Union Sues Northwest Louisiana School System Over ‘Heroes’ Stipend
A teachers union has sued a northwest Louisiana school system, saying a $1,000 bonus discriminates against women, older workers and disabled people.
The Caddo Parish School Board approved the “Caddo Heroes Stipend Allocation” for full-time employees who were present for at least 90% of their scheduled workdays during the 2020-21 school year.
Red River United, a local of the American Federation of Teachers, filed the lawsuit on April 5 and announced it at a news conference the same day, news outlets reported.
“This year has been grueling and every employee who has shown up for our students is a hero. That doesn’t change just because someone had to take time off to have a baby, or went in for emergency surgery,” union president Jackie Lansdale said, according to KSLA-TV.
Lansdale said that with 3,000 members in Bossier, Caddo and Red River parishes, Red River United is the state’s largest local representing teachers and other school workers.
Teacher aide Amanda Lowery told the news conference that she can’t get the supplement because, as a paraprofessional, she does not get maternity leave and had to take extended sick leave, at 65% pay, after having a baby in February, The Times reported.
“I was excited when I heard about the heroes pay, but then once they said I can’t get it, it’s like, well, what am I going to do now?” Lowrey said.
The Caddo Parish School District released a statement saying it had asked the union for weeks to “cease spreading erroneous and false” information about the supplement, news agencies including KTBS-TV reported. It said district officials do not comment on pending litigation but look forward to a court ruling.
The stipend, to be paid at the end of the current school year, uses about $6 million from higher-than-expected sales tax revenues.
“The Heroes Supplement is the latest effort by the Caddo Parish School Board to ensure employees are supported through the COVID-19 pandemic,” the board said in a statement.
“The district was among the most generous in the region in providing fully paid COVID leave without asking employees to use their personal sick days,” it said. Those days also didn’t count against eligibility for the stipend.
Thousands of employees reportedly wrote to ask the school board to broaden the distribution, according to KSLA.
“To the Caddo Parish School Board, it does not matter that these employees risk their lives as well as the lives of their unborn children each day they step into a school building,? said Jordan Thomas, president of the Caddo Federation of Teachers. “It does not matter that these employees worked while on leave and they only received 65 percent of their daily rate of pay. It is a slap in the face to us and our members for any employee to be left out.”
The union’s petition asked for a court order halting payments until a ruling is made, and asks for a decision without full trial, The Times reported.
“It discriminated unreasonably against female employees and discriminates unreasonably against employees who have a physical condition or handicap,” said the petition filed by union attorney Pam Jones.