A settlement is pending in a lawsuit brought by a 59-year-old former charter school special education support staff member against her ex-employer, alleging she was wrongfully laid off in 2019, in part for taking time off to care for her handicapped son.
Attorneys in the case made the announcement during a final status conference on Monday in Los Angeles Superior Court in plaintiff Denise Esther Resendez’s case against Ivy Academia Charter School. No terms were divulged. Judge Richard L. Fruin vacated the trial scheduled to start May 16.
Resendez also alleged her age and Latino ethnicity played roles in her termination. She said in a sworn declaration that she typically arrived at 7 a.m. to her job and stayed until about 3:30 p.m.
“I loved my job as a paraprofessional at Ivy Academia and took on job responsibilities that were outside my duties as a paraprofessional,” Resendez said. “This included volunteering with handing out school-provided breakfast in the morning before school started, and working with teachers in after-school programs like (the) homework club.”
Resendez worked for the district for more than seven years as a special education paraprofessional after being hired in March 2012 and performed her job well, according to her suit filed in March 2020.
Ivy Academia has students in kindergarten through grade 12 and the school was a co-defendant in the case along with its elementary school principal, Jennifer Lyons.
According to the suit, Resendez’s son had a hiking accident in August 2017 in which he lost his footing and fell from a 27-foot cliff. He survived but had to have multiple surgeries and Resendez needed one to two days of leave a month in 2017-18 to care for him and take him to medical appointments, the suit stated.
Resendez provided Lyons with a note from her son’s doctor that said her child was wheelchair-bound and needed help bathing and using the restroom, the suit states. Resendez administered daily blood thinner injections to her son, according to the suit.
Throughout the school year, Lyons showed an “unprofessional demeanor” when Resendez updated her about her son, once mockingly asking, “Oh, what is it this time? I thought he didn’t need any more surgeries,” the suit stated.
Lyons’ comments escalated in February 2018 when, in alleged retaliation for taking time off to care for her son, the principal said, “I thought your son jumped off a mountain,” implying he tried to take his own life, the suit stated.
Resendez was laid off in June 2019 after being told about two weeks earlier that there was not “enough room” on the staff for her for the 2019-20 school year, the suit states.
In their court papers, Ivy Academia lawyers denied any wrongdoing on the part of their school. They cited the school’s declining student enrollment in justifying her layoff.
“Upon review of the enrollment for the 2019-2020 academic year of special education elementary students, Ivy determined that there was no longer a need for Resendez’s elementary paraprofessional service,” the school’s attorneys stated in their court papers.
When Resendez’s son was injured, the school immediately approved all of her requested time off requests and showed compassion, the school’s attorneys further stated in their court papers.