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 8. Civil Rights of Employees

In addition to the employment rights detailed in Georgia’s Fair Dismissal Act, public school employees enjoy a number of other rights, conferred by the United States Constitution, by Congress in federal laws, and by the General Assembly in Georgia laws. The federal Constitution alone is the source of a substantial portion of the lawsuits brought against school systems. At times it can seem that no employment decision a board makes can escape a claim that the employee’s rights under the first amendment to freedom of speech or religion, or under the fourth amendment to be free of unreasonable searches, or under the equal protection clause of the fourteenth amendment to be free from discrimination based on race, national origin or gender were violated in some way. Congress, too, has enacted a myriad of complex federal statutes protecting many of these same rights and creating new ones, such as rights for disabled employees. As most board members are aware, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of sexual harassment claims since the United States Supreme Court first recognized that sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination. The substance of the law in this area, both the legal analysis applied to constitutional claims as well as the regulatory scheme for enforcing these statutes, is intricate and can be quite difficult to master. This chapter will outline these topics and provide references for further study of these issues.

Questions
8. 1 What is the legal basis for an employee’s right to freedom of speech and how do the courts analyze the extent of that right?
8. 2 When is an issue one of public concern?
8. 3 Can a school employee participate in the political process by campaigning or running for political office?
8. 4 Is there any limitation on the right of a school employee to hold a local, state or federal elective office?
8. 5 What is the basis of an employee’s right to freedom of association?
8. 6 What protection does an employee have against discrimination based on race, national origin, gender or religion?
8. 7 When does an employee have a claim for sexual harassment and how does a school district protect against such claims?
8. 8 Can there be a harassment claim based on race, national origin or religious discrimination?
8. 9 Does Title VII’s protection against sexual discrimination extend to claims of same sex harassment?
8. 10 What is the Equal Pay Act and how does it differ from the protection available under Title VII?
8. 10.a Does Title IX provide any additional remedies for employees who claim gender based discrimination?
8. 11 What rules exist relating to the use of age as a factor in employment decisions?
8. 12 What laws exist relating to employment of disabled individuals and what do those laws require of school districts?
8. 13 Who is a qualified individual with a disability for employment purposes?
8. 14 What are some examples of some problems that are not considered disabilities under Section 504 and the ADA?
8. 15 What is the definition of reasonable accommodation?
8. 15.a What is the process for determining what is a reasonable accommodation?
8. 15.b How are the "essential functions" of a job determined?
8. 16 When is a school district allowed to have an employee tested for drugs or alcohol?
8. 17 Are the rules regarding testing for drugs and alcohol different for bus drivers and, if so, why?
8. 17.a May the school district disclose the results of drug and alcohol tests upon an employee’s request?
8. 18 Are there other laws which relate to the use of drugs or alcohol by employees at work or elsewhere?
8. 19 Does an employee have a right to object to a provision in a policy governing the dress of employees?
8. 20 What rights do employees have to demand accommodation of their religious beliefs?