Staffing Management

Teacher Alleges Retaliation by School District for Giving Newspaper Interview

By Matt Dunning

Oct. 21, 2011

According to a lawsuit filed Oct. 14 in a Brooklyn federal district court, Rebecca Posteraro, a third-year music teacher at the Bellerose Avenue Elementary School in East Northport, New York, broke her leg on Feb. 15, minutes before the curtain was to rise on the opening night of a school musical she was co-directing. Despite the injury, Posteraro stayed to see her cast through to the end of the show.

During the show, Barbara Falotico, the school’s principal, called an ambulance to take Posteraro to the hospital, but then realized she would have to miss the end of the production, the lawsuit alleges. Agreeing to let Posteraro finish the show, Falotico instructed an emergency operator to forget the request, saying that she would call back later, according to court documents.

The next week, both women were interviewed by a Newsday newspaper reporter about the night’s events. The article, published Feb. 20 and titled “Music Teacher Breaks Leg, Stays for Play,” detailed Posteraro’s efforts to remain on hand during the production in spite of the pain, according to court documents.

When she returned to work eight days later, Posteraro learned that Falotico and Northport-East Northport School District Superintendent Marylou McDermott had decided to deny her tenure because they interpreted the Newsday article as criticism of the school’s “failure to insist on Posteraro being taken immediately to the hospital,” according to court documents.

During the next two months, Posteraro claims in her lawsuit that she was retaliated against repeatedly for giving the interview. Falotico allegedly reprimanded Posteraro personally for talking to the reporter, despite having done so herself, court documents note.

On March 30, Posteraro alleges that she was forced to sign an inaccurate and misleading teacher evaluation. A week later, she discovered that her personnel file had been “pilfered” and that “all of the positive documentation had been removed,” according to court documents. On May 18, a few days before the school’s spring concert, she was told she would be fired at the end of the school year.

Posteraro also claims that another teacher, Izzet Mergen, and Falotico defamed her by telling parents who complained about her firing that they would “understand and agree” with the district’s decision if they “knew all the details,” leaving them to deduce that she had committed a serious infraction.

Calls to McDermott’s office seeking comment were not returned.

Posteraro has asked that the district’s actions be removed from her teaching record and is seeking back pay and additional compensatory damages.

Matt Dunning writes for Business Insurance, a sister publication of Workforce Management. To comment, email editors@workforce.com.

Stay informed and connected. Get human resources news and HR features via Workforce Management’s Twitter feed or RSS feeds for mobile devices and news readers.

Matt Dunning writes for Business Insurance.

What’s New at Workforce.com?

blog workforce

Come see what we’re building in the world of predictive employee scheduling, superior labor insights and next-gen employee apps. We’re on a mission to automate workforce management for hourly employees and bring productivity, optimization and engagement to the frontline.

Book a call
See the software

Related Articles

workforce blog

Staffing Management

Managing employee time-off requests: A guide for business owners

Summary Vacation, sick time, PTO banks, and unpaid leave are only a few forms of employee time off — Mo...

workforce blog

Staffing Management

4 proven steps for tackling employee absenteeism

Summary Identifying the cause of employee absenteeism not only helps uncover deeper-rooted issues — Mor...

absence management, Employee scheduling software, predictive scheduling, shift bid, shift swapping

workforce blog

Staffing Management

Employee or contractor? 6 worker misclassification FAQs

Misclassification of employees as independent contractors led to overtime violations, according to a La...

compliance, Department of Labor, employee engagement, FLSA, HR technology, Worker misclassification