Judge finds PEITF failed to give teacher proper representation

Ryan Ross rross@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on December 8, 2015

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.

CLICK HERE TO READ THE FULL SUPREME COURT DECISION

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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.”

rross@theguardian.pe.ca

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