March 15 layoff notices: What boards should know

As a member of a school board governance team, few situations are more sensitive than a district delivering March 15 layoff notices. It is essential for governing board members to be familiar with information about the March 15 notice, its implementation process and the strict legal requirements attached to the process.

The March 15 notice is a formal, written announcement from a school district to certificated employees — required by Education Code section 44949 — informing them that they may be released for the following school year beginning July 1. Districts must adhere to the notice, hearing and layoff procedures in Education Code 44949, 44955 and other applicable provisions of law. Boards may reduce the number of probationary and permanent certificated employees for either declining average daily attendance or a reduction or discontinuation of a particular kind of service, described further in CSBA’s Model Board Policy 4117.3. The law requires that no later than March 15, the district board must adopt a resolution stating that services are to be reduced and/or discontinued and that it is necessary to reduce the staff, specifying the extent of the reduction. The resolution must also direct the superintendent to provide written notice to the affected employees.

The notice must advise the employee that the superintendent has recommended to the board that the employee be notified that his or her services will not be required for the following year, the reasons for the recommendation and the employee’s right to request a hearing to determine whether there is cause for the action. An employee must be given at least seven days from March 15 to request a hearing. The notices must be delivered in person or sent via registered mail to the last known address of the employee. See Education Code section 44949 for further details concerning the content of the notice.

Please note that March 15, 2020, falls on a Sunday. The fact that March 15 falls on a Sunday this year does not extend the time to pass a resolution or provide notice to the affected employees. As indicated above, the law requires the board to consider and approve the resolution and provide the required notices no later than March 15.

Education Code 44949 allows employees who are given a layoff notice to request a hearing before an administrative law judge with the Office of Administrative Hearings. After a hearing is held, the administrative law judge must submit his or her proposed decision to the board for consideration on or before May 7. The board shall make a final decision regarding the sufficiency of the cause and disposition of the layoff upon receipt of the administrative law judge’s proposed decision. None of the findings, recommendations or determinations of the administrative law judge are binding on the board. The board may conduct its own hearing, adopt the administrative law judge’s proposed decision, refer the case back to the administrative law judge for additional evidence, or reject or modify the proposed decision and make its own determination based upon its review of the record. Following the board’s decision, the superintendent or designee shall give final notice to the affected employees before May 15, unless the parties agree otherwise in accordance with procedures required by law.