Deal reached in teachers’ suit

School board to consider settlement proposal Monday

by Tom Coombe
A settlement agreement has been reached in the lawsuit brought by 16 Ely teachers against the Ely School District.
Monday, school board members are set to go into closed session to consider terms of the deal reached between representatives of both sides.
Terms would become public if the board takes action after reopening Monday’s meeting, set for 6 p.m. at the high school.
The case stems from payroll deductions made by the district.
Court documents show the district first mistakenly overpaid the teachers during the 2017-18 school year, then reclaimed the money over a series of pay periods.
Those deductions were unauthorized and in violation of the law, according to a lawsuit filed by teacher Krista Moyer.
Most of the remaining teachers affected by the deduction later signed on to the suit.
The teachers, who are represented by an attorney from Education Minnesota, the state teachers’ union, say the district erred by unilaterally taking money from their paychecks.
School officials say all teachers were fully compensated as required in their contract, and the case revolves around payroll calculation mistakes that arose after the school district and Ely teachers settled a new two-year contract.
It took several months for the mistake to be discovered.
According to an attachment to Moyer’s suit, the district overpaid her by $1,088.10 over 13 pay periods from Aug. 25, 2017 through February 9, 2018.
School officials discovered the error and deducted $155.44 from Moyer’s next seven paychecks, from Feb. 23, 2018 through May 18, 2018.
Moyer said she did not provide written authorization for the deduction, and cited state law that forbids employers from making any deduction “to recover claimed indebtedness unless the employee, after the claimed indebtedness has arisen, voluntarily authorizes the employer in writing to make this deduction.”
The teachers have also cited state law that indicates employers who violate the provisions “shall be liable in a civil action for twice the amount of the deduction or credit taken.”
Teachers were seeking twice the amount taken from their pay, plus court filing fees.
Monday’s board meeting is the first of the year and calls for reorganizational items including the selection of officers and choosing an official newspaper.
The board will also receive an update on the district’s facilities project as well as the results of the district’s 2018-19 audit.