Published On: Tue, Nov 13th, 2018

FAVE board has to pay big for wrongful dismissal guidance counselor

Courthouse 20180704

PHILIPSBURG – The board of the Foundation for Academic and Vocational Education (FAVE) has to pay 94,000 guilders gross ($52,514) to guidance counselor and job training coordinator Zeynep Sabahoglu for firing her without a valid reason. The board also failed to ask permission for the dismissal and it did not award Sabahoglu compensation.

The guidance counselor initiated a lawsuit against the school board after her dismissal. FAVE came with its own lawsuit, demanding that the court dissolves the contract without awarding the counselor compensation. Sabahoglu won both procedures.

Sabahoglu started working for FAVE on August 1, 2009, and she had a permanent contract. The board announced in a letter dated May 17, 2018, that it would terminate the contract per July 31. The board claimed that, due to a restructuring, Sabahoglu’s function had become redundant. Starting with the current school year, the foundation said it would work with a “year level coordinator for form 1 and 2 and form 3 and 4.”

Sabahoglu contested her dismissal in a letter dated June 8, saying that the termination letter does not contain a valid reason and that the board has not obtained permission for her dismissal as required by law. In August the foundation published a vacancy ad for a career guidance counselor.

Sabahoglu’s attorneys Deelstra and Klooster acknowledged to the court that the foundation intended to introduce a new education structure beginning in the current school year but that the Education Inspectorate had not given its approval; it wanted a pilot project first. Implementing the new structure for the whole school would take three years – meaning that Sabahoglu’s function would still exist during this period.

Furthermore, the attorneys argued, in the new structure there will still be a place for Sabahoglu’s function. This appears from documentation and from the guidance counselor vacancy ad.

Another grief is that the board did not give Sabahoglu the opportunity to qualify for the new function and she has also not been asked to apply for it.

FAVE’s attorneys De la Rosa and Roseburg referred to Sabahoglu’s “turbulent work history” that included a week-long suspension without salary in November 2015 for the use of obscene language. The court was quick to shoot down this argument; in January the employer said in a radio broadcast that Sabahoglu’s performance was impeccable. Colleagues who are still working for the foundation have expressed their appreciation for the counselor’s work.

“There is no turbulent work history,” the court ruled. “Instead this is a proper functioning employee who has been involved in a few incidents during her tenure.”

The court dissolved the labor contract based on “changed circumstances” and awarded Sabahoglu 94,000 guilders gross in compensation. FAVE will also have to pay the costs of the procedure.

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Related stories and report:
FAVE mediation report
Academy school board gets most of the blame for dispute with teachers
The responsibility of school boards” by Hilbert Haar