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Nov 16, 2012 4:59 AM by Janet McConnaughey/ CS

Appeal court: Teacher furlough day illegal

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - The Jefferson Parish Public School System illegally cut pay by imposing an unpaid day of leave for every teacher during the last school year, a state appeal court has ruled.

The Jefferson Federation of Teachers sued the school board after it voted in July 2011 for the furlough. District Judge Steve Windhorst refused to make a pretrial order against it.

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal sent the case back to him Wednesday, ruling 3-0 that the furlough violates a state law forbidding a school board to cut an employee's salary below the previous year's level.

The decision follows a similar Fifth Circuit ruling in April for school support workers, who also were furloughed in the effort to save a total of $1.5 million. They were paid after the Louisiana Supreme Court refused to hear the school board's appeal, union spokeswoman Emily Mendenhall said Thursday. Union attorney Larry Samuel said that all support workers had received their check for one, full-day's pay.

The school system argued that furlough was legal because it reduced working time, not the pay rate. Windhorst ruled in favor of the School Board in that case, too.

Wednesday's ruling "validates that this issue was not a difference of opinion, but a matter of state law. We believe that the School Board has an obligation not just to their employees - but to all citizens of Jefferson Parish - to follow the law," union president Meladie Munch said in a news release.

School board spokeswoman Monica Pierre said she had not heard about the ruling and could not immediately comment.

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