Fired teacher at Hanover Central files lawsuit alleging retaliation
By Carrie Napoleon Post-Tribune correspondent April 30, 2013 8:50PM
Updated: June 2, 2013 6:31AM
CEDAR LAKE — A former Hanover Central High School teacher is suing the school corporation for $4.5 million for lost wages and punitive damages after he was terminated from his position at the end of the 2012 school year.
Former vocational education teacher Brian Vukadinovich on Monday filed suit in U.S. District Court in Hammond alleging age discrimination and retaliatory firing after his teacher contract was cancelled June 12 in what was described as a reduction in force by the school corporation.
The suit is seeking $1 million in damages for age discrimination and retaliation claims, punitive damages of $100,000 for intentional discrimination, $100,000 for emotional distress, punitive damages of at least $3 million for the defendants’ reckless disregard of plaintiff’s due process rights and $300,000 for contract violations.
Vukadinovich filed a notice of claim in state court in August for $300,000 regarding the alleged violation of state law in his termination. He received notice from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in March he could proceed with the federal suit concerning the age discrimination issues.
“It is my hope that this lawsuit will effect positive change at Hanover Community School Corp.,” Vukadinovich said in a statement.
In the lawsuit, Vukadinovich alleges Hanover Principal Justin Biggs sought to end his teaching contract in retaliation for an age discrimination lawsuit Vukadinovich was involved in with the School City of Hammond while Biggs was employed there. Vukadinovich was successful in his suit against Hammond.
Vukadinovich alleges when he questioned Biggs about the job action at Hanover, he was referred to by Biggs as “old man.” The suit also goes on to claim Biggs allegedly said to Vukadinovich, “Did you really think there would be no price to pay?” and “I hope you saved some of that settlement money, old man.”
The former teacher goes on to claim that Biggs and former Superintendent Carol Kaiser conspired to base his termination on alleged declining enrollment and an overall reduction in the teaching staff, misrepresenting the reason for his termination to the Hanover Community School Board, which is also named as a defendant in the suit.
In the suit he goes on to state while he was allegedly terminated as part of a reduction in force, the school corporation actually added teaching positions for the 2012-2013 school year.
He alleges he was denied due process as part of the termination when a request for a private meeting with the School Board to discuss the matter was refused.
In the claim he asserts the facts surrounding his termination were misrepresented to the School Board by the superintendent and, by denying him a chance to meet privately with board members as allowed by state statute, the board is in breach of his contract.
“The corporation discontinued my contract because I am an older teacher and I was penalized for exercising my protected rights and I lost my job for it,” Vukadinovich said.
Interim School Superintendent Jim Thorne could not immediately be reached for comment Tuesday.