Judge finds PEITF failed to give teacher proper representation

Ryan Ross
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Supreme Court of Prince Edward Island

A teacher who was fired from her job as a vice-principal has won her court case in the matter after a judge found her union failed to give her proper representation.

Joanne Lanigan was a former vice-principal at Donagh Regional School when the then Eastern School Board disciplined her in 2010 over incidents involving the parents of a student with Down syndrome.

In his decision, Justice Ben Taylor said the P.E.I. Teachers’ Federation through its legal representative failed in its duty of fair representation to Lanigan.

Shaun MacCormac, the federation’s general secretary, was acting as her representative in the matter.

Lanigan was the student’s Grade 2 teacher and said during a parent-teacher night the child’s parents made remarks about her ability to care for and teach the student.

Other parents were present at the time.

The student’s parents complained to the school’s principal and the school board.


RELATED: Teacher files lawsuit against Eastern School District

After an occupational therapist found the student’s educational assistant wasn’t fit for the job, Lanigan wrote to the parents asking for an apology and threatening legal action if she didn’t get it.

Taylor’s decision details the disciplinary process that followed, saying the federation and MacCormac were deeply involved in the case, but did nothing to help Lanigan.

The federation didn’t file a grievance on Lanigan’s behalf.

During the disciplinary proceedings, Lanigan asked for other representation, but the federation responded it couldn’t provide different counsel because of a shortage of staff.

Taylor said a shortage of staff that causes a teacher to lose her vice-principal position is negligent and a breach of duty.

Lanigan ended up taking a year of stress leave after losing her position, but has since found work in another school.

She tried to grieve the decision, but the federation refused and when she appealed that decision, the appeal board denied it.

MacCormac sat on the appeal board, which reviewed a decision he made.

Taylor said he found it incredible that MacCormac and the federation considered it OK to issue decisions with no analysis or reasons given and to have MacCormac on the appeal board.

After finding the federation violated its duty of fair representation, Taylor awarded damages and costs, which have yet to be determined.

Lanigan issued a statement to The Guardian on Monday expressing her appreciation for Taylor’s decision.

“Although I regret that I had to go to such lengths to seek redress of my situation, it was my pleasure to experience justice in his court and I thank him deeply for his patience and understanding.”



Organizations: Donagh Regional School, Eastern School Board, P.E.I. Teachers SUPREME COURT

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Recent comments

  • 15%club
    December 08, 2015 - 22:37

    This is the same person that is negotiating with the goverment for the PEI teachers. The last contract he obtained a 1% + 1% salary increase for a 2 year contract. He refused to go to arbitration for the teachers. On the other hand, he went for himself this year and MacCormac received a 12,5% annual raise. Great work PEITF you have the teachers back.

  • johnny come lately
    December 08, 2015 - 16:08

    The PEITF is irrelevant. Wade's grand plan includes abolishing the PEITF and putting teachers under UPSE. Within his mandate he's going to have the entire public sector under the incompetent representation of a single union with updated essential service legislation that neuters their ability to represent their members. THEN the real fun begins when the wage roll-backs start. He's taking the page from Stephen McNeil in NS and Brian Gallant in NB. And Catherine Callbeck as well.

  • Kevin Rawle
    December 08, 2015 - 14:32

    Let this situation be a warning to all Unions, failure to properly represent your membership, can and does result in legal action. Wake up and smell the roses.

  • tucker
    December 08, 2015 - 10:42

    This is not the fault of Shaun maccormacs. He' s one of the best teachers on the island. Pei is lucky he hasn't moved away with all the other teachers.

    • Island Boy
      December 08, 2015 - 12:52

      Tucker: Shake your head! It IS the fault of Shaun MacCormac. If MacCormac was your best teacher I am amazed you could put the words together to make you comment although you DID spell his name incorrectly. I assure the "good" teachers are still here and still teaching.

    • not a judge
      December 09, 2015 - 12:21

      Just because he may be a good teacher does not mean he is a good advocate or union representative.

  • Gargamel
    December 08, 2015 - 10:16

    It's time to merge the PEITF, NBTF and NSTU into a single teachers union for the Maritimes. And it's time to have a single Dept of Education for the Maritimes.

  • Island Boy
    December 08, 2015 - 08:51

    I'm not shocked. Executive too busy negotiating raises in their own salary or the Past President running for Provincial position. Present President far too busy writing "information" notes to support MacCormac. Teachers are NOT well served by a Federation busy "feathering" their own nests.

  • backbone pays off
    December 08, 2015 - 08:16

    Good for Lanigan to not give up and see the process through.

  • In my Opinion
    December 08, 2015 - 08:03

    My regrets Ms. Lannigan that you had to go thru such an event. I know personally that it takes a toll on your health & your personal life. At some point you just have to let it go and move on in order to restore your well being. I'm glad justice was served. Hold your head high.

  • Summerside Resident
    December 08, 2015 - 07:55

    This kind of injustice happens to many. I am so glad for Lanigan.. This MacCormac guy should be the one fired and evryone on the school board at the time should be ashamed of this type of conduct. This lady had Justice denied and a phony Union with no guts to stand up for her. Let this be a lesson to this whole system. Just another case of some power hungry dummy thinking the little guy can't beat us. Great job Joanne, to bad you had to suffer for so long and be put under a microscope at the expense of others. They would be so cocky after they read this

  • I'm Shocked
    December 08, 2015 - 07:14

    Wow. The PEITF didn't provide proper representation for a member? That's interesting.