12.15.2008

Hurricane Katrina Update: Thousands of former New Orleans Public School employees continue to fight back


Written By Jesse Muhammad

(In the wake of so many disasters in the last three years, the world has all but forgotten the plight of Hurricane Katrina survivors. This is why the Final Call Newspaper is important, because we strive to keep these stories at the forefront until closure is met. Here is an excerpt of one of my latest reports that will appear in an upcoming edition of the Final Call.)


A Louisiana Civil District Court issued a judgment that drew 8,500 former employees of the Orleans Parish School Board one step closer to being compensated for being unjustly terminated at the hands of their pre-storm employers over three years ago.

Several weeks after Hurricane Katrina, a lawsuit was filed in the Civil District Court for the Parish of Orleans, against the Orleans Parish School Board and various state defendants. The purpose of the lawsuit is to challenge the firing of tenured employees whose employment rights were ignored and violated.

“I took on this lawsuit because I felt these citizens were fired from their jobs without just cause”, said lead attorney William Zanders, Sr. to The Final Call. “What was done to these workers is sad and disturbing. They followed a mandatory evacuation order in 2005, lost property and then had their jobs stripped from them.”

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of principals, teachers, paraprofessionals, central office administrators, secretaries, social workers, and other employees who serviced nearly 62,000 public school students. They all fled New Orleans to escape the most costly natural disaster to hit the shores of the United States which left 80 percent of the city under water.

On December 10, in an 18-page ruling, Judge Ethel Simms-Julien certified that the lawsuit can proceed as a class action suit. The ruling will potentially allow the former employees to seek monetary damages for claims of wrongful termination and breach of contract.

“Today's class certification ruling is a part of the legal process to recover damages for all eligible former employees”, said Attorney Zanders. “Victory may not be real close because there is a lot of litigation ahead. But we will be victorious.”