KB Reference Desk: Failure to Sign Contract

Q:        Our district renewed contracts back in February. Employees were required to sign and return the contract on or before April 10, 2016. After several reminders, one teacher has yet to return her signed contract. She has a probationary contract and we were on the fence about renewing—her failure to return the contract pushed us over the edge. Can we void her contract for failure to timely return?

A:        Likely yes, depending on the language in the employment contract.  

If your district uses standard TASB contracts, the contract forms include a clause entitled “Expiration of Offer,” which states “[t]his offer of employment shall expire unless you sign and return this Contract, without changes, to the Superintendent on or before (return date). If you are currently employed under a contract with the District and you fail to sign and return this Contract, without changes, by the return date, you shall be deemed to have resigned from employment at the end of your existing contract term.”

The Commissioner of Education has held this clause enforceable, and found that an employee who fails to timely return a contract with the above clause has resigned her employment effective at the end of the contract period and has no contract with the district for the succeeding school year. Policy DFE (LOCAL)

provides that resignations effective at the end of the school year are automatically accepted upon receipt without further action by the superintendent or board. However, in an abundance of caution, it is advisable to send the employee written notice that the district accepts her resignation effective at the end of the school year, due to her failure to timely submit the signed contract. 

If your district does not have a similar “expiration of offer” clause in its employment contracts, it’s not all bad news. Assuming you have sufficient documentation to end the employment relationship, your board can take action to rescind the offer of employment, then terminate (if probationary) or propose nonrenewal (if term).  Without documentation of performance deficiencies, however, our attorney may advise that you accept the untimely signature and let the renewal stand.