Court rejects former BBA teacher's appeal

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MANCHESTER — The Vermont Supreme Court has affirmed a lower court's dismissal of a former Burr and Burton Academy teacher's lawsuit against the school, in which he contested his dismissal from his position.

Paul Bremel, who taught math at BBA from 2011 to 2017, had filed a civil suit against the school. The lawsuit was dismissed in January in Bennington Superior Court Civil Division, and Bremel appealed to the state Supreme Court.

The state high court filed an entry order March 8, announcing it had confirmed the lower court's decision.

Bremel, according to court documents, had filed a series of grievances after he was dismissed as a track and field coach in 2016, issued a notice that his contract would not be renewed in March 2017, and terminated suddenly during a school break in April of 2017.

In January, before the grievance procedures were complete, Bremel, through his attorney, Norman Watts of Woodstock, withdrew from the BBA grievance process and filed a civil lawsuit in Bennington Superior Court.

Bremel alleged breach of his employment contract by retaliation from an earlier grievance, illegal retaliation based on leave he had taken under the Vermont Parental and Family Leave Act, and wrongful termination without just cause.

BBA moved for judgment to have the case dismissed. The school argued Bremel's claims were barred as a matter of law because he had first pursued a remedy through the grievance procedure. In dismissing the suit, Superior Court Judge David A. Barra found that according to the collective bargaining agreement between the BBA teachers' union and the school, employees covered by the CBA may choose between a grievance procedure or civil action.

Choosing one of those options "shall constitute an absolute bar to the pursuit of the other," the court said.

The decision relied on the language of the CBA, which reads "If a teacher elects to institute an action at law, the Association shall have no right to file a grievance hereunder, or, if one shall have previously been filed by it, the same shall be deemed to have been withdrawn."

Bremel appealed Barra's decision to the state Supreme Court, asking the court to reverse the decision and remand it back to the lower court "for further discovery and factfinding by a jury."

Justices, however, affirmed the lower court's ruling.

"The Superior Court dismissed plaintiff's three claims on the basis argued by defendant in its motion to dismiss — that plaintiff elected to proceed with all of his claims under the CBA's grievance procedure, which made that his exclusive remedy, and he failed to exhaust that remedy," the state Supreme Court said in its ruling.

Bremel said it's the end of the line for his efforts to pursue action against BBA. He is currently teaching math at Woodstock Union High School.

Contact Darren Marcy at dmarcy@manchesterjournal.com or by cell at 802-681-6534.

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