Archive for Saturday, July 21, 2007

Former principal sues, says termination unlawful

Ex-Baldwin High official claims board held injury, medical condition against him

July 21, 2007


Archie Allen Poplin, former Baldwin High School principal, has filed a lawsuit against the city's school district for unlawfully terminating him.

He is seeking damages in excess of $100,000.

According to the lawsuit, filed July 12, Poplin, a Lawrence resident, was injured in an accident at his home in June 2004. The accident required hip surgery and a three-week recovery. Nearly a year later, Poplin claims in the lawsuit that he was informed that members of the school board "had concerns about his health, medicine, thought processes and lingering effects of his fall."

In December 2005, Poplin began to experience problems from his injury, and he learned he needed additional surgery and therapy to correct his problems. According to the lawsuit, it was discovered through routine medical testing after Poplin's last day of work, April 28, 2006, that he had a blood disease, which required a bone marrow transplant.

The lawsuit says Poplin had no indication that his job was in jeopardy. He received a positive job evaluation from former Superintendent James White on March 27, 2006. That evening at a special school board meeting, it was decided by a vote of 6-1 to not retain Poplin as principal.

Poplin filed a request for reconsideration of the board's decision in accordance with Kansas law.

Poplin maintains that his privacy was violated when an e-mail referencing health care plans and costs of his treatments were circulated through the school district.

In response to Poplin's request for reconsideration, the school board reaffirmed his termination and cited leadership and professional development as reasons, according to the lawsuit.

Poplin alleges violations against the Americans with Disabilities Act, Employment Retirement Income Security and the Privacy Act.

Bob Bezek, who is representing the school district in the case, said he plans to file an answer in two weeks.

"We believe we have acted lawfully, and I'm vigorously litigating that," Bezek said.

Superintendent Paul Dorathy and Poplin's attorney, Alan Johnson, were unavailable for comment Friday.


KS 10 years, 3 months ago

Three things! First, I am sorry to hear about the health condition. Hope he is doing better. Second, I can only assume he had a contract with the school district and I would expect there would be lanuage in it to cover terminations, etc. and three, I thought Kansas was a "right to work" state? I sort of thought the employer had the right to hire and fire without giving a reason for either? The employment contract would no doubt superceed that, however. Not a lawyer, so my opinion is really worthless.

Cait McKnelly 10 years, 3 months ago

First let's get language straight. Yes Kansas is a "Right to Work" state which deals only with unions. It is also an "At Will" employment state which means that an employer can discharge an employee at any time for any reason. However, both of these only refer to what are called "nonexempt" employees who receive an hourly wage and are subject to wage and hour laws. "Exempt" employees are those who receive a salary and a contract may or may not be involved in their employment. Most school principals are salaried employees as are teachers. Most contracts do have language in them that cover what an employee can and cannot be fired for. It must be pointed out though that ALL employers and employees, exempt and nonexempt, are subject to certain federal laws that supersede state laws, including wage and hour. Those laws mainly deal with discrimination (EEOC), workplace safety (OSHA) and privacy of medical information (HIPPA). Exempt and nonexempt employees are also covered by the Federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). If it's found that the school board did indeed violate any of these laws then they are open to civil lawsuit.

KS 10 years, 3 months ago

cait48, that makes the most sense. Thanks for the update. I sort of knew some of that, but hadn't had it across my mind for awhile.

Christine Pennewell Davis 10 years, 3 months ago

Well no matter what hope you have a good recovery and enjoy life.

Tarrant 10 years, 3 months ago

The guy is a prick anyways. I know 3 people personally he told they might as well drop out because they weren't smart enough to graduate. 2 are now nurses and 1 is a cop. Sounds like he was wrong about them as usual.

Jamesaust 10 years, 3 months ago

So, if I follow this correctly, the very same day he receives a positive job performance review by the school superintendent, the school board holds a special meeting a votes him out, citing references to his health. But (a) before he's fired emails discussing his poor health are being sent around, and (b) after the lawsuit is filed the school board defends its action citing problems with his leadership and professional development.

Hmm...the school district had better hope that this job performance review Poplin characterizes as positive isn't quite so positive and that it makes reference to leadership and professional development concerns so severe that remediative efforts couldn't cure them. (pun)

Frankly, it seems self-evident (per the article) that the real interest here was the cost of Poplin's medical treatment. The law isn't quite so black and white that I could say that cannot be a valid basis for employment decisions but based on the facts as revealed here there doesn't seem to be an adequate basis for the school board decision.

Wilbur_Nether 10 years, 3 months ago

Solomon asked "Is there anyone out there who absolutely knows the answer?" To which the only accurate answer is "a jury of Poplin's peers." Several issues of law seem to be in dispute, which a court would have to decide--and no legal case is ever a slam dunk.

Also, cait48 overstates the situation around exempt employees. Exemption is determined by the type of work done by the employee, and not all exempt employees are contractors. The right to work clauses and FLSA therefore both apply to those employees who are true employees (not contractors) of covered business.

Beth Bird 10 years, 3 months ago

I had the wonderful opportunity of attending school when Poplin was employed there. He was rude, played favorites, and verbally abusive. I can't believe he was still employed there. He is involved in many of my worst memories from high school. Even if the situation is unfair, I can't feel bad for him. He enjoyed causing others pain and heartache. It seems like he might be getting his fair share.

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