More school districts receive subpoenas from Kentucky Labor Cabinet

Under Kentucky state law, public employees like teachers can’t strike, but they can call in sick.
Updated: Apr. 11, 2019 at 11:34 PM EDT
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FRANKFORT, KY (WAVE) - Five Kentucky school districts have received subpoenas from the state Labor Cabinet this week regarding teacher sickouts during the legislative session.

Jefferson County, Bullitt County and Oldham County Public Schools received subpoenas on Wednesday.

Madison and Fayette County school districts received subpoenas on Thursday.

Labor attorney David Suetholz, with Branstetter, Stranch & Jennings, said he’s surprised to hear about the subpoenas to the school districts.

“I have no clue what the labor cabinet’s interest is in the reason why people called out sick,” Suetholz said. “I can’t find it in the statute.”

The subpoenas ask for all records of the names of employees who called in sick during the sickout days. It also asks for copies of records to authenticate employees’ use of sick leave, such as a doctor’s note, a record of communication among district officials about the decision to close schools and documentation of the district’s sick leave policy.

Suetholz knows the inner workings of the Labor Cabinet -- he served as the General Counsel from 2009-2012.

RELATED >> KY education commissioner demands teacher attendance records in wake of sickouts

“It was my job to oversee the functions from a legal perspective of the cabinet and effectuate it’s purpose," he said. "And it’s purpose, of course, is to uplift and better the conditions of Kentucky’s workers.”

Under Kentucky state law, public employees like teachers can’t strike, but they can call in sick. In a WHAS Radio interview Wednesday, Gov. Matt Bevin said teachers who were sick during the sickouts have nothing to worry about.

Suetholz believes all of this is a scare tactic.

"If [the schools are] not saying an illegal strike occurred, the Labor Cabinet has no interest in putting their nose into the labor management relations between the employers and their employees. So, again, I think it's absolutely political,” Suetholz said. “You know, I've been there. I was a political appointee so I can say this: I think it's a bunch of political appointees that are trying to win points with their boss, who is the governor."

JCPS, Bullitt County and Oldham County have until May 10 to respond to the subpoenas. If the Labor Cabinet determines people engaged in an illegal strike, each person could be fined up to $1,000.

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