Your Legal Benefits – California Teachers Association

Welcome to Legal Beat! In this column, which will be a regular feature of the magazine, CTA lawyers will cover legal “hot topics,” your legal rights, CTA and local union (aka “chapter”) legal battles, and much more. We begin this column with a brief overview of the great benefits available to CTA members and local union affiliates through the CTA’s Group Legal Services (GLS) program.

What is the GLS program?

Complex and numerous laws govern all aspects of public education in California. California’s education and government codes provide a wide variety of rights to public school employees and their unions. Collective bargaining laws govern labor relations between unions and employers. Collective Agreements (CCs) provide important contractual rights to Chapters and members of their units. Constitutional rights apply. Etc. Legal representation can be expensive, and so through the GLS Benefits Program, CTA provides top-notch attorneys to represent chapters and members in enforcing and defending these health-related rights. use.

CTA’s legal department administers the GLS programme. CTA staff attorneys work directly with CTA’s Primary Contact Staff (PCS) and represent chapters in unfair practice charges and other matters filed with the Public Employment Relations Commission; court cases involving statutory employment rights; complex arbitrations requiring the enforcement of collective agreements; and legal advice regarding chapter advocacy, organizing and representation.

The attorneys at GLS Law Firm are private practice attorneys who typically represent individual CTA members in labor disputes. CTA carefully reviews these law firms, which specialize in education law and have relevant expertise in criminal and civil labor matters. Many law firms represent unions and all firms are strong advocates of workers’ rights. In addition, CTA’s legal department works closely with licensed GLS firms, including hosting an annual lawyers’ conference where lawyers discuss emerging legal issues and share best practices.

The GLS program is associated with the National Education Association’s Unified Legal Services program, which provides financial assistance to state affiliates who provide legal services under NEA program rules.

What topics are covered?

The GLS program ensures that active members of the CTA can count on substantial legal assistance when their employment throws legal stones at them. Every active member is entitled to a union-paid legal referral for statutory employment matters such as:

  • Procedure for defense of credentials
  • Employment-related criminal charges
  • Permanent dismissals of educators
  • Reductions in effect (RIF)
  • Illegal discrimination
  • Education code disputes regarding classification, discipline, uniform pay, time off, reporting child abuse, non-re-election probation, and many other issues

CTA funding for the issues covered is subject to certain limits, depending on the nature of the issue. For example, probationary employees are entitled to three hours of free legal representation in the event of non-reelection. A GLS attorney may, on behalf of the member, seek additional funding from CTA for employment-related civil litigation if necessary.

Individual GLS benefits are intended for employment-related disputes that arise outside of collective bargaining or labor relations laws. Local chapters advocate for members in CBA and other representation issues. As mentioned, CTA chapters receive legal advice and representation from highly experienced lawyers from CTA staff for their legal disputes with employers.

How does a member access legal representation?

An active member should contact their PCS (staff representative) if they believe they are facing an employment-related dispute. The staff representative will help determine if there is a legal dispute and if the services of a lawyer are appropriate and covered by the GLS program. The staff representative may determine, for example, that the matter is covered by the CBA – and not by any statute or other legal right outside the CBA – and therefore warrants filing a grievance rather than issuing a GLS referral.

If the Staff Representative determines that the Member is eligible for GLS and has a legal issue covered by GLS, he or she will provide the Member with the relevant information, the appropriate GLS forms, and a formal referral to a GLS licensed law firm.

For staff reduction proceedings brought under Articles 44949/44955 or 87743 of the Education Code, the staff representative will advise the
CTA Legal Department of a planned dismissal by a district on behalf of all members who may receive RIF notices. The Legal Department will then appoint a RIF representative to manage the RIF of all affected members who request representation.

Are there any conditions for GLS benefits?

Yes. Like most insurance benefits, GLS benefits are subject to important conditions that are consistently applied. For example, GLS is a member-only benefit. To be eligible for cover, a person must have been a member of a trade union at the time the underlying incident occurred; when the need for legal services arose (usually when the request for legal services was made or should have been made); and for the entire duration of the provision of GLS services.

Some narrow exclusions also apply. For example, GLS coverage is not available for any matter involving a dispute with another member (unless such legal assistance relates only to a member’s dispute with the employer). The GLS program does not pay for legal representation for matters covered by the state workers’ compensation system, but the CTA maintains a list of highly reputable workers’ compensation attorneys who are happy to represent CTA members in workers’ compensation cases.

Does the union provide members with additional liability insurance, separate from GLS?

Yes! All active members are automatically and additionally covered by NEA’s Educator Professional Liability (EEL) policy. The EEL policy covers members’ defense liability and/or attorneys’ fees and expenses when a member defends against certain employment-related legal proceedings. This can include both civil defense and criminal defense. More information is available on the legal services page of the CTA website

This summary of the GLS program does not cover all aspects of this very valuable membership benefit. Please contact your PCS/staff representative or local manager if you have questions about the GLS program or need assistance with an employment-related dispute. Or just relax with the peace of mind that comes from knowing that your union offers great legal benefits if you ever find yourself facing a work-related legal claim.

Laura Juran is CTA’s Chief Counsel.

Vote with California educators

Tony Thurmond

The general election is approaching on November 8. Our vote makes the difference! Together, let’s elect lawmakers and vote for initiatives that support public education, students, our profession and our communities. Just one example: the CTA supports the re-election of Tony Thurmond as State Superintendent of Public Instruction. Thurmond has been a staunch and effective advocate for our schools and our students, and we need his leadership to continue the progress we have made in the California education system. Your vote is essential in this race.

Go to elections page for other initiatives and candidates recommended by CTA. To CTA Voter’s Guideyou can find a guide tailored to you, depending on where you live.

Know that when you vote for candidates recommended by CTA, you are voting for those who support students, teaching and learning.

Andrew B. Reiter