Frequently Asked Questions about 3020a Charges and the 3020a Process:

  • What is a teacher tenure hearing (or “3020-a hearing”)? A 3020a hearing is a proceeding before an arbitrator that seeks to strip a teacher of her or his tenure and potentially terminate the teacher.
  • What are my rights once a 3020-a is instituted against me? You have the right to representation, including either a union representative or private counsel. You also have the right to participate in the selection of your arbitrator and to know the charges leveled against you in advance.
  • What does the district have to prove in order to convict me? The district must prove that they have "just cause" to terminate you.
  • What are the most common grounds for a tenured teacher to be charged? Between 1995 and 2005, the most common grounds for a 3020-a charge was incompetence, followed by, in declining order of frequency: improper student contact, corporal punishment, insubordination, off-campus misconduct, student safety, cheating, and lack of certification. (Source: NYSSBA PDF). 
  • What are my rights if I am acquitted? If acquitted, you retain your tenure and return to shaping the minds of tomorrow secure in the knowledge that your livelihood is safe. If you are acquitted, you are entitled to be returned fully to your job, receive back pay, and get the charges expunged from your record. If the hearing board finds that the charges leveled against you were frivolous, the district will be responsible for reimbursing the cost of your defense. Keep in mind that under federal law, school districts themselves can be held financially liable for harassment, discrimination, retaliation and wrongful termination of teachers: Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act provides that a school teacher cannot be denied employment or promotions on the basis of age, gender, race,  or a because he or she is a member of one of the many other protected classes.
  • What is the independent arbitrator’s job at this hearing? The arbitrator determines if the district has demonstrated "Just Cause" to terminate. Many arbitrators also seek to settle or mediate during the early stages of the matter.
  • How does an independent arbitrator get selected? The District representative will collaborate with your representative to select an arbitrator through the TEACH System.
  • Why should I retain private counsel for this hearing when the union attorney could represent me? Many teachers have expressed a belief that the UFT is overwhelmed by the current volume of 3020a hearings it is forced to defend. It is possible that private counsel will have more time to prepare for your hearing and will be able to bring more resources to bear in your defense.
  • How common is it for a teacher to have to undergo a 3020-a hearing? Between 1995 and 2005, a total of 580 decisions came down under 3020-a. Eighty-five of those were acquittals; the rest imposed discipline such as termination, unpaid suspension, a fine, or a reprimand. (Source: NYSSBA PDF). Unfortunately, 3020a charges appear to be on the rise, especially in New York City where some politicians and administrators appear to be aggressive towards the traditional tenure system.
  • What can your firm do for me? White, Ricotta & Marks, P.C. can offer you a fully prepared defense that reaches into the specifics and details of your matter to demonstrate your innocence to the arbitrator. To proceed with anything less is to put your livelihood at risk.
  • Who is protected by the 3020-a process? The 3020a hearing exists to protect tenured teachers from arbitrary termination.
  • What does section 3020-a actually say? We have reproduced the text of the statute governing 3020a here.
  • Is there any other law that will have an impact on my hearing? In some cases, laws governing discrimination and retaliation in the work place, such as Title VII, may also be in play during a 3020a process. We have also seen Title IX lawsuits, which demand equal funding for sports, provide a backdrop to a 3020a proceeding.
  • What happens if the charges against me are substantiated? If the hearing does not go your way, you can be fired, but also reprimanded, fined, suspended without pay, required to take a leave of absence with or without pay, required to undergo counseling, ordered to begin medical treatment, made to take continuing education courses, or subjected to any other remedial action deemed appropriate. 
  • Why should I retain private counsel for this hearing when the union attorney could represent me? While union attorneys are as dedicated and skilled, they are also, all too often, highly overworked with a very large caseload, which necessarily shrinks the amount of time they can devote to preparing each case – including yours. When your job is at risk, retaining private counsel is an investment in your livelihood.