WHAT CONSTITUTES AN EMPLOYMENT CONTRACT?
Case citation: Xenakis v. Leon ISD, Dkt. No. 104-R10-0712 (Comm’r Educ. Dec. 19, 2013).
Summary: Mark Xenakis was hired during the 2010-11 school year by the Leon Independent School District as an independent contractor to supervise a building project. At a board meeting held February 14, 2011, a motion passed to hire Xenakis “on a two year Contract as Director of Facilities and Related Services Manager.” The district later terminated Xenakis, and Xenakis claimed that the district violated his contract because it did not demonstrate good cause. Xenakis appealed his termination to the Commissioner of Education, alleging a breach of contract.
Ruling: The Commissioner did not have jurisdiction over the appeal. The Commissioner’s jurisdiction under Education Code § 7.057(a)(2)(B) is limited to violations of an employment contract that caused, or would cause, monetary harm. The Commissioner observed that for a writing to constitute a contract, it needs to set forth the mutual obligations of the parties and essential contract terms. According to the Commissioner, the essential contract terms include time of performance, the price to be paid, and the duties to be performed. To show that a contract existed, Xenakis only provided the board minutes indicating that a motion had passed to hire him “on a two year Contract as Director of Facilities and Related Services Manager.” No other documentation was provided. The Commissioner concluded that the minutes did not set out the essential terms of the contract, such as the obligations of the parties, the terms of compensation, or time of performance. To show a breach of contract, Xenakis had to demonstrate the specific terms of the contract. The board minutes simply did not establish the existence of an employment contract. Because Xenakis could not demonstrate the violation of an employment contract, the Commissioner lacked jurisdiction over the breach of contract claim.