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3020a Hearing

Are you a tenured New York City teacher facing a 3020a hearing? New York State law provides that a tenured teacher or administrator (except a superintendent) has a right to his or her position. This means that he or she cannot have that position taken away without due process of law.

Section 3020a of the New York State Education Law Code lays out the process a school district must go through in order to fire a tenured teacher. This is the process set up by the state to ensure your due process rights when your livelihood is on the line.

A 3020a hearing is not a “legal proceeding.” This means that safeguards like discovery requirements and evidentiary rules, which shield parties in criminal and civil law courts, might not be observed unless you retain a skilled, dedicated attorney to fight for your job, your livelihood and your rights.

At Ricotta & Marks, P.C., we can help you maximize the protections afforded to you under state law. Contact our Queens law firm at 347-727-0661 or 800-240-9269 to schedule an appointment with one of our attorneys.

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Labor Employment Lawyers in Queens and Long Island

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At Ricotta & Marks, P.C., we represent employees in a broad spectrum of legal matters, including:


According to the NY Department of Human Rights, employers can be held responsible for sexual harassment in the workplace in the following circumstances:
If the harassment was the fault of a co-owner, manager, or supervisor the employer is responsible, regardless of whether or not they knew it was occurring
If the harassment occurred among regular employees, the employer can be held responsible if they knew about it, should have known about it, or failed to have a sexual harassment policy in place.
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We handle many cases that involve wage and hour disputes, including people in certain industries who often fall victim to these situations as well as instances involving:
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Education Law

New York City teachers face challenges inside and outside the classroom. When they face the possibility of losing their jobs, they deserve representation by experienced attorneys.

At Ricotta & Marks, P.C., employment law is our sole focus. We have represented teachers facing a broad spectrum of legal issues and we are committed to protecting teachers’ rights. To learn more, please do not hesitate to contact us and schedule a free initial and confidential consultation at our Queens or Long Island offices today.

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Wrongful Termination

Even in an ‘At Will’ Work Situation, You Have the Right to Work. Employers will always claim that they had a valid reason to lay off or fire an employee. But in many circumstances, this is just disguised discrimination of one form or another. Continued employment and advancement is frequently based on performance reviews. If you have a perfect record, then suddenly go from perfect to pariah, it may be a case of your supervisor or employer giving a negative review in order to have an excuse to remove you from your position or deny a promotion.

Sometimes these “Jekyll and Hyde” switches occur because a superior learned something about a subordinate that then caused him or her to have a negative bias, like the employee was of a certain religion or sexual orientation. Sometimes the reason is more obvious, like a bias against people of a certain race, being male or female, a woman becoming pregnant or people with disabilities.

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As a full-service employment law firm, we can also help you with:
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Our New York employment attorneys are dedicated to ensuring that all workers have the opportunity to pursue successful careers, and experience workplaces that are free of harassment or other situations that create tension.
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District Must Prove

District Must Prove

What the District Must Prove

If the school district wants to fire you, Section 3020a places the burden of proof squarely on the district to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that they have “just cause” to do so.

The school district will have to show that:

  • They told you that your performance was defective, and gave you an adequate chance to improve (such as by providing assistance or training)
  • You did not make the desired changes in your service
  • You were insubordinate in your failure to do so

What type of “defective” performance can the district terminate you for? The law sets forth 12 concrete grounds:

  • Immoral character
  • Conduct unbecoming a teacher
  • Insubordination
  • Neglect of duty
  • Inefficiency
  • Failure to maintain certification
  • Physical or mental disability
  • Corporal punishment
  • Excessive absenteeism
  • Verbal abuse
  • Sexual contact/relationship
  • Pedagogical incompetence

Of the 580 decisions made in 3020a cases between 1995 and 2005, “pedagogical incompetence” was the most common charge leveled against the teacher. This charge is understood to include failing to prepare lesson plans as required, neglecting duty and being unable to control a class.



New York City Teachers And 3020a Hearings

Once the district has initiated 3020a proceedings against you, you can expect to be suspended from your job, with pay, throughout the course of the investigation. Even at this early stage, you have important rights: the charge must be put in writing, and the proceedings must begin at the most three years after the alleged misconduct. However, if the misconduct alleged involves a criminal felony, your suspension may be unpaid, and the statute of limitations does not apply.

When the hearing takes place, an independent arbitrator, registered with the American Arbitration Association, will preside. This arbitrator must decide whether to assess a penalty to you, and, if so, what that penalty should be. He or she may try to strike a compromise in the decision in order to make both sides happy.

What Matters at the Hearing

There is no specific test in the statute or regulations which the arbitrator will use to make his or her decision, but the following questions will probably be important factors in the outcome:

  • Did the Department of Education show by a preponderance of the evidence that there was “just cause?”
  • How credible were the witnesses on each side, including the defendant?
  • How well did the evidence support the charges?
  • If the alleged action is found to have taken place, were there extenuating circumstances? Did the defendant seem remorseful?
  • What was the defendant’s disciplinary record like before this 3020a was instituted?
  • What was the quality of the representation on each side?

We encourage you to retain private counsel in order to maximize your due process rights.

Our lawyers focus exclusively on employment law issues and have the skills and knowledge to represent your rights in a 3020a hearing.
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After the Hearing

Age discrimination is common in the field of education.

If you are acquitted, both federal and state law entitle you to certain rights:

  • You are entitled to be restored fully to your previous position
  • You have the right to collect back pay if applicable
  • You are entitled to have your record expunged of the charges
  • In the event that the charges leveled against you are found to be frivolous, the arbitrator might order that the district reimburse you for the costs of your legal defense
  • You might have a claim against the district under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act if these charges were an attempt to deny you employment or promotion because of your age, gender, race, sexual orientation or religious beliefs

However, if you are found guilty, any one of a number of consequences could occur:

  • You could be fired
  • You could be made to pay a fine
  • You could be suspended without pay
  • You could be reprimanded
  • The hearing panel might require you to undergo counseling
  • You might have to be treated medically
  • The panel might mandate that you take courses in continuing education

For more information on 3020a hearings, visit the Commissioner of Education Regulations online.

Notified of Charges

Notified of Charges

What Happens when a Teacher is Notified of Charges Against Him or Her?

Section 3020-a of the New York Education Law outlines the process that districts must take to discipline tenured teachers who are accused of misconduct or incompetence. This process includes a formal hearing known as a 3020 hearing.

After formally charging a teacher with misconduct or incompetence, the district’s employment board clerk must notify the other members of the board of the charge. If the board votes that there is probable cause to seek disciplinary action against the teacher, it moves forward with the process by sending the teacher a written statement outlining the nature of the charge, the maximum penalty for the charge, and a detailed explanation of his or her rights. The teacher then has 10 days to determine whether he or she wants to schedule a 3020 hearing and must notify the board of this choice. Otherwise, he or she waives the right to a hearing.

Before Attending

Before Attending

What Should a Teacher Consider
Before Attending a 3020 Hearing?

If the teacher is charged with misconduct, he or she can choose whether the hearing will be heard by an individual officer or a panel of three individuals. If he or she is charged with incompetence, the hearing may only be heard by one party.

Upon receiving notice of disciplinary action, a teacher should start working with an experienced employment lawyer to determine the right course of action. It is important to remember that a 3020 hearing is not a legal proceeding, but a process used to determine whether a teacher is fit to remain in the classroom or even in the district in any capacity. Penalties can include moving a teacher to a new role within a district, suspending him or her with pay, or terminating his or her employment. Working with a lawyer can help a teacher determine his or her rights.


Fee for Hearing

Fee for Hearing

Is There a Fee Associated with the Hearing?

Yes. The fee is $150 and it must be paid by the district. This is because the panel of officers who are qualified to conduct these hearings is maintained by the American Arbitration Association (AAA), which is a non-profit organization. If a district and a teacher cannot agree on which officers should conduct a hearing, the AAA can make this determination for an additional $50 fee.

It is worth your time to request a 3020 hearing. There are many reasons why a district might take action against a teacher, such as excessive absenteeism, insubordination, immoral character, conduct deemed to be unbecoming of a teacher, a physical or mental disability, or pedagogical incompetence as well as more clear-cut wrongdoings such as verbal abuse of students or an inappropriate relationship with a student. Requesting and attending a 3020 hearing can be a way for a teacher to protect him- or herself from discrimination.

Experienced Lawyer

Experienced Lawyer

Work with an Experienced
Queens Employment Lawyer

If you are a teacher facing disciplinary charges, work with an experienced employment lawyer to defend your case. Contact our team at Ricotta & Marks, P.C. today.

Ricotta Marks

Ricotta & Marks, P.C.

We understand that your situation is urgent. Our New York employment discrimination attorneys will respond to your questions and concerns as quickly as possible.

Contact Our Office347.464.8694