Sunday, December 15, 2013

Recent Developments-Teachers

Montana Supreme Court upholds arbitration award

Grievant was employed as a vocational agricultural instructor at the Lame Deer High School. Her employment was suspended and then terminated. She grieved the termination, and Arbitrator Michael D. McDowell denied the grievance, concluding that the School District had good cause to discipline her and that the termination should not be reduced to a lesser form of discipline. Grievant sought to vacate the award, but the District Court upheld the award. Grievant appealed, claiming that the court erred in failing to carefully evaluate the facts found by the arbitrator and that the School District did not have proper cause to terminate her employment. The Montana Supreme Court affirmed the lower court's decision, concluding "The District Court did not abuse its discretion in declining to revisit these issues. Requiring the District Court to conduct its own evidentiary hearing on an issue previously submitted to and determined in binding arbitration would undermine the finality and expediency provided by arbitration." The Court's decision can be found here.

Court enjoins arbitration on placement of  "excessed" teacher

The cba between Board of Education of Valhalla, NY and the Valhalla Teachers Association provides that where a teacher's position has been excessed and another position becomes available the Board must appoint that teacher to the position if they are certified in the teaching area in the available position. A dispute arose after a teacher had been excessed and sought to be placed in a position for which the Union claimed she had been certified. The grievance was not resolved and the Association sought arbitration. The Board went to court seeking a permanent stay of the arbitration, arguing that the cba provision conflicted with public policy and the mandates of the Education Law. The trial court denied the Board's request, and the case was appealed. The Appellate Division has reversed the lower court and enjoined the arbitration. The court determined "Whether a prospective candidate is possessed of qualifications 'is a responsibility of the type that may not be bargained away, as it is central to the maintenance of adequate standards in the classroom'. ... The CBA, in effect, divests the Board of its discretion by mandating automatic appointment of certified teachers without inquiry into any additional qualifications the Board may have prescribed. This discretion may not be bargained away." The Court's decision can be found here.

Interest on back pay award not against public policy

Relying in part on language in the cba between the Hawaii Department of Education and the Hawaii State Teachers Association, Arbitrator Walter Ikeda awarded interest on a back pay award. The cba provided "The arbitrator may award back pay to compensate the teacher wholly or partially for any salary lost." While a lower court vacated the award of interest, the Hawaii Court of Appeals has reversed that decision and confirmed the award of interest on the back pay. Rejecting the State's claim that the arbitrator had exceeded his powers, the Court observed:

The Arbitrator was expressly authorized to award "back pay to compensate the teacher wholly ... for any salary lost." He interpreted this provision to allow interest for the time [Grievant] was without pay. Even if he incorrectly construed the agreement or misinterpreted applicable law, he acted within his power to interpret the agreement and fashion a remedy in accordance with his interpretation.

The court rejected the State's contention that the award was contrary to public policy. The Court's decision can be found here.

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