ERIC Number: EJ703121
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2004-May-1
Reference Count: N/A
Courtside: A Damaging Lesson
Zirkel, Perry A.
Phi Delta Kappan, v85 n9 p718 May 2004
This case presents a costly lesson for teachers and for districts that include a liquidated, or stipulated, damages clause in their teacher employment contracts. Although the court enforced the clause in this case, in this well-reasoned recent decision and in most of the much older, canvassed case law from other jurisdictions, the answer to the question of the enforceability of liquidated damages clauses in teacher contracts is "it depends." First, it depends on the jurisdiction in terms of its specific approach to such clauses. For example, although this decision was impressively well reasoned, it pointed out the lack of a uniform rule in the common law of the various states. Moreover, the seven participating members of the court were not unanimous; one judge did not agree that the first, adhesion-contract question was an essential element of the applicable approach, and another objected to this two-pronged, unconscionability approach because neither party raised it in the first place. Last and not least in these overlapping contingencies are the specific facts of the case, which included the particular teacher's service, the number of other applicants, and the statements of school board members. Here, for example, Klyap's experience and his initiatives in the sports program ironically worked against him. In sum, despite the continuing low level of teacher salaries, contractual provisions that provide for liquidated damages warrant careful attention by both the employer and the employee. In the words of Montana's highest court, the question ultimately is not whether such clauses are oppressive but whether they are "unduly oppressive."
Phi Delta Kappa International, Inc., 408 N. Union St., P.O. Box 789, Bloomington, IN 47402-0789. Web site: http://www.pdkintl.org.
Publication Type: Journal Articles
Education Level: Elementary Education
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Montana