Assignments and duties

Your rights regarding your employee assignment


Your rights regarding assignments vary greatly depending on whether you have a contract.

Contract employees

In general, school districts have a great deal of discretion when it comes to assignment decisions, but the amount of discretion they have for contract staff is based on the wording of the contract. Employees under contract have agreed to work and the district has agreed to employ them for the entire school year under the contract terms. These terms determine what assignments and reassignments can be made.

Noncontract employees

A noncontract or at-will employee has no binding agreement between the district and employee as to what the employee’s assignment will be. This makes it easy for the district/employer to make significant changes to the assignment or duties, even reassigning the employee to an entirely different job with a different pay scale. That said, employees who do not have contracts have greater flexibility in responding to unwelcome assignments/reassignments; they are free to resign at any time.

Employees often believe they have been hired for a specific position and they will always hold that position. It’s often an unwelcome shock when word comes down that their job assignment is being changed.

Almost all employees can be reassigned to different positions.  Again, the key document is the contract, if there is one.

Contract employees

A district is generally free to assign an individual to any position that fits the “professional capacity” stated in the contract, such as “certified teacher” or “administrator.” Most, if not all, contracts also contain an assignment and reassignment clause stating that the district may reassign the employee. This clause allows the district to change the educator’s specific assignment to another specific assignment that also fits under the contract’s description of the professional capacity. In this case, the more narrow the stated professional capacity, the more limited the district’s right to reassign the educator.

For example: If the contract states a professional capacity of “certified classroom teacher,” the district can reassign the educator to any classroom teaching position for which they are properly certified. If the educator’s contract states “fifth grade classroom teacher,” then the district can only reassign them to another fifth grade position.

A negative reassignment, such as a demotion, motivated by factors such as retaliation or discrimination, might be illegal and therefore contested legally.

There might also be reasons specific to a particular employee, possibly related to a disability or health condition, that limit a district’s ability to reassign the employee to a particular position, even if the reassignment was valid under the employee’s contract.

Even if a reassignment fits within the contract, it can be contested by filing a grievance or other appropriate administrative procedure.

Noncontract employees

Generally, noncontract at-will employees can be reassigned to any position at any time. However, a negative reassignment, such as a demotion, might be illegal if it was retaliation for filing a grievance or because of the employee’s gender, race, ethnicity, religion, disability, or age. If it is based in part on these factors, but the district can show it would have reassigned the employee anyway for other valid reasons, then the reassignment is probably legal.

There might be reasons specific to a particular employee, possibly related to a disability or health condition, that limit a district’s ability to reassign that employee to a particular position, even if the reassignment was otherwise legal.

Even if a reassignment is legal, the employee can contest it through the grievance process.

Reassignments outside of your certification area

School districts are generally required to fill all teaching assignments with people who are fully certified for them whenever possible. When it’s necessary to fill an assignment with a person not certified in that area, the district generally must secure a temporary or emergency permit for the assigned individual. An educator can usually refuse to accept reassignment to a position for which they are not properly certified. However, if the educator’s previous assignment no longer exists due to a reduction in force (RIF) or a program change, the educator might face termination if an assignment is refused.  

An employee might be asked or required to perform some duty outside of their primary job.

For example: A teacher might be required to attend a grade-level meeting after regular work hours or to coach volleyball. An assistant principal might be required to attend all after-school athletic events.

Employees might wonder whether they can be required to perform these extra duties and, if so, whether they must be paid extra for doing so. The answer lies, first, in whether there is a contract, and second, in whether the duty is an “additional duty” or a “supplemental duty.” The difference between the two is whether the district intends to pay extra compensation for the duty. If there is no extra compensation, such as for staying after-hours for a meeting, it is an “additional duty.” If there is extra compensation, such as through a coaching stipend, it is a “supplemental duty.”

Contract employees and additional duties

For contract employees, additional duties are  first governed by the contract itself. Most teacher contracts contain a specific clause stating that additional duties can be assigned at the district's discretion. Most teacher contracts also do not state duty hours. These two factors mean that generally, a district can require work beyond the ordinary workday. Exactly how much work can be required is a subject of hot debate.

The question becomes whether the assignment is a reasonable additional duty. The inquiry used in making that decision is whether it was something the educator knew or should have known might be required when they signed their contract.

The focus is first on what is commonly expected of educators in general and, second, what has been expected of educators locally.

Traditional teacher tasks would be considered reasonable, such as preparing lessons, grading in the evenings, and occasionally attending after-school department meetings and parent-teacher conferences. But, as expectations evolve, so does the standard for what is reasonable. It has become increasingly common for teachers to tutor after regular hours and attend weekend pre-STAAR preparation sessions. As these become more common and an understood part of teaching, they become a more reasonable additional duty.

Local expectations are also important. If teachers know that in their district teachers are expected to work at the concession stand during school athletic events and sign their contracts knowing that, then they have agreed to accept that as a part of their jobs. If teachers know that on their campus, the teachers are expected to attend weekly grade-level planning meetings after hours, that means the meetings are more likely to be considered reasonable additional duties.

Sudden but significant changes raise more questions—changes such as a mid-year 30-minute extension of the workday might not be considered reasonable if unexpected.

Most educator contracts state that the educator’s normal salary compensates the educator for all additional duties performed. If an assignment would be considered a reasonable additional duty, the district does not provide additional compensation. Generally, when an educator receives extra compensation for performing a duty, that duty is called a supplemental duty . (Supplemental duties are discussed below.)

Noncontract employees and additional duties

Because there is no contract, the district is generally free to require that the employee perform any legal task. The employee can try to explain why an additional duty should not be required, but—except in situations where some specific legal right is at issue, such as a reasonable accommodation for a disability under the Americans With Disabilities Act—the employer can demand that the employee perform the task.

Supplemental duties

Like additional duties, supplemental duties are assignments not specifically mentioned in an educator’s contract. If a teacher’s contract says the person is a teacher and a coach, then coaching is not a supplemental duty; it is a contractual duty. But there are two important distinctions between a supplemental duty and an additional duty:

  1. A supplemental duty has a stipend attached to it under district policy. The district realizes the duty, such as coaching, is time-consuming enough to warrant additional compensation. Because it’s up to each district to determine what positions have stipends, one district might treat a position as a supplemental duty with a stipend while another district might consider the same position an additional duty with no stipend.   
  2. A supplemental duty is outside the contract while an additional duty is part of the contract. As such, an educator can usually be directed to perform the additional duty but can refuse a supplemental duty. This means that in many cases an educator can decide to “quit” the supplemental duty without any effect on their contract. By the same token, the district can often terminate a supplemental duty without having to provide the due process required for contract termination. Educators should be aware, though, of the many nuances related to supplemental duties, when they can be terminated, and when that termination can result in losing the stipend attached to the supplemental duty. 

Because a supplemental duty is outside of the contract, it is very much like an individual “at-will” assignment for someone who has a contract. For a non-contract employee, it is just another assignment—just one with added compensation.  

Can districts extend the school day?

There is no maximum workday set in state or federal law. Local policy therefore determines the number of hours in a workday.

For contract employees, an extension might be considered a change in the contract term that cannot be made during the contract. This is why school districts usually announce planned changes for the next school year in the spring.

Work hours can be changed at any time for noncontract employees. 

Because schools generally close during the summer months, most educators are not required to work during the summer unless their contracts extend through the summer, as is the case for many administrators, or the educators have agreed to perform some type of special service, such as teaching summer school. However, district-required summertime professional development has become relatively common.

Most school district employees are familiar with a clause in their employment contracts stating that "additional duties" may be assigned. This means that the employee and the school district agree that the employee can be expected to perform duties beyond his regular duties during the contract period. However, that "additional duties" clause does not permit the school district to assign duties beyond the contract dates. This means that the duties assigned to you based on this clause of your employment contract should end with the last workday of the contract. So, in most cases, a summer professional development requirement cannot be based solely on this clause in your contract.

However, each school district has the legal authority to require a particular level of professional development or continuing education for its employees to maintain employment with the district. Such requirements may be greater than the general Texas teacher certification requirements.

For example: A school district could decide that all of its teachers must be certified in ESL by a certain date. Every teacher in the school district would be responsible for meeting the additional education and certification requirement by the required date. If a teacher didn’t meet the requirement, the district could likely end the teacher's employment following the deadline.

In addition, as noted above, in most cases a district cannot directly require an educator to work during the summer because the educator’s contract does not cover the summer. However, many districts are “swapping out” two days of professional development in the summer for two days of work during the traditional school year, effectively extending the contract to cover these days. If the summer workdays are actually contract workdays, then a district can require the work and, as is often the case, “dock” the salary of an educator who fails to complete the professional development. 


 


The legal information provided on this website is for general purposes only. It is not intended as a substitute for individual legal advice or the provision of legal services. Accessing this information does not create an attorney-client relationship. Individual legal situations vary greatly and readers should consult directly with an attorney. Eligible ATPE members should contact the ATPE Member Legal Services Department using our online contact form