Insuring Your Good Name
Educators Employment Liability Protects Against False Accusations
What's it worth to be a member of the National Education Association (NEA)? Well, what's your reputation worth? What value do you place in protecting your good name against false accusations?
In dollar terms, NEA membership could be worth $1million or more, especially if you are an education support professional (ESP) or teacher who has been falsely accused of a crime. In addition to the many other benefits, this one is worth your weight in gold.
A Public Nightmare
We are taught that a person is innocent until proven guilty. But when you are a school employee and criminal charges are filed against you, you can be sure the world will assume you are guilty until proven innocent. Just ask any school employee ever accused of sexual harassment or embezzlement.
Not to worry. NEA members are covered by Educators Employment Liability (EEL). This policy involves the following:
School districts and community colleges are required to indemnify (hold harmless) teachers and other school employees against liability arising out of civil rights, injury, and property damage claims when damages are sought for negligent or wrongful acts occurring during the scope of employment. The protection includes the cost of defending such actions as well as any damages that might actually be awarded. This protection extends to extra-curricular activities as well as events occurring during normal school hours. Some school districts purchase insurance to protect their employees against such liabilities.
- Additional civil coverage is provided by the EEL policy for $1 million and monitoring of legal defense provided by the school district.
This same EEL protection extends to members who must defend themselves against criminal charges by reimbursing attorney fees and legal cost to a maximum of $35,000, when the member is found innocent or the charges are dropped.
The policy will also reimburse bail bond expenses of up to $1,000 and reimbursement of up to $500 damages to personal property arising out of assault.
Faculty in health related fields may purchase additional liability insurance at low cost through NEA. This coverage goes beyond the regular EEL policy to provide additional protection for five types of health care practitioners: nurses, occupational therapist, physical therapists, dental hygienists and athletic trainers. Only members in these occupational categories may purchase this extended coverage.
When an employee is a named defendant in a lawsuit arising out of the employee's educational work or has had an incident which he or she believes may result in a suit, he or she should contact their UniServ director for assistance in filing a claim. The member should be prepared to provide supporting documents such as copies of court filings.
When an employee is subject to a criminal investigation, they should immediately get legal counsel before telling anyone about any of the facts. UniServ directors can usually provide recommended referrals to criminal defense counsel.
Got Your Back
Your coverage is good worldwide, whether you are on or off school grounds. You are protected 24-7, but you must be performing your educational employment activities.
What I have listed above applies to the majority of states, but the provisions of the EEL program are not the same in all states. The EEL program is administered through your state Association. Please check with your UniServ director before you assume that you are covered by any of these provisions.
You can also get additional information by going to resources. I spoke with a few ESPs who were not aware of this NEA benefit. Hopefully, they won't need it. If they do, it's comforting to know that it's there.
(Dave Arnold, a member of the Illinois Education Association, is a custodian at Brownstown Elementary School in Southern Illinois. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the NEA or its affiliates.
Dave Arnold: This school custodian and former Illinois Education Association ESP of the Year is a published poet. But most Association members know him best from the editorials -- Dave's View --