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Common Pleas Court has Jurisdiction over a Union’s Claims Arising from Breach of a CBA Which do Not Include Unfair Labor Allegations

In the case of Tipp City Edn. Assn. v. Tipp City Exempted Village School Dist. Bd. of Edn., 2023-Ohio-4000, an appellate court held that a common pleas court has subject matter jurisdiction over breach of contract claims brought by a union which arise from a collective bargaining agreement (“CBA”), as R.C. 4117.11 reserves exclusive jurisdiction in the State Employment Relations Board (“SERB”) only in instances (1) where one party files charges with SERB relative to an unfair labor practice under R.C. 4117.11, or (2) where a complaint before the common pleas court alleges conduct that constitutes an unfair labor practice specifically enumerated in R.C. 4117.11.

In this case, the union argued that R.C. 4117.09(B)(1) explicitly gives a party to a CBA the right to sue in the common pleas court for disputes involving a teacher’s rights as set forth in the CBA, such as parental complaints, good and just cause discipline, and progressive discipline.  Because those claims arise from the CBA and not by virtue of R.C. 4117.11 (an unfair labor practice), the common pleas court could properly exercise subject matter jurisdiction. In response, the school board argued that SERB had exclusive jurisdiction over the claims because they arose from rights under R.C. 4117.11. The appellate court agreed with the union.

In support of its decision in favor of the union, the appellate court explained that the test to determine whether SERB has exclusive jurisdiction is “whether the claims arise from or depend on the collective bargaining rights created by R.C. Chapter 4117[,] not the collective bargaining agreement.” 2023-Ohio-4000 at ¶ 14. The appellate court further explained that the union’s claims were about rights found in the CBA, but not in R.C. Chapter 4117.11, so they could be heard in a common pleas court.  However, the Court dismissed the individual teacher claims, as R.C. 4117.09(B)(1) specifically applies only to a “party” to the CBA, and a teacher is not a party to the CBA and thus could not bring an individual claim in common pleas court.

To read this case, click here.

NOTE:  This case conflicts with a recent decision out of another appellate court, Ohio Council 8, AFSME, AFL-CIO v. Lakewood, 2023-Ohio-4212.

Authors: Matthew John Markling and the McGown & Markling Team.

Note: This blog entry does not constitute – nor does it contain – legal advice. Legal jurisprudence is like the always-changing Midwestern weather. As a result, this single blog entry cannot substitute for consultation with a McGown & Markling attorney. If legal advice is needed with respect to a specific factual situation, please feel free to contact a McGown & Markling attorney.

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