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Voicing Your Job-Related Concerns


By Leonard Williams

Staff Attorney


In light of the disruption that COVID-19 has wrought throughout the world, it may be beneficial to review methods that Georgia educators and other school personnel can use to voice concerns about policies or practices surrounding the pandemic and other work-related issues.


Put Your Concerns in Writing


School personnel should avoid publicly airing grievances on social media. Instead, if you have concerns regarding the work environment, one of the best things you can do is privately deliver those concerns in writing to your direct supervisor. Initial verbal conversations are fine. However, be sure to follow up with a concise written description of your concerns to memorialize the key points of the conversation – and then email it to the party with whom you were conversing. This simple yet effective step not only creates a record, [DP2] but also increases the likelihood of your concerns being addressed.


Escalating Your Concerns to the Next Level


If you do not feel that your direct supervisor adequately addressed your concerns, you should escalate those concerns to the next appropriate level as determined by your district policies or practices. Sharing your concerns with your supervisors is a flexible process. While your next steps should be taken in a timely manner, there is typically no specific timeline you must follow. You can proceed at your convenience. Further, as stated earlier, while we recommend initially documenting your concerns in writing, thereafter,[DP3] you may proceed in person, over the phone, virtually, in writing, or some combination thereof. If preferred, it can be handled discreetly behind closed doors. The most important thing to remember when following your district process is to avoid skipping over anyone. Be cognizant of who is officially next in line and give that person the opportunity to address your concerns. For example, a teacher who has a concern regarding social distancing at his or her school should not begin by contacting central office. Instead, he or she should first bring that concern to the principal’s attention. If, for whatever reason, the matter is not resolved, the teacher can then go to the principal’s direct supervisor and so forth. In most public school systems, the superintendent is the top administrator.


Share Your Concerns with the Board


If you have concerns about board policy and are a resident of the district in which you work, you may also be able to share your concerns with the board of education. You should follow and complete your district’s process for resolution. But, if that does not provide relief, this may be a viable avenue. Be sure to follow local protocol when requesting that you be added to the agenda for an upcoming board meeting. If you are placed on the agenda, you can then make a brief statement to the board. Keep in mind that boards of education do not typically get involved in personnel matters. If your concern is primarily about local policy, you are much more likely to be heard.


Whistleblower Protection


The Georgia Whistleblower Act (O.C.G.A. §45-1-4) was enacted in 1993 to, in part, protect from discipline or retaliation public employees who, in good faith, disclose fraud, waste, or abuse in state programs. Employees of Georgia public school districts are considered public employees under this law. Please note that not every concern will constitute an allegation of fraud, waste, or abuse. Be sure to consult a PAGE attorney to determine if you qualify for protection under the Act.


 

Leonard Williams is a staff attorney with PAGE. A graduate of Georgia State University College of Law, Leonard has a wealth of knowledge in and experience with education and employment law. Leonard has served PAGE members since 2002.



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