University of Louisville athletes and Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS) are frequently in the news in Kentucky. But normally they are not in the same article. Recently, however, these topics shared a headline, and it wasn’t exactly positive for either party.
Joshua Tinch played both basketball and football for the University of Louisville when he attended college there. In 2011 he was hired by Jefferson County Public Schools to work in their suspension reduction program at Iroquois High School. About two weeks after he was hired, a student came forward, claiming he had inappropriate contact with her when she was 16. Tinch was suspended during an investigation and later terminated by the school system. At the end of November, 2012, Tinch filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against JCPS and others stating he was not given an opportunity to defend himself and that his reputation was ruined when the accusations became public. The lawsuit requests that he have that opportunity to defend himself at a jury trial and asks for punitive damages.
While no adult should be allowed to continue working at a school if he or she has had an inappropriate encounter or relationship with a student, the adult should be able to address the accusations before being terminated. There have been situations in which students were upset by what a teacher or coach did or didn’t do, and they have made false allegations against them as a form of retaliation. Once such an accusation has been made, it can be very difficult for an innocent adult to clear his or her name. It is even more difficult if the accused is not allowed to tell their side of the story. In this case, Tinch is claiming that the majority of text messages that were exchanged between him and the student were from the student, and that he was not even sure who the messages were coming from. It has also been reported that the student only told someone about the alleged inappropriate contact after Tinch did not text her or see her on her birthday.
Wrongful termination is broad category covering anyone who feels they have been unfairly or illegally terminated from their job. Because Kentucky and Indiana are at-will states, employers have the ability to fire most anyone at any time for no reason at all. However, certain protections exist for certain employees, such as employment contracts that guarantee an employee a job for a set length of time, or union rules that protect workers from being fired for no reason. Another type of wrongful termination occurs when someone is discriminated against because of their race, age, religion, disability, or gender. If this type of workplace discrimination results in someone be terminated, an employer may be liable for lost wages, punitive damages, and compensation to the employee for emotional or mental distress caused by the firing.
Only an experienced Kentucky employment law attorney can help you determine whether or not you may have a valid wrongful termination case against an employer. Charles Miller and Rheanne Falkner have been helping Indiana and Kentucky employees with their work issues for over eight years.
Former Louisville athlete sues JCPS over his firing; The Courier-Journal; Jason Riley; November 29, 2012