Langello v. West Haven Board of Education
Any teacher terminated pursuant to the Tenure Teacher Act, C.G.S. §10-151(d), because of disability enjoys the protections of the Fair Employment Practices Act, C.G.S. §46a-60. The trial court affirmed the West Haven board of education's decision to terminate the employment contract of tenured teacher, Laura Langello. Langello appealed claiming that the court failed to give sufficient weight to C.G.S. §46a-60, the Fair Employment Practices Act, in affirming the board's decision to terminate her contract based on "disability" and "other due and sufficient cause" under C.G.S. §10-151. The Appellate Court affirmed the judgment. Considering the public policy prohibiting discrimination based on disability and Supreme Court precedent analyzing the legislative intent behind C.G.S. §46a-60(a)(1), the Appellate Court concluded that any teacher terminated pursuant to the Tenure Teacher Act enjoys the protections of the Fair Employment Practices Act. A board of education, if it seeks to terminate a teacher's employment under the Teacher Tenure Act for reason of disability, must follow the mandates of the Fair Employment Practices Act and show that the teacher was unable to perform the essential functions of her profession with or without reasonable accommodation. Here, the issue was whether the plaintiff who suffered from numerous health conditions, including post-traumatic stress, sleep and mood disorders, depression and a nonmalignant brain cyst, could perform the essential functions of an elementary level instructional music teacher with the assistance of a full-time paraprofessional. The plaintiff received the accommodation of a full-time paraprofessional from 1995 until her contract was terminated in 2009. The hearing officer determined that the board had justification to terminate her contract under C.G.S. §10-151 based on poor attendance, inability to provide proper instruction, failure to make lesson plans, errors in judgment and certain troubling actions. Competent medical evidence about the plaintiff's disability and essential job functions led the hearing officer to conclude that her disabilities were interfering with her performance and she was unable to perform the essential functions of her job. The Appellate Court concluded that the board's decision to discharge the plaintiff under the Teacher Tenure Act complied with the mandates of the Fair Employment Practices Act. The board provided the plaintiff with a reasonable accommodation and only sought termination once it determined the plaintiff was unable to perform her essential job functions with that accommodation.