Former SHS teacher challenges nepotism policy with lawsuit

Former Shelton High School Advanced Placement history teacher Katelyn Botsford Tucker is challenging the school district’s nepotism policy after being transferred to Shelton Intermediate School after she married then co-worker and now husband Hugh Tucker.

Attorney Gary Phelan said the complaint against the school district was filed on Thursday, Dec. 3, and they have until Dec. 29 to file who will be defending the high school in court.

“My client is looking for her job back at the high school as well as the policy itself to be declared unlawful so that no one else is subjected to being transferred because they get married,” said Phelan. “The monetary damages are limited. She was on a curriculum committee which was paid at the high school and she is not on that at the intermediate school so she lost that compensation. She also has to travel to and from track meets, and since the middle school gets out an hour later than the high school she has to travel to and from meets, where she used to just ride the team bus.”

Phelan said Tucker is also looking to receive emotional distress damages and attorney’s fees and costs.

The debate about whether the Tuckers’ engagement proved to be a catalyst for the enforcement of the nepotism policy remains to be proven, according to Phelan.

“We don’t know. It’s too early to say, but certainly the timing, it was adopted three weeks after she was engaged. Let’s find out if that was a coincidence or not,” said Phelan.

Phelan clarified that he and his client are not saying that all anti-nepotism policies are unlawful, but that in this case they’re discriminatory in more than one way.

“Most of the time it’s targeting where there is a reporting relationship,” said Phelan. “Between a supervisor and supervisee, or the head of a department, for example, and someone who teaches in the department. What we’re challenging here is that this doesn’t address that at all unless and until they get married. The marital status is at the heart of discrimination because here they have no restrictions under this policy on teachers dating, becoming engaged, or living together. Only when they get married is when they say, ‘OK, now we have to transfer you.’”

Phelan also said part of the case is focusing on gender discrimination.

“My client's husband volunteered to be transferred and they just transferred her. We’re saying they just transferred her to make room for another male teacher who had requested to work at the high school.”

Both Katelyn and Hugh Tucker declined to comment.

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