Monthly Archives: July 2024

Employment Defense Team Gets a “Win” for School District

Messer Caparello’s employment defense team of Bob Harris, Jim Dean and Cameron Carstens recently scored a big win for a School District client in an employment discrimination and whistleblower case in federal court in North Florida.

The Plaintiffs, a Husband and Wife, alleged that the School District discriminated against them based on the Wife’s medical conditions (spinal injuries, hypertension and tachycardia) and that the District then retaliated against them because the Wife requested accommodations for her medical conditions. The Plaintiffs also alleged that they were both whistleblowers who made complaints to the Department of Education claiming that the District was neglecting its students, improperly changing students’ grades and attendance records and failing to comply with state standardized testing requirements. The Plaintiffs claimed that the District retaliated against the Husband by withdrawing an offer to hire him as an administrator and that the District retaliated against the Wife by declining to renew her annual contract as a teacher.

The Plaintiffs sought hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages and attorney’s fees, alleging claims of wrongful termination and failure to hire. The School District denied any wrongdoing, and Messer Caparello successfully defended the District in the case. Uncontroverted evidence was provided to the Court which demonstrated that the Wife had engaged in conduct that supported the decision to not renew her contract and that there was no discrimination or retaliation against the Wife or the Husband. Rather, the District consistently applied its performance and conduct policies to its employees, including the Plaintiffs. As the federal court stated in its Order, “there is no basis from which a jury could find that [the Wife] was subject to disparate treatment because of her disability.”  Based on the evidence presented by the School District, the Court concluded the Wife “has not shown that any similarly situated employees have engaged in similar degrees of misconduct.”

In regards to the Wife’s claim of retaliation for being required to attend a school meeting, the Court confirmed several prior decisions by granting summary judgment on the retaliation claim. The Court held, “The Wife cannot establish a prima facie case of retaliation because the claim is based on the School District’s alleged failure to accommodate her by requiring her to attend [a meeting] and it is well established that a retaliation claim cannot be based on a mere failure-to-accommodate.”

In dismissing the Plaintiffs’ FWA retaliation claims, the Court held, “It is undisputed that the [School District] has an administrative grievance procedure for handling FWA complaints and that it also has contracted with DOAH to conduct hearings. Thus, Plaintiffs had to file a complaint under one of those procedures before filing suit, and because it is undisputed that they failed to do so, their FWA claims must be dismissed for failure to exhaust administrative remedies.”

Our employment defense team persuaded the federal district court Judge to grant a summary judgment in favor of the School District before the case went to trial. As a result, the federal court dismissed all of Plaintiffs’ claims, and the Plaintiffs later dropped their appeal at the Eleventh Circuit.

Cameron Carstens Selected as 2024 Florida Rising Star

Messer Caparello, P.A. is pleased to announce that Cameron Carstens has been recognized as a 2024 Florida Rising Star by Super Lawyers in the field of Civil Litigation: Defense. Super Lawyers is a rating service of outstanding lawyers that includes a patented, multi-phased selection process based on peer recognition, professional achievement, and other factors.

Only 2.5% of lawyers across the state of Florida who are under the age of 40 are included on the Rising Stars list. Mr. Carstens has been selected as a Rising Star every year since 2019.

Messer Caparello Attorneys Provide Training to Private Colleges

Bob Harris Presenting Training for Independent Educational Institutions

On May 29, 2024, Messer Caparello attorneys Bob Harris, Jim Dean, Cameron Carstens, Rob McNeely and Monica Freeland provided a full day of training to administrators of over 85 independent postsecondary educational institutions on a host of legal issues. Approximately 110 administrators attended the training. The topics included college regulatory compliance with state and federal regulations, the new Title IX regulations, employment law, ADA issues for students, protection of intellectual property, corporate and business operations, commercial leases and real estate law issues. The attending schools, colleges and universities were all licensed by the Florida Commission for Independent Education, and many were nationally or regionally accredited.