Category Archive: Education

Oct 30

Dr. Charles Russo’s Lecture — “Education as a Fundamental Human Right: Update, Reflections, and Recommendations.”

On Friday, October 25th, Triple Alumnus Dr. Charles Russo, Law School Class of 1983, and Panzer Chair at the University of Dayton School of Education, and Adjunct Professor of Law, hosted a lecture entitled: “Education as a Fundamental Human Right: Update, Reflections, and Recommendations.” Dr. Russo’s extensive resume includes author or co-author of over 250 professional and academic articles, author, co-author, or editor of 52 books, and is the primary author of the leading textbook on Education Law. In addition, Dr. Russo has made academic and professional presentations in 34 states and 26 countries and has been a visiting professor at universities all over the world, including Australia, China, South Africa and Turkey.

Dr. Russo’s discussion focused on education as a fundamental right not only in the domestic context but also in the international context. He cited pivotal Supreme Court cases such as Brown v. Board of Education and Cf. San Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriguez. Dr. Russo provided the audience with an international history of compulsory attendance and then moved on to discuss the best interest of the child. Citing to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Principles 5 and 7 of the Declaration of the Rights of the Child, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Dr. Russo highlighted that many cases all over the world have had to balance the role of the parent with the necessity of education to the child. In addition, he explained that while countries sign these declarations, some countries do not necessarily provide these rights to their country’s children.

Dr. Russo then made an essential point in his reflections that some believe that children are not equal to adults but they still have to be protected and provided with their educational needs. Lastly, Dr. Russo provided recommendations that we must recognize education as a fundamental human right and make sure there are laws and polices that reflect this right. This includes funding that covers not only building schools and providing the right texts for learning, but also to enhance the staffing through teacher preparation programs.

Dr. Charles Russo’s discussion was lively, eye opening and informative to the audience at the Catholic Worker Mary House in NYC.

Sep 12

17th Annual Management Lawyers’ Colloquium

favicon
Please join the Center for Labor and Employment Law and the Labor Relations and Employment Law Society on Monday, September 16, 2013 for our Annual Management Lawyers’ Colloquium. Our Distinguished Speaker Series welcomes leaders in the field to the Law School to discuss timely issues and trends in labor and employment law. We are excited to welcome practitioners from a variety of firms and companies including: Bond, Schoeneck & King; Jackson Lewis LLP; Highgate Hotels; Lamb & Barnosky LLP; Coca-Cola Refreshments; Employment Practices Advisors, Inc.; Skadden, Arps, Meagher & Flom LLP; Hilton Hotels and others.

The 17th annual colloquium will feature a discussion of cutting-edge labor and employment law issues by a distinguished panel of management side labor and employment law attorneys. The event will close with an announcement of the student recipients of the annual Jackson Lewis Scholarship for Excellence in Labor and Employment Law in Memory of Allan C. Becker.

Please join us in the Mattone Family Atrium for networking, and an engaging panel discussion.

Please RSVP to edwardsp@stjohns.edu

We hope to see you there!

Jun 17

Course Selection Recommendations from Professor David L. Gregory

Many students have asked for advice about making course selections. The most proactive route for a student interested in labor and employment law is to immediately concentrate in the subject area, but these recommendations are generally applicable to any student.

The general principle is: life is short. A student who knows they want to be a labor and employment lawyer should take as many L&E classes as they can, as soon as possible. While most of these proactive, inquiring students ultimately concentrate in labor and employment law (L&EL), these suggestions have broader utility. For those who are sampling different areas of interest, know that a fine grade in a single elective is better than a terrible grade in an elective. This advice is especially pertinent to rising 2L’s.

If you are able to take four courses in L&E law in the fall semester, do so. Take additional courses in the spring semester and take required courses after building an impressive block of excellence in labor and employment law classes. Human nature being what it is, a student is likely to do very well in the subjects they are most interested in. Even if  you graduate and never directly practice L&EL, you have nevertheless gained  a conceptual and practical architecture portable to virtually any other substantive area of law.

There are many examples of students who excelled in labor and employment classes who went on to practice in different areas entirely. The Chief Counsel to the Governor of a major state graduated at the top of the class as an evening student, practiced entertainment law briefly, went to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, moved up the ranks to become the Executive Assistant to the U.S. Attorney (who is now Governor); the Chief of Staff to the U.S. Secretary of Defense also is another example.

Virtually without exception, students taking two or more related courses in the same semester find that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts—i.e., one does better taking synergistic courses in the same semester.  This will create opportunities to show a depth of knowledge in the subject area.  Some L&E courses may be paper based, with opportunity for developing a publishable paper competitively situated for an external prize competition. (e.g., the NYSB Association L&E Law Section annual writing competition.) Prospective employers will be impressed. Most scholarships and employment opportunities are concentrated on 2L students.

Imagine being the employer considering 2L students for summer associate positions. Candidate F takes Labor Law in the fall semester, 2013, and receives a B+ (or, OK, A-; not bad!) Candidate F remains an F, however, if F does not take any other L&E course. Meanwhile, Candidate A takes Labor Law with NLRB Regional Director and prominent alumna Karen Fernbach, Pension and Benefits Law with John Campbell of the United States Department of Labor Office of the Solicitor, Employment Law with me and Employment Discrimination Law co-taught by David Marshall, partner with the management side firm Edwards Wildman, and yours truly.

Four courses trump one or two courses.  Simple.

Candidate A becomes the A+ summer associate, and receives a partial tuition scholarship in addition. Candidate F was never really in the game. During the fall interview, in response to the employer’s query regarding labor and employment law courses, Candidate F says Labor Law was the only course that fit F’s fall schedule.

Candidate A, however, submits the fall and spring list of eight labor and employment courses Candidate A is taking the full academic year. Case closed. All things being equal otherwise, if one position is available between Candidates A and F, F gets the rejection letter and Candidate A gets the summer position.

With a summer position secure and likely to lead to an offer to join the firm as an associate after graduation, Candidate A can take the required courses in the third year with relatively greater confidence that a lower grade in a required course would not be catastrophic. Candidate A’s GPA went up significantly in the fall semester, after acing every L&E course. Meanwhile, Candidate F and friends have squandered their critically important fall 2L semester. Rather than developing some substantive depth, Candidate F et al maintain that they have “gotten several required courses out of the way, although cumulative GPAs did suffer.” Candidate F and friends have little substantive depth and lower cumulative GPAs.  Presented in this fashion, the choice is simple.

Good luck!!

Jun 02

Congratulations to the 2013 Graduates!

Congratulations to the St. John’s University School of Law Class of 2013!  The graduates were honored today in a ceremony on Sunday, June 2 at Carnesecca Arena at the Queens campus. The Honorable Jonathan Lippmann, Chief Judge of the State of New York, and the Honorable Theodore T. Jones Jr., ‘72L, ‘07HON were also awarded at the ceremony.

The St. John’s Center for Labor and Employment Law and the Labor Relations & Employment Law Society would like to thank all of the graduates who contributed their time and efforts to the Center, the Society and this blog. Congratulations and thank you to Andrew Midgen, Amanda Jaret, Krystyna Baumgartner, Thomas Keane, and Ian Hayes.

Very special thanks to Alyssa Zuckerman, whose tireless efforts created and nurtured this blog from the very beginning and who will be sorely missed!

Congratulations and good luck in your future endeavors! 

Apr 01

Arbitration in Professional Sports Symposium

On April 19, 2013, the Center for Labor and Employment and the Labor Relations and Employment Society will host a spring symposium; presenting a full day of learning focusing on how arbitration has affected labor management relationships in sports. This symposium will bring together key players in the world of sports arbitration. This is a not-to-be missed opportunity to meet, hear, and, most important of all, learn from the people who have been responsible for that, and who know the most about it.

A luncheon address by Donald Fehr, the preeminent sports union leader in the country, and a “fireside chat” with George Nicolau and John Feerick, internationally renowned arbitrators, headline the event, but it also includes sessions in which today’s leading practitioners of both salary and grievance arbitration, on both sides of the labor and management aisle, wilhockeyl describe how those processes work, what interested students need to know about the demands of both, and how the arbitration process has affected labor management relations in their sports.

Please see the event page for a full list of participants. The Center for Labor and Employment Law and the Labor Relations and Employment Law Society are very grateful to all of the speakers. Special thanks to Gene Orza ’73, a cofounder of the St. John’s Labor Relations and Employment Law Society more than 40 years ago. Gene and his successor, Andrew Midgen ‘13, current co-President of the Labor Relations and Employment Law Society, are the driving forces of this symposium. Special thanks also to Jeff Zaino, Vice President of the American Arbitration Association, and Professor Sam Estreicher, Director of the Center for Labor and Employment Law at NYU Law, for collaborating with us on this extraordinary event. We also thank the symposium co-sponsors: The Hugh Carey Center for Dispute Resolution, the Dispute Resolution Society, and the Entertainment, Arts and Sports Law Society at St. John’s School of Law.

We would also like to extend special thanks to Frederick Braid ’71 and Ronald Russo ’73 for generously underwriting some of the costs of the symposium.

There is no fee to attend the symposium, but registration is required.  To RSVP please go to the “Contact Us” tab and send us a message with your contact information and the subject line “Arbitration in Professional Sports Event RSVP”. The full-day event qualifies attendee’s for 4 non-transitional CLE credits for a fee of $100. For payment and registration for CLE credit please register for the event at www.stjohns.edu/law/2013clelsymp.

We hope to see you there!

 

Jan 13

University Employees May Be Fired for Speech that Contradicts University Policies

On December 17, 2012 the Sixth Circuit held that the speech of a high-level Human Resources official, who wrote publically against the very policies that her government employer charged her with creating, promoting, and enforcing, is not considered protected speech under the First Amendment.[i]

The case involved Plaintiff-Appellant Crystal Dixon, the interim Associate Vice President for Human Resources for two merged campuses: the University of Toledo (the “University”) and the Medical College of Ohio (the “College”). Dixon’s controversial speech was prompted by an editorial in the Toledo Free Press entitled, “Gay rights and wrongs” that implicitly compared the civil-rights movement with the gay-rights movement.[ii] The article also discussed the disparity between the University employees who received domestic-partner healthcare benefits and College employees who did not.[iii]

In response, Dixon wrote an op-ed column entitled “Gay rights and wrongs: another perspective.” Dixon rejected the comparison between the gay-rights movement and the civil-rights movement, stating “I cannot wake up tomorrow and not be a Black woman….[yet] thousands of homosexuals make a life decision to leave the gay lifestyle.”[iv] With regard to the disparate treatment of University and College employees, Dixon wrote that while the University was working to address the issue, the claim that homosexual employees were being denied benefits “avoids the fact that ALL employees across the two campuses regardless of their sexual orientation, have different benefit plans.”[v] As a result of her editorial, Dixon was terminated because her speech was considered in direct contradiction to University policies and procedures and placed her ability to lead at risk.[vi]

After the Northern District of Ohio granted summary judgment in favor of Defendants Lloyd Jacobs, University President, and William Logie, Vice President for Human Resources and Campus Safety, Dixon appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.[vii]

The Sixth Circuit’s decision focused on Dixon’s First Amendment retaliation claim. Using the burden-shifting framework, the Court analyzed whether the speech was protected. In order to find that Dixon’s speech was protected Dixon needed to show that: (1) her speech was a matter of public concern; (2) her speech was not made pursuant to her official duties as Associate Vice President of Human Resources; and (3) her free speech interests outweighed the efficiency interests of the government as employer pursuant to the Pickering balancing test.[viii] However, if the presumption set forth in Rose v. Stephens applies then the Pickering balance test is presumed to favor the government as a matter of law.[ix] The Rose presumption applies when a discharged employee (1) holds a confidential or policymaking position, and (2) has spoken on a matter related to political or policy views.

The court ruled that the Rose presumption applied. Examining the inherent duties of the position, rather than Dixon’s actual tasks, the court determined that the first prong of Rose requiring Dixon to hold a confidential or policymaking position was satisfied. The court found that Dixon had “appointing authority” and was responsible for “recommending, implementing, and overseeing human resource policies and procedures that support the university’s strategic direction,” “representing the University in relevant employee relations actions” before federal and state agencies, and “answering grievances, issuing disciplinary and corrective action, serving on various task forces, supervising approximately forty employees, overseeing benefits administration, setting compensation, and making presentations at town-hall meetings.”[x] The court also determined that the second prong of speaking on a political or policy issue was satisfied because Dixon’s public statement “directly contradict[ed] several…substantive policies instituted by the University” regarding promoting diversity and providing a safe environment for the LGBT community.[xi] Therefore, the court affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment.

The Sixth Circuit’s ruling has considerable implications for University officials. The first element of Rose requires the discharged employee to hold a confidential or policymaking position. However, universities are generally large institutions with thousands of students. This requires many university officials to have discretionary authority. Each department of a university could have one or more people in charge of implementing policies and overseeing employees. Therefore, in a university setting, a significant number of employees may find that they fall under the first prong of Rose as a result of their job responsibilities, despite the fact that this prong is intended to be limited to specific categories of individuals.

Additionally, the second prong of Rose requires the discharged employee to have spoken on a matter related to political or policy views. Yet,higher education institutions usually have written policies on numerous issues that in some way relate directly or indirectly to the school. Depending on the size of the university and the breadth of its policies, policymaking employees could have their right to free speech unreasonably restricted, especially since the Sixth Circuit’s decision implies that the second prong of Rose will apply whenever a policymaking employee speaks on an issue that contradicts a university policy. This is certainly a concern for university employees who are scholars, like professors, since a restriction on their ability to write freely could also damage the idea of universities as research institutions. Therefore, the Sixth Circuit’s overly broad ruling may encompass situations it was not intended to address.



[i] Dixon v. Univ. of Toledo, No. 12-3218, 2012 WL 6554693, *1 (6th Cir. Dec. 17, 2012).

[ii] Id.

[iii] Id.

[iv] Id. at *2.

[v] Id.

[vi] Id. at *3.

[vii] Id.

[viii] Id. at *4.

[ix] Id. at *5.

[x] Id. at *6.

[xi] Id. at *7.

Sep 23

Reflections on the Chicago Teachers’ Strike

This past Wednesday, an overwhelming majority of delegates for the Chicago Teachers Union (“CTU”) voted to end the union’s ten-day strike.[1] The strike was the CTU’s first in over twenty-five years,[2] and many spectators believe it has fundamentally changed the national conversations about education policy and labor alike.

The negotiations that have paved the way for a new contract between the city and the CTU led both parties to make concessions. The teachers did not receive as substantial a raise as they had hoped, but they successfully resisted several significant changes that Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel sought to impose, including a new teacher evaluation program, and they instituted a new recall policy for top teachers who are laid off as a result of school closings.[3] Mayor Emanuel counted his efforts toward implementing a longer school day among his successes during the negotiations.[4] Although the CTU President, Karen Lewis, has expressed some dissatisfaction with the substance of the new agreement, she regards the strike as successful and anticipates that the delegates will approve it during the coming weeks.[5]

As the Chicago teachers’ strike drew to a close, many questions remained unanswered. Some continued wondering whether the essential questions underlying the dispute, like the propriety of tying teacher evaluations to students’ standardized test scores or the specter of increasing competition from charter schools, were adequately resolved. Because both the city and the union made concessions in the new contract, others queried who “won.”[6] One facet of the strike that especially captured the popular imagination is assessing what impact this strike will have during these crucial weeks leading up to the presidential election,[7] especially in view of President Obama’s conspicuous silence during a dispute that has special salience for the President.

Because the Chicago public school system is the third-largest in the country,[8] onlookers have viewed this strike as something of a referendum on the troubled state of public education and the continuing role of public sector labor unions.[9] In light of the ongoing fight between Wisconsin public employees and Governor Scott Walker, it is perhaps not an exaggeration to say, as Nathan Saunders, president of the Washington Teachers Union did, that the strike in Chicago was an “epic battle.”[10] Labor leaders like Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, have applauded the teachers, emphasizing that they have the right to reframe the conversation about education policy because of their unique perspective on what kinds of change are necessary to improve education.[11] It seems likely that the CTU will galvanize teachers’ unions across the country in speaking out on behalf of their needs and the best interests of students as the debate about education policy grows ever fiercer.

 


[1] Monica Davey & Steven Yaccino, Teachers End Chicago Strike on Second Try, N.Y. Times, Sept. 18, 2012, at A1.

[2] See id.

[3] Ellen Jean Hirst & Jennifer Delgado, It’s Back to School Again for Chicago Students, Chi. Tribune, Sept. 19, 2012, available at http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2012-09-19/news/chi-todays-assignment-seal-deal-with-chicago-teachers-20120918_1_chicago-teachers-union-chicago-students-first-day.

[4] Davey & Yaccino, supra note 1.

[5] Id.

[6] Valerie Strauss, Who Won the Chicago Teachers Strike?, Wash. Post, Sept. 19, 2012, available at http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/post/who-won-the-chicago-teachers-strike/2012/09/18/974b5efa-020b-11e2-b257-e1c2b3548a4a_blog.html.

[7] See Lyndsey Layton, Peter Wallsten, & Bill Turque, Chicago Teachers Strike Places Obama at Odds with Key Part of Political Base, Wash. Post, Sept. 11, 2012, available at http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/chicago-teachers-strike-places-obama-at-odds-with-key-part-of-political-base/2012/09/11/df89a776-fc2a-11e1-b153-218509a954e1_story.html.

[8] Davey & Yaccino, supra note 1.

[9] Monica Davey & Steven Greenhouse, School Days Resume in Chicago as the Lessons from a Strike Are Assessed, N.Y. Times, Sept. 19, 2012, at A19.

[10] Layton, Wallsten & Turque, supra note 7.

[11] See id.