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Region 17 School Bus Driver Wins Settlement

Richard Duryea had alleged he was disciplined for contact he made with other bus drivers on his Facebook page.

A Region 17 school bus driver has settled a labor dispute with his employer in what the driver alleged was another case of Facebook retaliation.

Under the settlement agreement Richard Duryea, a driver for Student Transportation of America, will be given $105 in back pay for being suspended from his job last fall and will have the disciplinary action removed from his personnel file.

“This agreement gives me back my good name,” Duryea said in a prepared statement. “After five years driving kids in Killingworth and Haddam safely to and from school, I’m relieved to have my record wiped clean. Bus drivers should not have to go through this kind of punishment just because we talk about issues at work on Facebook.”

The agreement settles union allegations that the bus company inappropriately “created the impression among employees that their union activities were under surveillance (and) told employees they could not talk about the union on company property.”

The complaint was filed by the Connecticut State Employees Union/Service Employees International Union, though Duryea and other bus company employees are not covered by the union. 

While the local chapter of the union alleged Duryea was suspended in retaliation for discussing unionizing issues on his own time and on his Facebook page, bus company managers had said Duryea was harassing other workers.

Matt O’Connor, a spokesman for the union, said the settlement “affirms the company’s real agenda, which was retaliation against Duryea for discussing the need for his co-workers to unite for a voice on the job.”

The settlement comes about two months after a Connecticut ambulance company also settled an alleged Facebook retaliation case against one of its employees.

In a case that made national headlines American Medical Response reached a settlement agreement in February with the NLRB in which it agreed that its rules were overly broad and that it inappropriately fired Dawnmarie Souza when she made negative comments about her boss on Facebook.

The settlement came as the two sides were poised for a court battle that could have set new precedents on employers' rules governing Internet use.

J April 22, 2011 at 06:19 PM
It's really unfortunate that GAry Mala and the Board of Ed decided to sell the school bus fleet and contract through STA. It gave the drivers and the town a raw deal and is actually costing more than the district retaining the fleet. Special activities are having a hard time affording transportation. This case with this driver is just the first of what will I'm sure be a long string of issues now that we have a large company rather than local folks. Thanks a lot Gary, give us a raw deal, then leave town. Way to go.
Mark P. Lundgren April 22, 2011 at 10:12 PM
Mr. Mala could not have gotten away with selling us out of school transportation without the complete support of the Board of Education and especially its leadership. The blame sits squarely on the Board of Education. Sadly I voted for some of them, that will not happen again. Clearly the Board should hold a public 'after action review' but only after the November election. For now I can only hope the Board is more forthcoming with what they know ,as there is much more to be revealed . The nicest thing I can say about the current Board is they were and are negligent. Mark P. Lundgren
rrrichardson April 24, 2011 at 12:53 AM
If the HK BOE weren't so blinded by hero worship of Mala, maybe they wouldn't do foolish things like selling the buses. Note that the new bus company wants over $550k increase in next year's budget increase of over $1 million--see the Ed Munster article on Patch.Raw deal for the drivers--glad the guy got his pay back--even worse for the towns.Now a profit-driven company will hold the communities hostage with predictable yearly increases. Quality move. Now if you want to get the buses back think they will sell the whole fleet back for $800k?? Dream on.

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