A Georgia appeals court revived a former employee’s breach of contract claim against her former employer. Here’s why she got a second chance to prove her claim in court.
In 1999, Sandra Sigmon was hired as a teacher for the DeKalb school district. After the 2016 school year, she resigned. Two years later, Sigmon applied for re-employment with the district.
She then learned her application might be “red-flagged” because she received an unsatisfactory evaluation during the 2014-15 year.
Sigmon claimed the evaluation contained deficiencies and misrepresentations. She contacted several district officials in an attempt to have it revised. But the district refused her requests to revise the evaluation.
Breach of contract?
Sigmon then filed a breach of contract lawsuit based on the alleged deficiencies and inaccuracies.
The district filed a motion to dismiss.
The trial court granted the motion, finding Sigmon failed to exhaust administrative remedies based on a Georgia law that “grants local school boards the power to hear and determine any matter of local controversy in reference to the construction or administration of the school law, which would include hearing challenges to a decision not to renew the contract of a tenured teacher.” (Emphasis in original.)
Why Trial Court Made the Wrong Call
On appeal, a state appellate court reversed.
Here, Sigmon “was a former tenured teacher, but she gave up that tenured status when she resigned after the 2016 school year,” the court explained.
As a non-tenured teacher who did not have “the right to a hearing under [the applicable state law],” Sigmon did not need to “exhaust these administrative remedies before bringing suit in superior court,” the court held.
The trial court made the wrong call when it dismissed Sigmon’s breach of contract claim for failure to exhaust administrative remedies, so the appeals court reversed the ruling and remanded the claim.
Sigmon v. DeKalb County School Dist., No. A22A1311, 2022 WL 17173080 (Ga. Ct. App. 11/23/22).