Baker: Teachers are now protected

Published 3:04 pm Friday, February 28, 2014

State Rep. Alan Baker (R–Brewton) announced Friday that the Alabama Legislature this week awarded final approval to a bill providing statutory immunity to teachers and state workers for acts they carry out as part of their employment duties.

The bill was included in the House Republican Caucus’ Commonsense Conservative legislative agenda that was announced prior to the start of the 2014 regular session.

“When a teacher or a state employee properly carries out the work and duties that we ask of them, they deserve to do so without fear of lawsuits or adverse action taken against them,” Baker said. “Because of the actions taken by the House Republican Caucus, both state employees and education personnel will have needed protections when carrying out their jobs, and liberal judges will not be able to legislate from the bench when attempts to file a lawsuit occur.”

While the 1901 Constitution provides some immunity to the state, elected officials, and government workers acting in their official capacity, Alabama is among only six states that do not have a specific statue related to qualified immunity for teachers and state employees.

Without specific, codified protections, liberal and activist judges could interpret the constitutional immunity provisions in an inconsistent and cherry-picked manner that allows them to make law from the bench.

The bill will reinforce immunity protections, permanently close any gaps in interpretation, and ensure that the law is consistently and evenly applied to all state officers, government workers, and public education employees. Employees of the state board of education and local boards of education would be covered, as well, Baker said.

While immunity would be ensured if an employee is acting within the scope of their position of employment, it would be waived in cases in which an employee “acts willfully, maliciously, fraudulently, in bad faith, or beyond his or her authority.”

If enacted, the law would dissolve the need for state government and education workers to seek liability insurance from outside sources in order to carry out their job duties.

The bill now goes to Governor Robert Bentley for signature.