Supreme Court tells the NYC Department of Education exactly was it must do to avoid being held in contempt of court

Supreme Court tells the NYC Department of Education exactly was it must do to avoid being held in contempt of court
Storman v New York City Dept. of Educ., 2013 NY Slip Op 50007(U), Supreme Court, New York County

A teacher employed by the NYC Department of Education for approximately 30 years challenged his receiving an unsatisfactory rating as a result of allegations of sexual misconduct and corporal punishment made by a student. The teacher contended that the student's allegations were made in retaliation for his "verbally reprimanding a student."

Ultimately Supreme Court granted the teacher’s petition to annul the unsatisfactory rating, explaining "it was irrational for the DOE to conclude that the alleged conduct amounted to corporal punishment" and "the penalty imposed was excessive and shocking to the conscience." This Court ordered that the unsatisfactory rating be annulled and that "this matter [be] remitted to [DOE] for further proceedings not inconsistent with the court's decision."

The purpose of remitting the case to DOE was for DOE and teacher's union, the United Federation of Teachers (UFT), to take the appropriate steps to remedy the consequences of the underlying false allegations so that teacher would be properly compensated and his employment status restored.

The unsatisfactory rating was annulled by DOE but DOE did not take any steps to compensate the teacher or to remedy his employment situation. The teacher then asked the court to hold DOE in contempt. Supreme Court did hold DOE in contempt for its “willful and contumacious failure to comply with the Judgment,” but this determination was vacated by the Appellate Division, which found that the Contempt Order was based on an earlier Judgment that did not contain a "clear and unequivocal mandate."

In response to the Appellate Division’s granting the teacher leave to have Supreme Court clarify its Judgment by issuing was it termed "a clear and unequivocal mandate" to DOE. Supreme Court said that “In order to finally put an end to this unfortunate saga,” which began in 2004, this Court will be perfectly clear and unequivocal about what DOE must do and by when it must be done. 

By April 5, 2013, said the court, DOE shall do the following:

1. remove all references to the underlying false accusations from the teacher’s personnel file; and

2. restore back pay, with interest, that the teacher did not receive on account of the underlying false accusations, including any seniority salary adjustments and lost pension benefits.

The court also directed that in the event a dispute arises between the parties before April 13, 2013, “the parties are to promptly contact the Court, and if the parties cannot agree on the proper amount of back pay owed to the teacher, the teacher is granted leave to move to have such calculation referred to a Special Referee to hear and report.”

Finally, said the court, if DOE fails to comply with this Order in good faith, which, at a minimum, shall include an in-person meet and confer with the teacher about back pay, the teacher has leave to move for contempt, as DOE “can no longer maintain that its mandate is not clear and unequivocal.”

The decision is posted on the Internet at: