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Judges reduce award of damages to fired school employee

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The Indiana Court of Appeals ruled that a fired bus driver and custodian for Peru Community Schools is entitled to damages for wrongful termination, but not the $175,000 a jury awarded him.

Gary Grant was a school bus driver with a yearly contract and an at-will custodian for the school corporation. He would drive the bus during the day and work as the custodian after his afternoon route ended. He was fired from both positions during the 2007-08 school year after nearly 24 years of employment. Grant sued for wrongful termination and a jury awarded him nearly $175,000 in damages. Peru Community Schools appealed the denial of its motions for summary judgment and judgment on the evidence, as well as the admission of evidence regarding Grant’s salary as a school bus driver and custodian until he turns 65.

The trial court denied the schools’ motion for judgment on the evidence regarding Grant’s employment as an at-will custodian, which was an error, the appellate court held. There is no substantial evidence that Grant relied on these letters to his detriment, which is required to defeat the presumption of at-will employment, wrote Judge Nancy Vaidik in Peru School Corp. a/k/a Peru Comm. Schools v. Gary Grant v. Peru School Corp. a/k/a Peru Comm. Schools and Stanley Hall, No. 52A04-1107-PL-352. Grant argued that for years, he received letters from the school corporation thanking him for his services “as a bus driver” and providing “reasonable assurance” that he would be employed for the upcoming school year. He argued that his employment in both jobs were linked from the beginning and believed these letters guaranteed him a job as a bus driver and custodian in the upcoming school year.

But regarding his employment as a contracted school bus driver, the COA found there to be a genuine issue of material fact as to why Grant was fired as he denied one of the two grounds for termination. In addition, cause is required to fire an employee with a contract with a definite term, and the facts were heavily disputed as to whether cause existed, so the trial court properly allowed this issue to go before the jury to resolve.

The appellate judges reduced the amount of damages Grant will receive to $2,422.82, which is the remainder of his salary as a school bus driver for the 2007-08 school year, minus the $1,800 in unemployment he received. Because the trial court should have granted judgment on the evidence for the school system regarding Grant’s termination of employment as an at-will custodian, he’s only entitled to damages regarding his firing from his school bus driver position.

 

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  1. "So we broke with England for the right to "off" our preborn progeny at will, and allow the processing plant doing the dirty deeds (dirt cheap) to profit on the marketing of those "products of conception." I was completely maleducated on our nation's founding, it would seem. (But I know the ACLU is hard at work to remedy that, too.)" Well, you know, we're just following in the footsteps of our founders who raped women, raped slaves, raped children, maimed immigrants, sold children, stole property, broke promises, broke apart families, killed natives... You know, good God fearing down home Christian folk! :/

  2. Who gives a rats behind about all the fluffy ranking nonsense. What students having to pay off debt need to know is that all schools aren't created equal and students from many schools don't have a snowball's chance of getting a decent paying job straight out of law school. Their lowly ranked lawschool won't tell them that though. When schools start honestly (accurately) reporting *those numbers, things will get interesting real quick, and the looks on student's faces will be priceless!

  3. Whilst it may be true that Judges and Justices enjoy such freedom of time and effort, it certainly does not hold true for the average working person. To say that one must 1) take a day or a half day off work every 3 months, 2) gather a list of information including recent photographs, and 3) set up a time that is convenient for the local sheriff or other such office to complete the registry is more than a bit near-sighted. This may be procedural, and hence, in the near-sighted minds of the court, not 'punishment,' but it is in fact 'punishment.' The local sheriffs probably feel a little punished too by the overwork. Registries serve to punish the offender whilst simultaneously providing the public at large with a false sense of security. The false sense of security is dangerous to the public who may not exercise due diligence by thinking there are no offenders in their locale. In fact, the registry only informs them of those who have been convicted.

  4. Unfortunately, the court doesn't understand the difference between ebidta and adjusted ebidta as they clearly got the ruling wrong based on their misunderstanding

  5. A common refrain in the comments on this website comes from people who cannot locate attorneys willing put justice over retainers. At the same time the judiciary threatens to make pro bono work mandatory, seemingly noting the same concern. But what happens to attorneys who have the chumptzah to threatened the legal status quo in Indiana? Ask Gary Welch, ask Paul Ogden, ask me. Speak truth to power, suffer horrendously accordingly. No wonder Hoosier attorneys who want to keep in good graces merely chase the dollars ... the powers that be have no concerns as to those who are ever for sale to the highest bidder ... for those even willing to compromise for $$$ never allow either justice or constitutionality to cause them to stand up to injustice or unconstitutionality. And the bad apples in the Hoosier barrel, like this one, just keep rotting.

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