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Several lawyers reacted to an agreement between the Minneapolis teachers union and school district to lay off White teachers first, regardless of seniority, saying it is “unconstitutional” and predicting it could end up at the Supreme Court.
“The Supreme Court has been crystal clear, public schools cannot terminate teachers based on their skin color,” Kimberly Hermann, general counsel for the Southeastern Legal Foundation told Fox News Digital. “The contract between Minneapolis Public Schools and the local teachers union (aka K-12 cartel) is unconstitutional, illegal and sets our country back decades in race relations.”
The agreement, which ended a two-week strike earlier this year, protects “underrepresented” populations from layoffs and is designed “to remedy the continuing effects of past discrimination,” according to a spokesperson for Minneapolis Public Schools.
Helen Rella, a trial lawyer at the New York firm Wilk Auslander, noted that “two wrongs don’t make a right.”
“If that phrase applied to any situation, it applied here,” she told Fox News Digital. “It’s trying to remedy past discrimination with present discrimination, and it’s inappropriate.”
She added that the agreement violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.
Minneapolis teachers are shown on strike earlier this year. (Kerem Yucel/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
“Typically speaking, we see litigation when someone has suffered a harm, but there are pre-emptive legal proceedings that can be taken to restrain the enforcement of the provision,” she continued, noting that the “harm” in this situation would be teachers losing their job “for reasons that are discriminatory.”
John-Paul Singh Deol, the head of employment law practice at the Dhillon Law Group in San Francisco, noted that the action violates the union’s duty as well as anti-discrimination laws.
“Unions are required to represent all of their members fairly and in good faith, not just a portion of them,” he told Fox News Digital. “Favoring minority members over White members violates that duty, as well as state and federal anti-discrimination laws.”
One lawyer said the new policy would violate state and federal anti-discrimination laws. (iStock)
Rella also focused on the failure of the Minneapolis teachers union to stand up for its workers.
“It’s unfortunate that we’re in a situation where it’s taken to this extreme, and there doesn’t seem to be any reluctance in discriminating against people,” she said. “That’s what unions have always stood for, organizing workers and standing up for the rights of all the individuals they represent in the unions.”
“Here, the union is seemingly facilitating discrimination against a subset of its union members, which is counter to the reason people join a union. They join a union so their rights can be protected,” she added.
Deol noted that courts have allowed some temporary affirmative action plans, but the agreement does not meet those requirements.
“Title VII and related state laws also protect against discrimination in employment, with no exceptions for so-called underrepresented employees,” he told Fox News Digital. “While temporary affirmative action plans have been allowed by courts in some cases, the union and the district appear to have done nothing to meet the legal requirements.”
“Under the law, they cannot unduly take away rights from non-minority workers, which is exactly what they intend to do,” he added.
“A government employer firing White teachers first and giving preference in rehiring to non-White teachers, without providing a clear and compelling rationale, violates federal and state anti-discrimination laws, and possibly even the right to equal protection under the Constitution.”
Minneapolis teachers on strike. (Kerem Yucel/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Hermann encouraged teachers affected by the policy to take legal action to stop the policy.
“Southeastern Legal Foundation hopes brave teachers, like our clients in Illinois and Missouri, take legal action to stop this,” she said.
Rella predicted that, if the agreement landed in court, it could make its way to the Supreme Court, but that process could take years.
“We really need to ask ourselves: If this has transpired, what’s next?” she said.
Kelsey Koberg is an Editor with Fox News Digital. Story tips can be sent to [email protected] and on Twitter: @KelseyKoberg.