School Board Backs Down on COVID-19 Waivers

Teachers had complained that system wanted them to relieve it of responsibility if they get sick while working

LENOIR, N.C. — The Caldwell County Board of Education has reversed course on its plan to require teachers to sign an agreement saying they will not sue the school system if they get COVID-19 while working.

The reversal came after several teachers reported the requirement to The Lenoir Voice in confidence and we then asked the school board if it was true. One teacher observed, before the reversal, “This policy is an implicit admission that they fear that the decision to return to school will lead to cases of COVID-19.”

Superintendent Dr. Don Phipps explained the decision to reverse course. “The purpose of the form you have referenced was to notify our employees that we are taking the precautions prescribed, and that we expect all employees to do the same. The major concern that we heard from CCS employees about a return to school was what the expectations are for teachers and how precautions will be implemented. Once it was clear that the perception of the purpose of the form was something different, the form was pulled and is not currently active. However, it appears at least some of the concern about the form relates to language that was automatically inserted at the end of the form by our e-signature program. This language should not have been included and we are reviewing our e-signature program to ensure the unintended language is removed.”

He concluded, “Of course, we still expect all employees to adhere to all measures and protocols as outlined in the form.”

According to a local representative of the North Carolina Association of Educators (NCAE), their attorneys assert that such a policy — if implemented — would be a violation of the law. “Employees cannot waive the right to pursue a worker’s compensation action against their employer. Employees cannot waive rights vested by workplace protection laws. Workers’ compensation is the only likely means an employee could request a legal remedy if they believe they contracted COVID-19 at work.”

© Michael M. Barrick, 2020. (Note: We appreciate you using our FB page, but I do not respond to queries on it. So, if you have a question about this or other articles, please send an email to lenoirvoice@gmail.com).

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