Teacher fired for teen's drinking claims wrongful termination


Is it wrong to allow high school seniors to drink a glass of wine on a trip to France? Many New Jersey parents may not object, but a school in a closely neighboring found it unacceptable. Even though the teacher received permission from the teen girl's parents, the school claims that the teacher never received permission from the school. The school fired the long-time French teacher after the 2010 trip and she fought back with a wrongful termination lawsuit.

The State Supreme Court found the teacher in violation of the private school's zero-tolerance policy regarding alcohol use on supervised trips. The teacher, who had sued for $120,000, the equivalent of her salary and benefits for one year, is considered filing an appeal.

School officials found out about the alcohol consumption when students showed a video to the school that portrayed them drinking alcohol during dinner. Administrators where not too pleased to see that video.

The teacher stands by her decision to offer wine to the students. She claims that wine with dinner is part of France's cultural experience. The trip was designed to teach the students about French culture and cuisine.

Because the teacher was in violation of the school's no-alcohol policy, administrators were well within their rights to fire her. Even though she received permission from parents, she still had a responsibility to follow the school's rules. There is some controversy about the termination because the legal drinking age in France is 16 years old. There is nothing criminal about what the teacher did, as she did not offer alcohol to a minor.

However, with at-will employment, an employer can terminate employment at any time as long as it is done legally. It does not seem as though the teacher was discriminated against in any way, nor were any labor laws broken.

Source: New York Daily News, " Judge: Ritzy school had the right to say au revoir to teacher who let seniors have wine in Paris," Douglas Fieden, Jan. 8, 2013