teachers union filed suit in Los Angeles Superior Court in December, 1983, seeking permanent placement for Grelling. In November, 1986, the court ruled in his favor and ordered the district to hire him and give him back pay.
The district filed an appeal and refused to hire Grelling while the outcome was pending.